Issues in South Asian Literature and Films

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This presentation was made in Plenary of International Seminar on South Asian Literature & Culture organised by Higher Education & Research Society, Navi Mumbai - Pune (Maharashtra-India). 6-7 ...

This presentation was made in Plenary of International Seminar on South Asian Literature & Culture organised by Higher Education & Research Society, Navi Mumbai - Pune (Maharashtra-India). 6-7 September, 2013.

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Issues in South Asian Literature and Films Issues in South Asian Literature and Films Presentation Transcript

  • South Asian Literature and Films: An Endeavor to Create Bridges of the Friendship across the Borders amidst the World Broken up into Fragments by Narrow Domestic Walls
  • In memory of Sushmita Banerjee’s Kabuliwala’s Bengali Wife
  • The Scaffold of Presentation • The Nomenclature • SAARC Moto • E V Ramakrishnan – Relocating … • Nation & Narration: Homi K. Bhabha • Farrukh Dhondy – nation and novel • Terry Eagleton: Political Criticism • Narrative structure - Memory Novels • Thematic Overview of select SA Fiction & Poems • Films as Lingua Franca View slide
  • Nomenclature • South Asia vs Indian Subcontinent • Non acceptance of ‘India’ – inferiority complex and India’s superiority complex - Fertile ground for Subaltern discourse • Countries in South Asia: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan et all. View slide
  • SAARC: motto • We are mad dreamers of the SAARC region. Let government do their political and diplomatic work. Let us, the writers and the creative fraternity of the region endeavor to create bridges of the friendship across the borders. • Role of literature in creating the cultural coalescence among the said countries.
  • E. V. Ramakrishnan – relocate Indian literature • relocate literature in the context of caste, religion, region, gender etc… issues of everyday struggles… Literature is shaped by the material condition of society.”
  • Homi K. Bhabha: ‘Introduction: Narrating the Nation’ (Nation and Narration) • Nation – the modern Janus: the uneven development of capitalism inscribes both progression and regression, political rationality and irrationality in the very genetic code of the nation – it is by nature, ambivalent. • Nation is narrated in ‘terror of the space or race of the Other; the comfort of social belonging, the hidden injuries of class, the customs of caste, the powers of political affiliation; the sense of social order, the sensibility of sexuality; the blindness of bureaucracy, the strait insight of institutions; the quality of justice, the commonsense of injustice; the langue of the law and the parole of the people’.
  • Homi K. Bhabha: ‘Introduction: Narrating the Nation’ (Nation and Narration) • It is to explore the Janus-faced ambivalence of language itself in the construction of the Janus-faced discourse of the nation. • Nation is an agency of ambivalent narration that holds ‘culture’ at its most productive position, as a force for ‘subordination, fracturing, diffusing, reproducing as much as producing, creating, forcing and guiding’.
  • Homi K. Bhabha: ‘Introduction: Narrating the Nation’ (Nation and Narration) • The ambivalent, antagonistic perspective of nation as narration will establish the cultural boundaries of the nation so that they may be acknowledged as ‘containing’ thresholds of meaning that must be crossed, erased and translated in the process of cultural production. • What kind of cultural space is the nation with its transgressive boundaries and its interruptive’ interiority?
  • Farrukh Dhondy: The Nation and the Novel (3 Nov, 2012 – ToI) • How is South Asian writing in a universal human context to be evaluated? Perhaps as all literature has ever been? The European short story was born of the parable and the fable. • The novel in England, France, Russia and Germany was, in an important way, born of a crisis of religious faith.
  • F.D.: Nation & Novel • when a culture ceases to live and assess itself by the laws of Moses or Jesus, when Dorothea of Middlemarch or Anna Karenina or Emma Bovary feel what they feel and do what they do, they can call upon no strictly biblical justification. • It takes George Eliot, Tolstoy and Gustave Flaubert to construct a form which captures those nuances of feeling and brings an inclusive sympathy to the possibilities of human and social behaviour.
