18 November 2011

Bankim Chandra - An Omnibus


Bankim Chandra - A writer, a patriot, a socialist, the composer of Vande Matram. Whatever I have read of his works, probably gives me partial view to the great man and his works.. but it does show him as an author par excellence, an inspiration for many.

He takes simple characters and brings in circumstances of greed, lust, passion, distrust and brings there qualities out. From his first story where characters were either good or evil, they evolve to be greyer and driven to good or evil through their circumstances and desires. His writing style is lucid and straight. He presents his characters in open, with footnotes, thoughts and intentions behind their acts. 

But the main standpoint of his each story are the women.. men are mortal fools but women they show such vibrant colors - pious, trusting, innocence, faithfulness, loyalty, playfulness, charming, sacrificing, patience, determined - on one hand and cunning, seductive, cheating, greedy, plotting and vampish on the other. Each woman character is distinct and leaves a lasting mark on the reader. From innocent Kapalkundalika, vivacious Indira, dedicated Rajani, to seductive and conniving vamps in Poison Tree & Krishnakanth's will.. There are no better pictures than Raja Ravi Varma's painting to depict the features and characters of women in Bankim's works. They both depicted the similar times and theme - beauty and desires...

Along with exploring the world of fiction, a book is a source of exploring the life of the author. His thoughts, his values, his opinions, his philosophy. And the books by Bankim Chandra are a great source of information on this Bengali writer who is also the composer of our national song.

Kapalkundalika***
Read 11 July 2011

Remember reading Chandamama stories in your childhood. About evil sages and cunning vamps, courageous men and pious women. The basic premise of these stories was that people are either good or evil. How evil people are always shrewd too and scheme, lie, fool and plot to take advantage of good people who are always innocent. There was always a moral to each story and men are always supposed to be courageous and self-respecting and women are supposed to be pious, obedient and honourable. That is the basic pretext of Kapalkundalika, so read it like you would read an ancient story or scripture with a moral lesson.

The writing style of Bankim Chandra is like text book – easy & lucid with clarifying notes on the motive and thoughts behind any act. Every thing has a reason and the writer does not leave the reader to imagine or flow with it but ensures that you stick with his opinions and intentions. The characters are either black or white and no greys, good or evil, no confusions so it leaves you no option but to accept them as they are and not develop any likes or dislikes. The story though translated in English reminds you of its original writing in Indian local language because of its writing style and dialogues. In fact the narration at various places reminded me of Chandrakanta by Devkinandan Khatri in Hindi which was also written during the same time. So clearly the translation maintains the original style and expressions.

The Poison Tree***
Read 18 July 2011

With each novel of Bankim, his maturity and perceptiveness as an author improves in my eyes. From Kapalkundalika which was an ordinary story of goodness vs evil and innocence vs treachery, ‘Poison Tree’ comes across as a mature social staging where relationships get entangled in the throes of beauty and passion. Significantly like his prior work he does not show black as black but with shades of grey and evil not just evil but driven by complexities of human mind and desires.

The Poison Tree
I especially loved the part where the dilemmas of the evil vamp, where she knows she is not doing right but then world has not been right to her and she would have been otherwise if not for her treatment at the hands of others and God. The author questions the basic premise as to why a poor man robs, why a lonely woman tempts a man to her, why ugly are jealous of the beautiful, why poor hate the rich – the have-not’s verses the have’s, the gaps between them, the virtues of a person are not because he is born with them or is taught or imbibed with them, they are also a function of his needs, his desires, his current financial position.

Bankim also touches the subject of love verses lust, how a momentary lapse of sense makes you blind with beauty and desire and you fail to realise that this is not love, this is not the person you love. How lust and beauty looses charm once you realise what you have lost. How all the wealth and riches fail to please once love is lost.

Never thought that such sensitive issues were written and discussed so openly in those times, I always thought crimes in lust, extra marital affairs, plotting vamps and alcoholic frauds were a creation of the 1900s and the earlier age was the age of pious and saintly people (atleast that's what our elders

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