As often as I am pressed into reading stories which I am assured-often erroneously-'would make wonderful films', I am asked why I chose this or that literary work for filming: 'What drew you to it? What did you find in it that made you want to turn it into a screenplay? What do you look for in a story?'
Such questions are not easy to answer either briefly or with precision, because not one, not even a few, but a whole complex of reasons may account for one's settling for a particular work in preference to others. Theme, character, plot, incident, milieu, period-any or all of these may set up sympathetic vibrations of a sort that cannot be put into words, but can add up to the promise of a satisfying cinematic whole.
I happened upon Pratidwandi at a time when I was looking not just for any suitable subject, but for a subject of a specific type. This was early in 1970. The urban scene was then dominated by the youth-whether in politics, on the fringe of it, or out of it. Joblessness, cynicism, the clash of generations, seething discontent exploding into violence
one could not help reacting to it all and, going one step further, wishing to put some of this into a film. It was Sunil Ganguly's Pratidwandi which provided the springboard to turn the wish into reality.
I should put Sunil Ganguly his among present-day writers whom film makers could read with profit. For one thing, he is a very visual writer. Characters, incidents, relationships are all largely built up by means of sensitively observed external details-a fundamentally cinematic device. The dialogue is sparse and life-like, with not a trace of high-falutin didacticism. If the surface appears simple, there is depth and density underneath; and there is lyricism too-for Sunil is a poet-to set beside the sudden, bold, wrenching scenes which strike one as much by their unexpectedness as by their conviction.
In Pratidwandi one finds all these qualities, given point and cohesion by the central character of Siddhartha so endearing and believable in his contradictions, set by turns against his family, his friends, the girl he take a fancy to, and the society which ultimately drives him to take refuge in a small job in a small town. If I were asked to give just one good reason for choosing this literary work I would say it was Siddhartha.
Sunil Gangopadhyay began as poet, determined to break new paths, but he was catapulted into fame as a highly successful writer of fiction. Today his name as a novelist far overshadows his name as a poet.
Sunil was born in 1934 in East Bengal, but he and his family had to leave their ancestral home in East Bengal and move to Kolkata after partition. During this period of intense struggle, he discovered his first love-poetry. He spearheaded a poetry movement and with a group of equally dedicated friends started a poetry journal-Krittibas. In 1966, he tried his hand at fiction. It was an uncertain venture but he was rewarded with immediate success. With his ability to write extremely readable prose with effortless ease, he was much in demand. Since then he has been writing profusely-essays, travelogues, short stories, children's fiction and novels. Pratidwandi was made into a film by Satyajit Ray, and it won a national award. He is considered one of the most outstanding contemporary writers, and his novels, stories, and poems have been translated into many languages. He has won many awards.
Enakshi Chatterjee, a bilingual writer, has translated a wide spectrum of Bangla literature into English, from Tarasankar to the new and emerging writers like Sohrab Hossain. She has also done English to Bangla translations, the most significant being Sat Patro, a Bangla translation of Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy. She has published a number of books on subjects as varied as popular science, science fiction, biography, children's fiction, and media criticism.
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