  • F.D.: Nation & Novel • The novel in the European context was called upon to supply in narrative the definition of 'love', 'faith', 'loyalty', 'generosity', 'compassion', 'priggishness', 'snobbery', 'war', 'peace' and every other abstract noun in the dictionary. • It took up where faith left off and did the opposite of what heroic myths used to do. Some European writing, the novels of Dostoevsky and the philosophical works of Nietzsche took this crisis of faith and the death of myth head on, asking and explicitly answering questions.
  • F.D.: Nation & Novel • And South Asia? • Of which necessity was South Asian writing in English born? • The obvious answer is nationalism and the struggle for Independence. • The influence of the writing, though widely translated, suffered from the limitation of being in English.
  • F.D. : Film as lingua franca • At the same time as this contribution to nationalism was formulated, a far more influential media was coming into its own. • Film became the lingua franca of India and it exclusively dedicated itself to the various purposes and themes of nationalism, asserting India's great past (Raja Harishchandra), and following a Gandhian agenda in attacking untouchability (Achhut Kanya) and elevating the status of women (Razia Begum).
  • F.D. • The cinematic definitions created and were bound by myth. • Modernity, the urbanisation of India, new institutions, industrialisation, global imports, rampant capitalism and corruption were changing India (read Indian subcontinent) and though the myths persisted, were modified and increasingly seen to be fantasy or escapism.
  • F.D. • The task then of the new cinema and of South Asian writing was to distance oneself from the myth and describe and dissect the personalities and possibilities of existence that emerge.
  • Terry Eagleton: Political Criticism • “There is no need to drag politics into literary theory(text), it has been there from the beginning.” • This should not surprise – for any body of theory (text) concerned with human meaning, value, language, feeling and experience will inevitably engage with broader, deeper beliefs about the nature of human individuals and societies, problems of power and sexuality, interpretations of past history, versions of the present and hopes for the future. • Literary Theory: An Introduction
  • Narrative – Memory Novel: Dipesh Chakrabarty • One needs to understand the relation between memory and identity”, the “shared structure of a sentiment”, “the sense of trauma and its contradictory relation to the question of the past”. • Trauma is memory. • One of principal arguments seems to be that “the narrative structure of the memory of trauma works on a principle opposite to that of any historical narrative”. • According to him, “a historical narrative leads up to the event in question, explaining why it happened, and why it happened when it did, and this is possible only when the event is open to explanation. What cannot be explained belongs to the marginalia of history.” • ‘Memories of Displacement: The Poetry and Prejudice of Dwelling’ in Habitation of Modernity, pp 116-17.
  • Issues: Thematic overview of Contemporary Literatures of major countries of South Asia • Bhutan • Nepal • Bangladesh • Sri Lanka • Pakistan • India
  • Bhutan • Headwind: Laxmi’s Story: By Alice Anna Verheij – the struggle of a refugee child growing within the constrained walls of a socially and culturally conservative society – Nepal-Bhutan insurgency. • Exiled agonies: A Poem by Devi Subedi – Agony of Nepali living as refugee in Nepal, Bhutan and India – and then escaped to the West. India did not help or support their cause.
  • Nepal • Bhanubhakta Acharya & Lekhanath Paudyal: Sanskrit and spiritual tradition Siddhicharan Shrestha & Laxmi Prasad Devkota – revolutionary poets - nihilism replaced spiritual tradition - There are many modern nepali authors who has written groundbreaking innovative new Nepali literature e.g. Indra Bahadur Rai, Parijat, Bhupi Sherchan, Shailendra Sakar, Kavitaram Shrestha, Yuyutsu Sharma, Bimal Nibha, Narayan Wagle, Mahananda Poudyal etc. - Diaspora writer on rise.
