Tag Archives: drama

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

a raisin in the sun by lorraine hansberryTitle: A Raisin in the Sun
Author: Lorraine Hansberry
Publisher: Modern Library
ISBN: 978-0679601722
Genre: Drama, American Literature, Black Literature
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 stars

Let me start this short review with this: Anyone who goes on and on and on about James Baldwin, which isn’t a bad thing at all by the way, should and must read Lorraine Hansberry. Amongst other things, Hansberry was the first black woman author whose play was performed on Broadway. It doesn’t seem much, but it is so much more, given the human rights they were fighting for – constantly, and still are.

Lorraine Hansberry did not write much. I wish she had. Her bibliography is limited. But, whatever she wrote is pure gold and deserves to be placed on the highest literary shelf there is. Her biography Looking for Lorraine by Imani Perry, which is a must-read if you’d like to know more about her. Well, let’s get on with A Raisin in the Sun.

What’s strange is that I had had the book on my shelf for years now but never picked it up. It is almost like you only read books when they are ready to be read and not before nor after. The timing has to be right and I am so glad that it was time for this play. This play is everything you think it is and more. A black family’s dreams and aspiration is portrayed heartbreakingly in this cracker of a play. The Younger family has decided to make something of themselves. While Ruth is content with what they have, her husband Walter isn’t. He wants to give a better life to their son, Travis. They live in poverty with Walter’s mother Lena and his sister Beneatha in a dilapidated two-bedroom apartment on Chicago’s south side. All Walter wants is a move, to some place better.

The entire play is about their trials and tribulations. And while Hansberry covers that brilliantly, she layers it with everything racist, everything prejudiced, and biased. There have been about three films based on this play, each better than the other and of course you must watch them when you can. Hansberry’s writing is without any apologies. It is as it is. Most of the play was semi-autobiographical and perhaps that’s why its candidness and brutal honesty challenged President Kennedy to take bolder stances on the Civil Rights Movement.

A Raisin in the Sun can rightly be called a movement. A revolution even – a small one and in its own way, a very important one. It was and continues to remain just that. A movement that will continue as long as disparity and inequality exists. Once you are done reading this extremely powerful play, read more by Hansberry. Be prepared to be in awe. Over and over again.

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New Boy: Othello Retold by Tracy Chevalier

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier Title: New Boy: Othello Retold
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK
Imprint: Hogarth Shakespeare
ISBN: 978-1781090329
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I was skeptical about reading this one, only because Othello and Macbeth are my favourite Shakespeare plays and in my head, no one can adapt them. I am sure it has been done several times, but they still don’t hold a candle to the original. Hence, the skepticism.

At the same time, while I thought the book started off promisingly, something didn’t quite fit in. There was this constant nagging thought at the back of my head which I couldn’t place. Till I did and which I will speak about a little later.

“New Boy” is a classic circadian novel – a novel that takes place through a day. Maybe that is the reason it is short and couldn’t have been any longer than this. Also, it is the perfect book to read in today’s times – it is sad I say this, because it is about race and alienation in the 70s and we are in 2018. Something should have changed. We think some things have, but they haven’t. Racial discrimination is as real as it was then and we have only see it grow in the last couple of years.

Anyway, back to the book. “New Boy” is Othello retold. The setting: A private junior high-school and as the title suggests, a new boy Osei – straight from Ghana – a diplomat’s son nonetheless (so black and privileged) enters a school and a white girl, Dee (Desdemona) falls for him and that’s when the school bully Ian (Iago, of course) has to do something to tear them apart. It is the 70s and racial discrimination is at its height.

Chevalier gets references and slurs bang on – so real that I had to keep the book down a couple of times before picking it up again and also because many a times, the conversations didn’t seem to be had between eleven-year olds till I stopped thinking of it this way and started enjoying the story.

The book takes place in a day – at the beginning of a school day and finishes at the end. We all know how this one is going to play out. I couldn’t read further for the longest time, because I didn’t want the tragedy to strike. One would even think that the tragedy cannot be as gruesome as it has been depicted in other adaptations, for instance, Omkara but Chevalier packs a punch and how! Her interpretation of Iago is just as crafty (even more and scarier because it is projected on to a child) and then there is her Othello, who is just as gullible and prone to first-day of school politics.

“New Boy” was a read that I warmed to. I didn’t like it initially. I waited for it to grow on me and it did. It is the kind of book that cannot be rushed with either. You have to take it all in in one big gulp and wait for it to be digested before reading some more of it. Pick it up!

Bedtime Story and Black Tulip by Kiran Nagarkar

Bedtime Story and Black Tulip by Kiran Nagarkar Title: Bedtime Story and Black Tulip
Author: Kiran Nagarkar
Publisher: Harper Collins India
ISBN: 9789351369998
Genre: Drama
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

From the time I have started reading Kiran Nagarkar’s books, I have wanted to read the banned play, “Bedtime Story”. The play was banned when it first released in 1978 by the Shiv Sena and other fundamentalist parties. It has now been republished by Harper Collins India. For me the motive behind reading this book was only “Bedtime Story”. The screenplay “Black Tulip” did not hold much interest and yet when I started on that one as well, I was completely taken in by both – the difference in both is of another extreme but both are highly satisfying on different levels.

