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Chokher Bali whips up a novel frenzy

Tagore could?ve never anticipated the attention that one of his pathbreaking novels, Chokher Bali, would attract a hundred years later.

india Updated: Oct 14, 2003 15:27 IST

Tagore could’ve never anticipated the attention that one of his pathbreaking novels, Chokher Bali, would attract a hundred years later. It’s not just Rituporno Ghosh’s film, which releases in the centenary year of the publication of the novel and is being screened at the 34th International Film Festival of India, but also a few English translations, being released to coincide with the film.

While Penguin India’s English translation, A Grain Of Sand: Chokher Bali, by Sreejata Guha, was timed with the release of the film, Srishti’s translation by Radha Chakravarty wasn’t. “My translation hasn’t been done because of the film. Rather, it’s to mark the centenary year of the novel, published in 1903,” says Chakravarty, who teaches English at Gargi College.

The evocative story – of a widow, Binodini, falling in love and eloping with a married man– is enough for film directors and publishers to risk their money on. “It’s Tagore’s first modern novel, hence, a modern version is needed,” says Chakravarty. Other than the two translations in the market, there are rumours of a third from Rupa to hit the market soon. Interestingly, Roli Books, too considered a film tie-in, a kind of a behind the scenes book, but the project didn’t take off. Roli Books had laughed its way to the bank last year with the English translation of Devdas.

Had it not been for the film and Rai, who plays Binodini, the translations would have gone unannounced. The last time Devdas was released, English translations of the books brought out in time for the film, recorded great sales. Says Udayan Mitra, Senior Editor, Penguin India, “The film does end up generating an interest in the book for people who wouldn’t read it otherwise.” Which is good in a way as it resurrects the classics and gives them a new life, even if it is short-lived. “People should remember that the book has come before the film and it will always be remembered long after the film is gone. ” is Chakravarty’s view.

The publishers would hope that too but more for the sake of economics!

First Published: Oct 12, 2003 13:00 IST