  • Nepal • Govinda Raj Bhattarai’s masterpiece Sukaratka Paila – translated - Socrates’ Footsteps – set against the time when the Maoist insurgency was at its peak • Contribution of Michael Hutt • ‘Yogmaya’s life’ -in a text called Sarvartha Yogabani and then analysed the attempts that have been made by various activists and scholars to portray her as, variously, a feminist rebel, a social reformer and a progressive poet. • Source: K. Pradhan: A History of Nepali Literature, New Delhi: Sahitya Akad., 1984 – Nepalese literature, ed. by Madhav Lal Karmacharya, Kathmandu : Royal Nepal Academy 2005
  • Bangladesh • East Pakistan Era: Language, communal, rural & urban problems • Syed Waliullah's Lalshalu(1948) • Mahbub-ul Alam’s Mofijon(1948) • Jibon Khuda (1955) by Abul Monsoor Ahmed Ranga Probhat (1957) by Abul Fazal, • Khuda O Asha (1964) by Alauddin Al-Azad, • Neer Sandhani(1968) and Nishuti Rater Gatha (1968) by Anwar Pasha
  • Bangladesh • Bangladesh era: Liberation war, its consequences, hopeless human existence and analysis of human mind and society • Anwar Pasha's Rifle Roti Aurat (1973) • Shaukat Osman'sJahannam Hoite Bidai (1971), Nekre Aranyo (1973) Dui Soinik (1973), • Rashid Haider's Khanchai (1975), and Andha Kathamala (1982), • Shawkat Ali'sJatraa (1976), Selina Hossain's Hangor Nodi Granade (1976), • Mahmudul Huq's Jiban Aamar Bone (1976), Syed Shamsul Haq's Nil Dangshon (1981) and Nishiddho Loban (1981), Harun Habib's Priyo Joddha Priyotoma (1982) • Amar Jato Glani (1973) byRashid Karim, • Ferari Surya(1974) by Rabeya Khatun, • Abelay Ashamoy (1975) by Amjad Hossain
  • Bangladesh • The Good Muslim: Tahmima Anam – The family crises mirror the state of the nation; criminals are on the loose. The stories of women raped and abused during the war for an independent Bangladesh have been erased or marginalised in the search for a clean, linear history. Frantic forms of religiosity proliferate. – is an exceptional and searching look at the hidden horrors of war and the appeal of religion in the aftermath of the 1971 Bangladesh war of liberation – The division is a result of Sohail's fanatical devotion to and Maya's alienation from religion – Trilogy – The Golden Age
  • Sri Lanka • Chinaman : The Legend of Pradeep Mathew: Shehan Karunatilaka • Pradeep S. Mathew, a spin bowler who has mysteriously disappeared • On his quest to find this unsung genius, WG uncovers a coach with six fingers, a secret bunker below a famous stadium, a Tamil Tiger warlord, and startling truths about Sri Lanka, cricket and himself. • That world has long needed a suitable metaphor and he has discovered it: Cricket
  • Sri Lanka • Island of a Thousand Mirrors: Nayomi Munaveera • explores how women in Sri Lanka, on opposite sides of the civil war, negotiate the realities of life • attempts to transcend a little more than 60 years of history—the violent and strife-torn decades of post-colonial Sri Lanka—through three generations of two families.
  • Pakistan • Home Boy: H.M. Naqvi • 9/11 • City where origins matter less than the talent - three Metrostanis have the guts to claim the place as their own. But after 9/11, things go horribly wrong. Suddenly, they find themselves in a changed, charged America. • Making the logical leap from dualities to multiplicities, ponders New York’s reputation as that proverbial melting pot of peoples and cultures • a bloated sense of self-importance, it should be pointed out that, for the most part, it sidesteps the pitfalls of over-earnestness and sentimentality that are the hallmarks of a lot of new South Asian literature (Mira Hashmi) • 2011 SAL DSC Award winner
  • Pakistan • How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: Mohsin Hamid • ‘Self-help book’ as literary device • shows what it means to get rich in a rising Asia in a new novel at a time when the developing economies in the region are straining to push up their GDP figures. • a nameless city in South Asia that sizzles with energy, opportunity and inequality. • touches upon new South Asian realities - broken hearts, failed marriages, culture of corruption, politics, lifestyle pressures on fast street and the perennial near-war edge thatPakistan balances on.