“Bedtime Story” is based on the Mahabharata. It also has a modern angle to it which is riveting, real and quite thought-provoking. The premise of course will not change. However, Nagarkar manages to add elements which are so real even today, after thirty-seven years – the issue of caste, women’s rights, the political warfare, the debate of what’s right and what’s wrong, all of it has not changed at all. This just goes to show the society in which we live. We are a regressive lot and the sooner we admit to that, the better it is for all of us. There is then scope for change, I think. Nagarkar’s writing of “Bedtime Story” is so brutal and real that sometimes I just wanted to shy away from it. The truth, when stabbed always hurts a lot more than it normally would.

“Bedtime Story” is delicious. It is snarky, holds a mirror to all hypocrisy and at the same time communicates what it wants to, without being modest or sugar-coating anything. On the other hand “Black Tulip” – a screenplay, starts off a little bland and then picks up pace. A woman renegade, her boyfriend and a cop in her top form battle against terrorism. The action takes place in the city of Bombay, bringing the screenplay to a brilliant end – with two probable endings actually.

I would highly recommend this book to people who want to read something different – something real and also something imaginary. “Bedtime Story and Black Tulip” together are plays of endurance, of class, society, change and battle in one’s mind, heart and soul. A terrific read.

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Book Review: Toke by Jugal Mody

Title: Toke
Author: Jugal Mody
Publisher: Harper Collins India
ISBN: 978-9350293409
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

If you are looking to read a heavy-handed sort of a book, then Toke is definitely not for you. Then there is all the more reason for you to read it. Because its humour will ensure that you are laughing out loud at almost every page of the book. At least, that is what happened to me.

“Toke” by Jugal Mody has all elements of a blockbuster novel. The one that can be made to a film with ease and that credit also goes to the kind of writing it is. I do not normally read pop-fiction. But this time I did and I am glad I did. Toke is all about a man, a regular man, who is the regular average Indian, living his life his way. Doped and working and wanting nothing more, till Lord Vishnu appears to him in a dream, providing him the much-needed purpose: Save the World. That is where it all begins.

Nikhil, the protagonist’s life changes overnight, well quite literally. He has 72 hours or maybe less to save the world. His life is ridden with his overbearing parents, a supervisor who will not stop taking his case, a pretty girl who is unaware of his existence and but obviously he has a crush on her, and his life is pretty much what you or I might live through. And one day just like that everything changes.

That is pretty much the premise of the book. You will definitely figure the layers of adventure, drama, comedy and romance (well in bits and pieces) once you start reading it. The writing is easy. The character sketching is well done. You can easily identify with Nikhil. The language is centric to the way the youth would communicate in any metropolis of the country. I could not re-read the book, but that is also because it is meant to be a one-time read, according to me. I liked the book. It is funny and works on many levels. Jugal Mody sure knows how to tell a tale. I recommend this to be read on a rainy day with a mug of hot chocolate.

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Book Review: Palo Alto by James Franco

Title: Palo Alto: Stories
Author: James Franco
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571273164
PP: 208 pages
Price: £12.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

Palo Alto is a collection of short stories concerning teenagers who are your bottom-of-the-barrel type of people. There’s lots of sex, alcohol, drugs, and general life wasting going on. Franco scores a few points with me throughout the course of this book. I’m not so old yet that I can’t appreciate and get some laughs out of some of the childish expressions and subject matter that overwhelmingly permeate this collection. However, Franco also seems to be attempting to bring some more mature dialogue to the table, and in doing this he creates a rather unrealistic and entirely unbelievable narrative throughout much of his writing. The consistently delinquent and simple storytelling is spot-on, but then there will be certain phrases that surface out of nowhere, phrases an adolescent would never use. Some of these are poetics that demonstrate something above and beyond what an adolescent would conjure and some are just poor word choices.

Adolescence is a tough time for everyone, particularly with the cruel restrictions teens place on one another for fitting in. These restrictions on what people should be like and look like are basically an attempt to gain control during a turbulent time. James Franco’s short stories reflect this in the reckless lifestyles and the cruelties the characters impose on one another.

Although the characters don’t have much depth or redemption, it’s the meaning behind the stories that struck me. Each character is hollow and alone, and chemical and sexual stimulation can never fulfill that void of empty teenage existance. In fact, it usually deepens it in the long term. If you’re looking for something that isn’t so blunt and graphic with its depiction of teenage society, go elsewhere. If your looking for cute characters that are lovable and find redemption, go elsewhere. However, if your looking for an authentic depiction of the faceless, conformist teenage society, James Franco nails it with Palo Alto.