Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Book Review: Nayak by Satyajit Ray, Novelisation by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay.

Book: Nayak

Writer: Satyajit Ray

Novelisation: Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Publisher: Harper Collins

Pages: 254

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3 days

Plot Summary: Matinee idol Arindam Mukherjee is on his way by train from Calcutta to Delhi to receive a national award. He encounters Aditi Sengupta, who runs a magazine for modern women. During the conversation, Arindam slowly sheds his carefully put together image of glamour and easy-living, revealing his insecurities and haunting regrets. Based on an original screenplay by Satyajit Ray, Nayak is a marvellous portraiture of the life of a superstar. The 1966 film, with unforgettable performances by Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore, went on to win several awards. This novelization by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay will remind readers of Ray's enduring genius.

  Review: Like pretty much every other Bengali on the planet, Ray has always been a part of my life. Even when I didn't quite know it. Growing up Goopy Gain and Bagha Bayne were just fun movies I watched every summer in Calcutta. I thought they were brilliant. Fun. Funny. Full of adventure and magic. On growing up and seeing them through the lens of being an adult, I found them still fun, magical and a work of genius. The entire movie, every single dialogue is pretty much in rhyme. Ray was a genius. Seriously, his films have this kind of hype and fan following for a reason. A very good reason. They are brilliantly written, classic tales that survive the test of time and quite simply aesthetically stunning.

My favourite thing about Ray's cinema is his character building. The way that man wrote his characters is truly enviable. Even characters that appear on a screen for a fleeting moment have been crafted with care and thought. And these characters, perhaps secondary or even fleeting will remain memorable.

Nayak is no exception. I haven't seen this film end to end. I've seen it in bits and pieces. I knew the basic premise and it didn't quite appeal to me in ways Ray's other films did. So I never made an effort to sit sill and commit to it. A couple of years ago, I made my father get me every single Ray film and we spent a month watching them and it was honestly one of the best months of my life. I remember having Nayak on while I was cooking. I would duck in and out of the room watching the film in bits and pieces. So this book in so many ways felt new to me. A blessing if there ever was.

Nayak, the book, is a brilliant in ways only a work of Ray can be. It is nuanced and quiet. It shows instead of telling. It is more than anything else a character study. Arindam Mukherjee is a superstar of Bengali cinema and this is basically his biggest blessing and burden. He lives a life few can dream of and is on the cusp of facing his first flop. At the same time he is on his way to collect a National Award. Beloved and lauded. Proud and arrogant. He is human and flawed and not particularly likeable. He is not someone you will forget in a hurry.

Apart from him there is strong woman trying to make her magazine work, even if it means stooping down and agreeing to interview a film star. A sickly child and her starstruck mother. A self loathing Indian man who worships all things British. A man desperate to save his business at pretty much any cost. A woman, a failed model stuck in a marriage she knows is a mistake. A train full of characters I loved spending time with.

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay has done a commendable job on taking on Ray's script and turning it into a fantastic novel. People who've seen the film will enjoy it immensely as will people completely unaware of Ray's cinema. The novel holds it own.

I loved this book. I really enjoyed the train journey and the numerous characters that we meet along the way.

I have to watch the film again, soon and this time I am going to sit still and watch it end to end.

Rating: 4/5

I highly, highly recommend.

P.S: FYI, my favourite Ray film is Agantuk.

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