The Hindi film industry also known as Bollywood, or B-grade Hollywood, has an interesting history intertwined with economy, much of which remains unknown. The early years of the talkies as they unfolded in Bombay inform Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City, a recent book by Debashree Mukherjee. The author’s first-hand experience in Mumbai as a freelance assistant director makes her well-placed to write about the past of the film and the city.
In translating Subimal Misra’s Two Anti-Novels, V Ramaswamy brings to English readers a radical Bengali author from India. The two anti-novels are This Could Have Been Ramayan Chamar’s Tale and Where Colour is a Warning Sign. These are jarring, even disturbing, compilations of snapshots of reality. There is neither plot nor character in the conventional sense. The collage of diary, newspaper articles, metafictional ruminations work towards pointing toward the impossibility of enjoying literature as pleasure and making readers very conscious of the fact that reading for story is also a pitiable form of consumerism.
Writers, diasporic as well as those native to the Indian subcontinent, have used the Partition of India to capture the pain and the destruction it caused to millions of families. In Vaseem Khan’s Midnight at Malabar House, Partition constitutes the backdrop of a detective novel with Inspector Persis Wadia as the lead. It is not just the time and the place that are unusual; this fictional detective is India’s first woman police officer (some two decades before one was actually appointed).
Introducing Hinduism to those not familiar with the religion risks oversimplification. Martin J Dougherty cleverly navigates the pitfalls by sticking to the subjects of origins and central figures of mythology in his fairly comprehensive (for an introduction) Hindu Myths: From Ancient Cosmology to Gods and Demons.
In 2018, the Supreme Court of India struck down a colonial era law that criminalized adultery: a man who had consensual sexual intercourse with another man’s wife without the consent of the husband could be punished. The Court ruled that women are not cattle to be controlled by their husbands.
Minority communities in South Asia are fascinating examples of movement of ideas, people, and religion. After the 1947 Partition, Hindus and Sikhs migrated from the newly formed Pakistan to the world over, and especially to India. The conversations about war and peace between the two countries tend to revolve around Hindus and Muslims. The religion of Sikhism may not configure into these issues, especially for the Western readers, and yet the Radcliffe line that partitioned the subcontinent also separates two of the holiest shrines of the Sikhs.
Perumal Murugan’s Kazhimugham is an ugly novel. Ugly, that is, as Umberto Eco would have it: its subject is ugliness and it is a work that the author claims breaks the conventional rules of beauty.