  • Pakistan • The Wandering Falcon: Jamil Ahmad • Pak-Afghan Border – tribes • a blistering critique of the ruthless ways of nation states, as they seek to impose artificially constructed borders on older, more fluid worlds. • The Death of Camels – Gul Jana – koran • A Point of Honour – Tor Baz’s parents murdered – Baluch rebel dismayed to death
  • Pakistan • Our Lady of Alice Bhatti: Mohammed Hanif • Alice, criminal and savior, the victim and heroine of a deft, evil little novel of comic genius. • And will this story — and grisly Sacred Heart — be taken as a parable for Pakistan? • every turn of the novel reader is confronted with the corruption and perversion that is indicative of Pakistani life today.
  • India • The Lowland: Jhumpa Lahiri • Two Brothers: Udayan and Subhash Mitra • Ud drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty; he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes • Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother’s political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.
  • India • The Immigrant: Manju Kapoor • Nina & Anand: Arranged Marriage: Canada • a chronicler of middle-class Indian manners • Husband suffers from sexual problem • Her meat eating was the result of fragmentation and distress, not a desire for convenience • Her body was her own - and that included her digestive system and her vagina. • Mother’s death- What will she make of her western, feminist independence? • scope is narrower and its mode more comic
  • India • From the Ruins of Empire: Pankaj Mishra • Mishra tells this story through the biographies of three public intellectuals: the itinerant Persian-born agitator Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-97); the Chinese reformer Liang Qichao (1873-1929); and Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). • Through many setbacks and wrong turns, a powerful, contradictory and ultimately unstoppable series of ideas were created that now lie behind everything from the Chinese Communist Party to Al Qaeda, from Indian nationalism to the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • India • The Monkey-Man: Usha K.R. • What was it that they saw? A bat? A malevolent avatar? A sign of the displeasure of the gods? The grotesque mascot of a city that is growing too fast and crumbling too soon? Or merely a monkey that has lost its way? • Using evocative prose that reflects her profound understanding of human nature, Usha K.R. delves into the lives of her characters and their unexpectedly linked destinies in a city that has grown from a ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’ to the frenetic hub of the country’s IT industry. • Fictional device - a metaphor for the dramatic, overwhelming and grotesque transformation of the city. • Is Bangalore, India? South Asia?
  • India • The Walls of Delhi: Uday Prakash. Tr. Jason Grunebaum • Three stinging, darkly comic tales capture in telling detail life and survival in todays India. In the title story a sweeper discovers a cache of black money and escapes to see the Taj Mahal with his underage mistress; in Mohandas a Dalit races to reclaim his life stolen by an upper-caste identity thief-gun- maoist; and in Mangosil a babys head gets bigger and bigger as he gets smarter and smarter, while his family tries to find a cure.
  • India • A Life Apart: Neel Mukherjee • Ritwik – a gay protagonist * familiar territory in the postcolonial novel of displacement, more original idea - writes wonderfully and wryly about the young man's exploration of everyday gay life Ritwik is writing his own novel, a novel within the novel. This parallel narrative, which reimagines a female character from a Rabindranath Tagore text, reflects suggestively on history, literary, timr and culture. It blends the poignancy of a coming-of-age story with the rawer excitements of an urban thriller laced with sex and violence
  • India • Narcopolis: Jeet Thayil • Dimple – Eunuch protagonist • Poverty, sex, violence, opium • Chinese revolution – digression • Myth of stone-man • India has been reincarnating behind the blue smoke of the last pipes
  • Narcopolis • Bombay: I found Bombay and opium, the drug and the city, the city of opium and the drug Bombay.” • Drug literature – Opium: symbolically represented as the idea of religion, films, sex, freedom, memory and dreams. • The narrative is true to its subject matter – opiated, hazy, viewed through foggy smoke, dream like sequences, stream of consciousness at another level. • . . .Soporo’s book, within Lee’s father’s book (Zheng He), within the story of Lee’s life, as told to Dimple, within the pipe’s narration, as told to narrator Dom, within the book Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil. (Interview_2)
