Tag: Book Review

May 30, 2018 /

Documentary film has had a long and interesting career in India. It was mobilised, until Independence, as a vehicle for Imperial propaganda, and put in the service of the nation-building project in free India. To be sure, much of Films Division (FD) sponsored documentary work also did not rise much above the status of propaganda, but its ideals were self-avowedly loftier – to educate the ‘masses’ beholden to tradition, to create modern and scientific-minded citizens, national integration, etc. Work of several filmmakers, like S. Sukhdev and SNS Sastry, supported by FD in the 60s and 70s did betray an independent streak, evidenced by their efforts to tackle difficult subjects coupled with bold formal experiments, but their critical perspective seems to have dissipated by the time of the Emergency.

April 5, 2018 /

Ramachandra Guha is among Indias’ most visible intellectuals, and his newspaper columns and television appearances mark him off from the more reticent world of academic historians. At 900 pages his new book India after Gandhi is not shy of claiming its own space on the bookshelf: from it’s title page, where it announces itself as “The History of the World’s Largest Democracy” (not A History, mind you, but The History); to it’s end papers, which tells us that the author’s entire career seems in retrospect to have been preparation for the writing of this book.

March 27, 2018 /

One needs to constantly remind oneself of the impossibility of extrapolation especially when using few stories to stand in for the whole. For example, the reading of ‘Meitei women’ as ‘unique as they are deeply concerned about the society they live in and are involved in various social organizations,’ or ‘This little girl grew up, got married and like most Meitei women, got actively involved in social work.’ is remarkable in its lack of nuance and (mis) reading the parts for the whole.

December 10, 2017 /

Many moons ago, as a 12 yr. old bookworm, I was allowed access to a cupboard full of books in my school. My father was posted in Jowai, a little town in Meghalaya where the marketplace, school, movie hall and police station were at walking distance from each other. With the nearest bookstore some more than 60 kilometers away in Shillong, that joy came occasionally. So when Sister Rose allowed me access to that cupboard, my joy knew no bounds! Her kind soul must have noticed my hunger for the written word and she decided to go out of her way and allow me this luxury. Among the old books, mostly donated from schools in the US and UK, I found a copy of The Room on the Roof. Thus began my tryst with Ruskin Bond.

August 3, 2017 /

The occasion for these reflections is provided by two books placed before me for review, both effectively dealing with the beginnings and ends of the Left Front in West Bengal. One is straightforwardly and directly personal: Debraj Bhattacharya’s Exploring Marxist Bengal, a good-humoured if at times self-indulgent memoir that narrates a progressive disillusionment with the CPI(M), the ‘left’, and with claims to ‘progressive’ politics among his generation… The second, NO FREE LEFT, by the prolific communist aristocrat Vijay Prashad, promises no less than a narrative and analysis of ‘the past of Indian Communism and an assessment of its future’, which again cannot be written, as he proudly tells us, invoking Antonio Gramsci, ‘without writing a “general history of a country”’. Prashad’s account comprises a series of banalities written in prophetic tone, the latter attributable to his taking upon himself the role of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, a role apparently acquired backwards via Hegel and Schlegel – and he is keen on asserting his right to write as a philosopher who is not a mushroom…

February 17, 2017 /

For long, Kashmiris have been captivated by the power of photography. But why? Why have so many of the world’s greatest geniuses with the camera produced some of their best work in Kashmir? Is it the unique tragicomedy of spectacular natural beauty and a gruesome conflict that has consumed generations? Why are there so many good photojournalists and photographers in Kashmir and why is their number on the rise?

November 30, 2016 /

Eat Dust is no work of fiction, although one is left wondering at the bizarreness of the truth behind the loot. It is a book however that passes on timeless lore, like the story of Paikdev’s spring. As Hartman takes us over hills that once stood in Goa, to the court room, and river side, and traces his own story from Kenya to Goa, one gets a rich context for what is actually, and incredibly, unraveling in Goa.

August 13, 2016 /

River of flesh and other stories: the Prostituted Woman in Indian Short Fiction is a book that begins with an aim of prescribing an Indian prostitute’s problems through pity. The choice of the title, which is a title of one of the stories in the book, as a representation of the collection of stories, relegates the whole collection to a simplified, moralistic view. It is telling of the editor’s and publisher’s condescending attitude towards prostitutes. By appealing to pity and sensationalization, it reveals the patronising disregard they have towards the complex varieties of voices from prostitutes.
And yet the stories on the other hand portray the complexities of a prostitute’s life and experiences very effectively…