So, our – husband-wife- joint venture on various facets of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s writings vis-à-vis the female protagonists continue. In our endeavours for interactions with academicians on the subject, we hit upon a Siliguri-based professor of Bengali, Prof Subodh Kumar Jash of North Bengal University on January 30, 2011.
During discussions, we did talk at length on certain elementary points which would put Sarat Chandra in different plane than other writers of his age.
Firstly, very few Indian writers more so in Bengali letters have attained the popularity like that attained by Sarat Chandra. His characters still appeal to the common Indians across the spectrum irrespective of language, society and creed.
The ability to attract readers was phenomenal in Sarat Chandra. His popularity thus spread across the common man; something unlike Rabindranath Tagore. Unlike Sarat Chandra, the Nobel laureate mostly remains popular and confined among academic intellectuals and experts.
Moreover, Tagore’s beauty is mostly appreciated by the common man only in terms of poetry. So Tagore so highly respected and worshipped by the followers of Bengali literature will never have the fortune to attain the popularity of a character like Devdas.
Sarat Chandra’s ‘Devdas’, Shrikanta or other characters like Saudamoni remain popular in all his translation works – Urdu, Malayalam or Marathi.
Prof Jash also argued eloquently that Saratchandra “vastaber pralep diye, aabeg tairi kare, ek ekti charitra jibonto kare tulechchen (By giving the cloak of reality, Sarat Chandra created emotions in each of his characters)”.
The readers once into reading his novels always feel attracted by the manner he created the climax of each plot. He was rather over sentimental at times but handled his characters very well.
For instance, we can cite the example of ‘Bamuner Meye (Daughter of a Brahmin)’. The female protagonist Sandhya lives to believe that she is born to a Brahmin family and hence should dominate the relationship with foreign-returned Arun. Like all other villagers, Sandhya also grew up to believe that Arun though born Brahmin has been to a foreign soil and was thus a ‘mlechcha’ (one who is abandoned by his own caste). The sensitive caste issue is handled so well that Sandhya even throws out the pan she was chewing when Arun accidentally happens to touch her. Here the climax is handled in a masterly manner by the author as slowly the reader is engrossed to understand that contrary to her belief Sandhya was herself a daughter of a barber. This is Sarat Chandra’s beauty.
Similarly, in portraying the character of Kusum in much popular ‘Pandit Moshae’, Sarat Chandra keeps the readers guessing on the vital fact that whether Kusum is a widow or not.
While her neighbours and even the brother knew that Kusum was a widow; but her marriage (second) remains a mystery. The master story teller in Sarat Chandra conceals this climax very well as no one other than Kusum’s mother knew of the marriage.
Sarat Chandra himself sounded clueless on whether Kusum was really married off earlier. “The second marriage was true or not – no one could either confirm or deny this,” runs the line in the novel itself.
So to one section of readers, Kusum was a widow and to another she need not be. Here lies the beauty of Sarat chandra’s creativity.