Tag Archives: Shanta Gokhale

The Engaged Observer: The Selected Writings of Shanta Gokhale: Edited and with an Introduction by Jerry Pinto

SGTitle: The Engaged Observer: The Selected Writings of Shanta Gokhale: Edited and with an Introduction by Jerry Pinto
Author: Shanta Gokhale
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Publishing Private Limited
ISBN: 978-9388070492
Genre: Nonfiction, Anthology, Essays
Pages: 312
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

You do not just read Shanta Gokhale. You literally take in everything she has to say, and mull over it for days, weeks, and sometimes even months. That to me is the power of prose, of words on paper, and most of all it is about the emotions she can evoke in you. You read Shanta Gokhale to take count of the world around you – to see its decline, the society we live in, its hypocrisy (laid out by her with immense logic and facts), and how at the end of it all, there might also be some hope and redemption.

I remember reading Crowfall way back when it released (in English though) and was moved deeply by it. There was nothing specific I could put a finger on, but what she wrote was enough. All of it. Every single word. What Jerry Pinto does through this anthology of her selective works is give you a fair enough glimpse into her mind and writing, so you can read more of her and I bet you will, once you are done with this one.

This book is varied – that because Shanta Gokhale is so prolific – having written so much – from theatre of Bombay to the theatre of Mumbai, the political scenario, on India, on Literature, the Marathi culture (that is trying very hard to revive itself), and everything else in between. I don’t think there is any topic that Shanta Gokhale hasn’t written on. But it isn’t just this, it is the way she writes – almost makes you feel that you are the only one reading her at that time.

The Engaged Observer (what an apt title) is about so many things and yet doesn’t feel overdone or trying too much to fit into one book. In fact, if anything, I wanted more. Shanta Gokhale writes with clarity. Every sentence is in place. My favourite section has to be the one on women – the patriarchy, feminism, and women defying the misogynistic constructs of society.

Shanta Gokhale’s writings are lucid, rich in facts, detailed, and doesn’t veer at any point into becoming something else. Points are made and then it is up to the reader to make their judgement or not. The writings are not biased. As the title aptly suggests, Gokhale observes intently, engages with the observation by making notes, writing about it, and leaving it to the readers to consume. Also, kudos to Jerry Pinto for carefully selecting the pieces he did to introduce us/enhance our understanding of the writer – and the neat sections that help the reader navigate.

There are a lot of reasons I would recommend this work. Some of them being: clarity and simplicity of language, the varied pieces – there is literally something for everyone, and to top it all her writing – the kind that cuts through without seeming that way, the kind that makes such a strong impact that you cannot help but want more, the kind of writing that shakes you up and makes you see the world differently. It is the kind of writing that only comes from an engaged observer – the one who constantly sees, relates or does not, but definitely engages – no matter where she is.

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Book Review: Guru Dutt: A Tragedy in Three Acts by Arun Khopkar

Title: Guru Dutt – A Tragedy in Three Acts
Author: Arun Khopkar
Translator: Shanta Gokhale
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 9780143415053
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography, Film
Pages: 168
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There is no better way to get to know a film-maker than through his works. To watch them repeatedly – one after the other, till they charm you, make you smile, make you cry and make you think. That to me is the best way to know a filmmaker. To realize and understand what made him or her make movies like the ones you are watching, what is the psyche behind them, and what is the connect it has with you and the impression it leaves behind.

One such filmmaker whose works I have admired for years now has to be Guru Dutt. His cinema according to me was way ahead of its time. The depiction of a poet trying to come to terms with the world’s ways or the idea of a disillusioned filmmaker trying to cope with failure, Guru Dutt to me was a storyteller beyond words. He to me was successfully in creating poetry on screen – with eye movements, with body language and with silence. So when I got the opportunity to read, “Guru Dutt – A Tragedy in Three Acts” by Arun Khopkar, I jumped at it.

Arun Khopkar is an award-winning film director and scholar and it is through his eyes that the reader gets a sense of Guru Dutt and three of his films – Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool and Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam. Arun Khopkar does not talk about Dutt’s private life even once in the book and that is commendable. He looks at the person and the director through his movies which is most essential.

The technical aspects of Guru Dutt’s movies are explored more – with reference to lighting, the play of shadows, the script, the music, the plot of his movies and ultimately to me, “the man who never tried to fit in”. Khopkar’s language is simple and retrospective, which has been beautifully translated from Marathi by Shanta Gokhale. The idea of a troubled genius is clearly communicated throughout the book, and what I found most intriguing was how Khopkar has managed to understand Dutt layer by layer purely through his cinema and silences.

For me, each film mentioned in the book is precious. Khopkar’s views on each of these three films are unique and intelligent. His writing does not ignore the minor or secondary characters. He takes into account every aspect of those films and presents Guru Dutt to the reader – raw and brilliant.

The book is not a long read and as the writer describes in the preface, that it was just meant to be a personal documentation on the legendary filmmaker and nothing more. It somehow took the shape of a book and I am glad it did. “Guru Dutt: A Tragedy in Three Acts” is a book that will make you think about art and the genius that Dutt was to devote his life to art and sometimes the madness that came with the devotion. A short and effective read, this is one book on cinema which you shouldn’t miss.

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Book Review: The Man Who Tried to Remember by Makarand Sathe

Title: The Man Who Tried to Remember
Author: Makarand Sathe
Publisher: Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9780670086412
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translated Fiction
Pages: 248
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

It would take a lot for a translated work to be detached from its original or the perception of what it might be like to read the original and savor the book in its translated form. It happens to me all the time. I wish I could read those Spanish and Japanese works in their true form; however I do not know the languages. The same happens when reading an Indian translation, which are most often ignored by people.

Indian writers have not just sprung up. They have always been there. It is a different story that the publishing dynamics have changed drastically in our country. Earlier on, the only writers who made it were either the socialites or people who were already columnists. The rest were conveniently forgotten. Well, I am glad that that is changing. The so-called “Basha” literature is now gaining its ground. It would have been great if that would happen in its original form, however the good thing is that people are becoming aware of such writers and their works.

With this viewpoint, I started reading Makarand Sathe’s, “The Man Who Tried to Remember”. This book is strangely different and quite a rollercoaster read. The story begins when the central character, Achyut Athavaley, an internationally acclaimed writer and thinker, fleets in his memory patterns, and what exactly led to the murder of Bodhni, a fellow inmate of the old-age home, where Achyut is spending his years after retirement. Achyut did kill Bodhni in a fit of temporary memory loss. He is now on a trial.

But this is not what the plot is. The plot is extended by numerous NGOs, politicians and the film industry protesting for Achyut’s life to be saved. The so-called media jamboree begins and that is coupled with Achyut’s thoughts fantastically throughout the book.

I have never come across such modernity (in terms of writing and narration) in an Indian novel earlier, so for me, this book ranks very high in terms of style and structure. What also crossed my mind was the fact that the translation, which is done superbly by Shanta Gokhale, must have been such a task to begin with. The writing wavers from past to present and in flashes.

The book is fast-paced and yet makes you ponder and think about everything that interconnects the plot – memory, emotion, murder, and political campaigning. The happenings of Achyut’s life are presented in a funny manner, keeping the somber tone consistent throughout. Sathe’s writing is immediate and keeping in mind the times we live in, which makes it easier to relate to.

“The Man Who Tried to Remember” is a gem of a book, reflecting today’s time and age. A read that will make you question and shake things up a bit.

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