(Last Updated on : 27-12-2012)
Bengali novel was the brainchild from the kitty of Bankimchandra
. While Tagore
modernised it Saratchandra set the trends of social realism and protest in it. His novels and great body of literary work establishes him as the crusader of socio-economic cow webs of contemporary rural Bengal. Saratchandra Chattopadhyay knew poverty to the very core; both in rigid materialistic meaning and in its psychosomatic dimensions. As he himself reminiscences:" My childhood and youth were passed in great poverty. I received almost no education for want of means. From my father I inherited nothing except, as I believe, his restless spirit and his keen interest in literature. The first made me a tramp and sent me out tramping the whole of India quite early, and the second made me a dreamer all my life". The resultant product was he became a wanderer in the paths of life, just like the character of Srikanto, as sketched by him.
He was born on 15th September 1876 in Debanandapur -a small village in West Bengal
under the district of Hooghly
. He was one of the famous and oft read Bengali
novelists of the 20th century. He got his early education at his paternal uncle's house. Although a student of fine arts he was hardly able to continue his study in this section due to his financial condition. For a time his father was employed in Bihar -the rest of the family lived in Bhagalpore with his maternal grandfather. After passing the Entrance Exam in second division in 1894 Saratchandra Chattopadhyay was admitted to the Tejnarayan Jubilee College. There he read such novels as Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and My Love by Lord Litton. His Father was a great scholar, who tried his hand at stories and novels, dramas and poems, in short, every branch of literature, but never could finish anything. He wanted to be like his father and started writing. He also created Bhagalpore Sahitya Sabha where a handwritten children magazine named Sishu was published.
Apart from writing he had other talents too. He could sing, act and also played instruments like flute and tabla. He was a good painter and sportsman too. Sarat Chandra practiced Homeopathy and opened a primary school and formed a party of Keertan music. With some budding talents he started publishing a magazine named chaya in 1901. Saratchandra was very responsive and fragile when he was young. He left home for a divergence with his father. Unaccompanied, dejected and indifferent, Sarat lost purpose and lacked enthusiasm. In this time he walked around crematorium at night. After that he went to Mujaffarpur to join with Naga monks in 1902. His father died in this time and he came to Calcutta for a short while to complete his father's last rites.1903 his famous short story Mandir was published. It was selected the best story of the year. But it was published in the name of Surendranath Ganguli-a pseudonym of Sarat Chandra. For the regular writings in the Jamuna mazine he used two other pseudonyms-Anila Devi and Anupama. In 1906 he married Shanti Devi but she died in 1908.to forget the sorrow and avoid the loneliness of life he started reading sociology, politics, philosophy, health sciences, psychology and history borrowing books from the Barnerd Free Library. Saratchandra Chatterjee was married in 1910 the second time an adolescent widow named Mokshada - who he renamed Hiranmoyee. He then went to Rangoon and took a job in Accounts department of the Public Works Department. He died of liver cancer on 16th January in 1938 in Kolkata.
He returned to Calcutta in 1916. Again he started writing in many magazines. His popularity grew up .In this time many of his novels were staged and translated in different languages. Many noted filmmakers made films based on his stories. Sarat Chandra was actively involved in Indian freedom movement and became the President of Howrah District Congress at the request of C. R. Das and wrote regularly in Narayan edited by the latter. Pather Daabi was banned for alleged preaching of sedition from 1927 to 1939 and again in 1940 under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code and under the Dramatic Performance Act respectively. Conservative Hindus also attacked this novel.
In 1923 Jagattarini Gold Medal was awarded by Calcutta University. Romain Rolland honoured him as one of the best novelists of the world in 1925. In 1936 honorary D. Lit. Degree was given by Dacca University.
: The intimate pathological accuracy with which he did the post mortem of the characters, render the same with a frighteningly realistic portrayal of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century. His encounter with the grass root reality and a bird's eye view entrusted him with the familiar details. The short stories like Kakbasha and Kashinath were first published in this magazine.1895 his mother died and in the next year he was propelled to leave the college for abject poverty. In Bhagalpur he came in close contact with a number of significant people who influenced his literary career. Among those mentionable are Nirupama Devi - author of the Annapurnaar Mandir and her brother Bibhutibhushan Bhatta and Rajendranath Majumdar (Raju). Raju is said to be the inspiration for the famous Indranath character in his masterpiece Srikanto. In this period he also came in contact with Sourindra Mohan Mukherjee - who later helped Saratchandra to get the Bardidi novel published in the Bharati - one of the famous literary magazines at that time.
In this period he wrote many short stories and novels like - Abhimaan, Bojha, Anupamar Prem, Sukumarer Balyakatha, Bardidi, Chandranath, Debdas and Pashan. At that time he was mostly influenced by contemporary English novel and he followed the style and the concept in his writings. His work represented rural Bengali society and he often wrote against social superstitions and oppression. He felt that his duty as a writer was to raise awareness about social malice as he deftly criticised against the social norms but never with an agenda. There he greatly varied from Bernard Shaw. He was never a reformist but duly concerned. He is also known for his psychological interpretation and distinct story telling process.
He plucked characters for his stories and novels from his life experience and created them in his own inimitable style. The distinctive features and the essence of purpose that he added to them made them more attractive and perhaps larger than life. This is why his stories had such universal appeal - a reason, which may explain why such a large number of them were translated to other languages.
Although he was working parallel with Rabindranath Tagore in Calcutta - Chatterjee's work was unique and not overshadowed by Tagore. His best contribution perhaps was the use of simple, unsanskritized and very familiar Bengali vocabulary - a welcome break from the literary tradition of the time. This new wave of de-sanskritization started with Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. Sarat Chandra who had a lot in common with Bankim as they had similar middle class upbringing and shared the same socio-economic background, was greatly influenced by Bankim's writings. However Sarat's work was a clear debunking from Bankim. By contrast, the powerful Rabindranath Tagore hardly influenced Sarat Chandra. Sarat Chandra (arguably) did not much appreciate poetry and hence deprived his work a little of the vast wealth of the Tagore literary ocean, which could well have enhanced the texture and depth of his masterpieces. As the autumn moon (Sarat Chandra) maintained a safe distance from the scorching glory of Tagore, his genius was hardly clouded by Ravi, as Tagore was popularly called.
: His works have been made into numerous films, particularly Devdas and Parineeta. Including these two, his literary works include the following:
Bindur Chhele, 1913
Biraj Bou, 1914
Ramer Shumoti, 1914
Palli Shomaj, 1916
Debdas/Devdas, 1917 (written in 1901)
Srikanto, (4 parts, 1917, 1918, 1927, 1933)
Dena Paona, 1923
Pother Dabi, 1926
Sesh Prasna, 1931.