Work commitments and other writing commitments have kept me away from this blog for some time now. In the meanwhile I had read three good Indian works. Since I am constrained for time, I thought I will atleast jot down my impressions on them.
Mandra – S.L.Bhyrappa : I have read a book in which music is described so precisely and effectively. Bhyrappa is able to translate an abstract emotion into concrete words. The novel opens brilliantly and goes on to detail the dilemma of one of the main characters. The indecent proposal made, the lure of music and the need for perfection drive Madhu to cross the moral line. That forms the core of the novel. Music as an art form which inspires, which forces people to cross moral boundaries and finally music as a form of redemption.
Bhyrappa’s sense of drama is superb and the way he puts forth Madhu’s dilemma, the way he describes Manohari and her Guru’s dancing in front of Mohanlal is possible only to the best of the writers. He makes you feel the intensity of the dance. It is the same when he describes the singing of Mohanlal or Madhu and the feeling they get when the Mandra Shadja.
Mandra, which stands for the lower octave, is also symbolic of the lower depths the musicians descend to. Unfortunately Bhyrappa talks mostly about the lack of sexual mores in this novel and almost every descent is sexual in nature. This concentration on the sexual profligacy at the cost of other elements becomes tiring as the story progress.
While the novel does have some great parts it fails to give us a well rounded view of Hindustani music environment and its musicians.
(I read the English translation of the book and I thought it was well done. Those who read it in the original may have a different view though)
Last Wilderness – Nirmal Verma : A story in which almost nothing happens, which reflects perfectly the life in the mountains. In these Himalayan mountains, time doesn’t move. All the characters have left time behind. They have no aspiration left and as the blurb says, the novel starts where the story of the characters has ended. Nirmal Verma’s sparse prose is perfect for this stationary story. It is a mediation on life and death, about pasts which refuse to leave and about compromises made. All this told in a very even and introspective tone. This was the first book of Nirmal Verma that I have read and I liked this novel. Your mileage may vary. The translation is top class.
Silence!! Court is in session – Vijay Tendulkar : The most dramatic of the three works. It is a drama and a dramatic one at that. Tendulkar builds the tension step by step leading to an excellent climax. The whole drama is about morality and the inability of society to let people live on their own terms. Additionally it is about the struggle an independent woman faces when she refuses to conform to the societal norms. A very effective drama. Highly recommended.