Friday, April 30, 2010

Bangla bizarre

Sukumar Ray’s fantasy world and deft use of language remain popular with today’s children.

If there is one thing that distinguishes the world of Bangla writing from the literature of the rest of the Subcontinent’s languages, it is the abundance of works written for children in modern times. There is not one reputed writer or poet of this language who has not written significantly for children. Soon after the arrival of modern printing technology in India, in the 19th century, magazines for children began to appear in Bangla. Today, Kolkata’s Pujobarshikis, the annuals published during Dassehra (as also perhaps for Id in Dhaka) for children, carry quality works by writers that are read and cherished by lakhs of Bengali children.

Today, there are several notable children’s magazines that have been running successfully for many decades. Sandesh, for instance, has acquired something of a heritage status, first published by the writer and composer Upendrakishore Raychowdhury in 1913. After his death in 1915, his eldest son, Sukumar Ray, took over as the editor of the magazine. Of Upendrakishore’s many works for children, Goopie gayeen bagha bayeen (Singer Goopie, Drummer Bagha) was made into a film by Sukumar’s son, Satyajit. This was the first of several films for children that Satyajit Ray made. Though lesser-known outside Bengal than his son Satyajit, it was Sukumar who transformed children’s writing in Bangla by creating a world of witty nonsense prose and fiction.

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