  • Dimple/Zeenat • The story of eunuch Dimple / Zeenat: Pg. 11 & 289 • Like Bombay’s, Dimple’s name does not remain fixed. She was originally (re)named after the beautiful Dimple Kapadia, of the film Bobby (the plot of which rings with familiar themes). She is (re)renamed, again after a film star— this time Zeenat Aman—by Rashid, who takes her to a movie (Hare Rama Hare Krishna), in which “Zeenie” plays a character who has renamed herself Janice and run away from home. • Again, we have this undercurrent of exile and separation. In fact, the word hijra is etymologically related to the Arabic hjr, which refers to leaving one’s tribe. • Sarah Van Bonn: SouthAsianJournal:Literary Review
  • India • The White Tiger: Arvind Adiga • You see, I am in light now, but I was born and raised in Darkness . . . Please understand, Your Excellency, that India is two countries in one: an India of Light, and an India of Darkness. The Ocean brings light to my country. .. But the river brings darkness to India – the black river. • Inside, you will find an image of a saffron-coloured creature, half man half monkey…
  • India • “But this is your fate if you do your job well – with honesty, dedication, and sincerity, the way Gandhi would have done it…. I did my job with near total dishonesty, lack of dedication, and insincerity…: • about caste • ‘The villages are so religious in the Darkness” • Democracy! “I am India’s most faithful voter, and I still have not seen the inside of a voting booth’. • Pg. 318:all the skin-whitening creams sold in the markets of India won’t clean my hands again. • Conclusion: pg. 319-320 – I will never say I made a mistake that night in Delhi when I slit my master’s throat.
  • India • River of Smoke: Amitav Ghosh • 2nd of Ibis Triology • Bahram Modi, a Parsi opium trader fromBombay • Canton – China • story of the opium trade is an ugly one, but the spirit of the novel is enthusiastic tragicomedy, not moralising. . . Symbolically, of our times • Bahram – Barrack • ‘O’ – Other, Opium, Oil
  • India • Indian Myth is ****: Meena Kandasamy
  • India Meena Kandasamy • The truth about Dharma, the man, illigimate son, bastard, Justice is . . . • Eklavya: you don’t need left thumb to pull a trigger or hurl a bomb • They killed you, the naked you, sadist fool, Bapu, you big fraud, we hate you • indra indra narindra, perfected science of slaughter, the genocidal god of gods.
  • Popular Films & South Asian Relations • Zeitgeist – is well captured in popular culture • Films - one of the best mirrors to see representation of new myths, sweetly coated bitter truths, perspectivism • Popular Indian sentiments: – Presence of Pakistan in collective consciousness – Absence of all other south Asian countries . . . – West – still the best panacea of Eastern woes, worries, anguish and anxiety – forgetting the fact that the wounder cannot heal!
  • Popular Films and South Asian Relations • Veer-Zaara • Fanaa • Ek Tha Tiger • Kurbaan • Vishvaroopam • Gaddar • Madras Café • Khuda Ke Liye • Ramchand Pakistani • Escape from Taliban
  • Conclusion: • The present seems to be dark so far as polito-socio- cultural relations are concerned, but the hope shines out . . . • Literature is yet not representing – what ‘ought’ to be? • Well, but the question is: Will literature do what we want it to be done – or rather it will be faithful to the truth / reality of human condition in South Asia? • Or perhaps is it not performing its role in rather metaphorical way – the journey across the borders that of Bahram in River of Smoke or a boy in Ramchand Pakistani or that of Veer in search of Zaara or Agents of Indian RAW – Vinod, Vikram or Tiger – symbolically expressed a desire to bridge the borders – ???
  • Let us end with a hope. . . • Both Rabindranath Tagore and Gandhi were against the nation-state – Swaraj vs Suraj • For Tagore, the concept of India was not territorial but ideational i.e. India for him was not a geographical expression but an idea. • His view of nationalism was more about spreading a homogenised universalism than seeking political freedom for India. • Gandhi – ‘our struggle for freedom is to bring peace in the world’. • What gives us reason to be hopeful is ‘freshness in narratice, newness of metaphor & confidence, boldness & fearlessness of new breed of writers’
  • Thank You Dilip Barad Dept. of English, M.K. Bhavnagar University Gujarat (India) www.dilipbarad.com dilipbarad@gmail.com