Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay

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Tarasankar Banerjee: One of the Greatest Literary Minds of India throughout its History

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Tarasankar's Life:
Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay was one of the best known writers in India in this century. He was born in 1898, in an aristocratic family of Birbhum, a rural district approximately 125 miles away from Calcutta. He acquired intimate knowledge and experience about the declining landlords, as well as the common men of various occupations. As a student in Calcutta he fought against injustice at different levels of the society. He joined the Gandhian Movement and took an active part in India's struggle for independence. He was jailed for a year for his active participation in the struggle. He was also a staunch critique of the Fascist movement. For some time he was fascinated by Marxism, though later he turned to Gandhism. As a result of his involvement with different political movements, he had to quit his college education prematurely. Tarasankar realized that he could better serve the country by writing rather than by actively participating in the Gandhian movement. Later, he took writing as his full-time profession. His literary career spanned forty- two years. He wrote more than 210 short stories and 40 novels of which more than 45 were made into movies/tele-films. Of all the movies so far made based on his writings, the most celebrated is Satyajit Ray's movie "Jalsaghar" (The Music Room) . He served as a member of the West Bengal Legislative council from 1952 to 1960 and was also a member of the Parliament (Rajya Sabha) in New Delhi from 1960 to 1966. He was awarded the "Gyanapith Award", the highest literary award of India, in 1967. Tarasankar died in September 1971.

Tarasankar's Novels and Stories
Tarasankar's novels and short stories vary considerably in style and subject matter. His first successful novel, Rai Kamal published in 1934 is a bitter sweet love story of three wandering Vaishnava mendicants. Another critically acclaimed novel, Kavi ( The Poet ) published in 1945, describes an itinerant poet's wanderings with a nomadic troupe of dancer prostitutes. Bicharok (The Judge) published in 1958, portrays the dilemma of a judge who must pronounce a verdict on a murder case reminiscent of a traumatic incident in his own life. These novels have few characters, a psychological orientation and a terse style. Most of Tarasankar's short stories are also succinctly written. They have often startling effects achieved through a controlled use of language. These are perhaps some of the reasons why Rabindranath Tagore liked Tarasankar's short stories so much. Some of Tagore's letters written around 1937-39 to Tarasankar clearly showed Tagore's high appreciation of Tarasankar's writings. These letters were written when Tarasankar just embarked on his literary career. Most of his important works were yet to be published. Here are some of Tagore's letters to Tarasankar written around that period.

Tarasankar as a Novelist
Tarasankar is most noted for his long novels about rural life. Of these, the most acclaimed are Kalindi (The River Kalindi),the twin novels Panchamgram (Five Villages) and Ganadevata and also Hasuli Banker Upokatha (The Legend of Hansuli Bank), all published during the 40's. and Ganadevata has been translated in English with the title The Temple Pavilion. Tarasankar was essentially a traditional novelist. Unlike many Bengali writers who in the 1930's and 40's were strongly influenced by recent western trends such as Freudian analysis or Marxist social realism, Tarasankar wrote more in the tradition of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and Rabidranath Tagore. This is particularly apparent in the regional novels. Like Sarat Chandra who preceded Tarasankar a generation earlier, Tarasankar was a good story teller, concentrating on the elements of drama inherent in a rural or family setting. He writes in a simple and extremely natural style, imposes little narrative comment, and achieves authenticity and convincing character types through skillful use of dialogue and dialect. Many characters in his novels and stories represent his own experience. Very often characters in his writings came out straight from his direct encounter with the peasant and the sufferings of the down-trodden people. They are sometimes the product of both his broad experience with the village folks and his own inner conflicts. With his wide breadth of personal experience, Tarasankar provided Indian novels with a new dimension.
Tarasankar's stories those were made into movies. Click the interactive button below to take you to a detailed list of them.


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