Monday, November 17, 2008

Kapalkundala - Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay

This story is set in the Bengal of Emperor Jehangir’s time.

It’s a charming story of a boat that got separated from its fleet and lost its way, a Nabakumar left behind the shores looking for a means to reach home , a Kapalik who has an intent on human sacrifice, an enchantress – Kapalakundala – who saves Nabakumar from the tantrik, Akbar, the Emperor of Hindustan – Salim, a courtesan called Lutfunnisa…
95 pages of pure story.

The story takes an unexpected course at every turn.

This work is a string of interesting events tied together, meaningfully and with relevance.

It has all the features of a true classic. The style reminds me of one of those Sanskrit plays of Kalidasa or Bhasa …. A style characterized by a proper traditional beginning, a definite story or plot, a proper traditional ending which leaves the reader satisfied and nothing about the story is abstract. A well bound story, the pieces fit together very well and the characters too… such a refreshing change from abstract stories without head or tail – all in the name of modern writing.

Every chapter has a suitable name (instead of just a number) and begins with a line or a quotation – that is relevant to the content of the chapter – from other authors and their works like, The Comedy of Errors, King Lear, Raghumvamsha(Kalidasa), Ratnavali, Kumarasambhava, Keats etc.

I love the language. It is of a high standard, grammar is perfect, vocabulary is rich.
No pointless ranting about this and that, no tangents other than the main thread of the story itself. Very interesting and unputdownable.

I don’t know if that part of the narration relating to Akbar, Salim and their ways is authentic history or concoction.

The only time that you feel you are reading an abstract Bengali tragedy is when you read the last page, the ending. All the three protagonists meet with tragic ends. The evil man lives on though with his purpose defeated.

I am certainly impressed with the translation although I haven’t read the original in Bengali. Just reading through the translation gives you a feeling that it must be as good as the original.

I wonder why it has not been made to a movie yet.

This story is simply beautiful. I have marked it as one of those books which I would want to read again.

The following are a few of the many lines I felt like taking down for the beauty of language and of thought, that they contain.

…Unfortunately, from such a distance, they could hear nothing of the conversation. Had the range of human hearing matched the scope of human sight, who can tell whether the tide of human sorrow would have risen or declined? Creation is so exquisitely complicated!...

…It seemed to him that the world had been created only for good deeds; the whole world seemed to him a beautiful place. Such is love! Love transforms the harsh into the tender, evil into good, vice into virtue, darkness into light!...

Do read it.


Anonymous said...

I had been formerly an adhyapak at Visva Bharati and now trying to translate Bankim Babu's KK into Italian. Please notice that there is at least one movie based on this upanyas.
F F Poli (olim: Poli Sahib)

Unknown said...

I don't think the translated version can be as beautiful as the original one. And a classic Bengali movie of the same name was made based on this novel.