Suchitra Bhattacharya

An important Bengali writer died (of natural causes) on Tuesday. The Times of India reports:

Famed Bengali writer Suchitra Bhattacharya died at her south Kolkata residence late on Tuesday night following a cardiac arrest, family members and the attending doctor said. Bhattacharya, 65, left behind a daughter.

One of the most popular and powerful novelists of contemporary Bengali literature, Bhattacharya dwelt on contemporary social issues mainly affecting the urban middle class which she analysed with an open mind, almost putting the reader before a mirror.

Her pen also highlighted the pains and sufferings of women in contemporary society, and brought out the decadence in the moral fibre in an era of globalisation and crass commercialism.

Her novel “Dahana” (Charred) dissected the trauma, social ostracism and helplessness of a rape victim, that was made into a memorable film of the same name by Rituparno Ghosh.

Among her other novels are “Kachher Manush” (Close to Me), “Kacher Dewal” (Wall of Glass),Hemonter Pakhi (Bird of Autumn), Aleek Shukh (Heavenly happiness), Gabhir Ashukh (A Grave Illness)

Bhattacharya’s creations have been translated into a number of Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam,Oriya, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi and English.

Premankur Biswas takes a closer look at five of her novels.

When The Indian Express approached veteran Bengali writer Suchitra Bhattacharya to be a part of a panel to choose best young writers in vernacular literature a few years ago, she took it upon herself to introduce us to the works of the new generation of Bengali writers like Sangita Bandyopadhyay and Tilottama Majumdar. She spoke at length about the genesis of feminist writing in Bengal, the contribution of Ashapurna Debi and Mahasweta Debi, but she never mentioned her sizeable contribution to the cause. She was too humble to do that. The truth is that the women of modern Bengal, the young divorcee from Siliguri, the single mother from Patuli, the homemaker from Burdwan, the ageing widow from Ballygunj, they all owe a lot to Suchitra Bhattacharya. Through her novels, Suchitra Bhattacharya documented their realities, their aspirations and their silences.

Dahan primarily talks about a real-life incident that rocked Kolkata in early 1990s- the molestation of a housewife in the middle of a busy south Kolkata intersection and the subsequent intervention of a young school teacher who tries to bring the perpetrators to the book. But Dahan is much more than that. It gleans out prejudices in the urban, middle-class Bengali society through the tribulations faced by the two protagonists, Jhinuk and Romita. But the character that stays with you is the taciturn, idealistic Thammi, Jhinuk’s fiercely independent septuagenarian grandmother. It was later made into an award-winning film by Rituparno Ghosh.

Clearly a major loss.


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