Sunday, March 8, 2015

Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest) [1968]

The first of two novels by Bengali litterateur Sunil Gangopadhyay to receive masterful adaptations for the screen by Satyajit Ray (the other being Pratidwandi), Aranyer Din Ratri was a classic elucidation, in both spirit and content, of the phrase coined by Thomas Hardy, viz. ‘Far from the Madding Crowds’. On one hand it narrated the buddy tale of 4 young Calcutta men deciding on an impulse to take a break from the bustle and complications of life in a teeming metropolis by escaping to the woods, so to speak, while on the other it critiqued the way materialistic urges and instincts that, once imbibed, are nearly impossible to get rid of through the largely symbolic means of getting away from the city. Ashim, the well-to-do son of a businessman, Sanjoy, the self-anointed moral backbone of the group, Hari, a sportsperson plagued by memories of a failed love affair, and Rabi, an introspective labour in-charge at a factory, have landed at a godforsaken little forest-covered village ostensibly for the purpose of a holiday, but essentially as a means of escaping from their presents and pasts. There, despite their want for quietude, they experience complications that they wanted to escape from as Ashim finds himself falling for the headstrong Aparna, Sanjoy tries rekindling old attachments by getting close to Aparna’s widowed elder sister who he’d once held a candle for, Hari develops a scorching relationship with a young tribal girl much to the consternation of the locals there, and Rabi is constantly ridden with guilty complex for a job meant for labour welfare but essentially to pander to the factory owner’s nefarious whims. The post-Independence angst and guilt of urban middle-class, the gaping class divide highlighted by the city-village dichotomy, and need for emotional attachment and reconciliation formed the key themes for the novel that Ray took to sharper and far more rarefied realms with his classic movie adaptation.

Author: Sunil Gangopadhyay
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Buddy Novel
Language: Bengali
Country: India