Bangladesh: Art, Brick Lane, female writers and Bangla E-Books

Enough with politics that usually dominate the posts in the Bangladeshi blogosphere. Let's start this week's round-up with some arts, movies and literature related pieces.

Sid of Serious Golmal writes a well informative article on the life of S M Sultan, the master painter of Bangladesh commemorating his 13th death anniversary. Sultan was born in Norail (in Kushtia in the southwest of Bangladesh) in 1923. Born to a mason, he was a natural talent and did not complete his study in the Calcutta College of Arts and Crafts. Later on he created a wave in the West when he visited USA and UK under a cultural exchange program and displayed his paintings. From 1953 to 1976 Sultan lived in virtual obscurity, living the life of a Vaishnava Sanyasi.

Sultan's Adam
(The First Tree Planting: Sultan 1976: courtesy Serious Golmal)

“Sultan’s paintings may be sold at Sotheby’s in London today but for the people of rural Norail, the guru entered folk legend more than half a century ago. They tell us that animals were drawn to him, that he could converse with them, that hundreds of his works are scattered all over the world in all manner of places, given away as gifts, that he cared not for fame or material wealth, choosing to travel from village to village, country to country, returning at last to his source.

He lived in three continents but never had a fixed abode, never attached prices to his work, never married. He wore his hair long, chose to live out his days in rural Bengal with his dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and snakes rather than the big international cities that beckoned when recognition of his genius came early in his life.”

Kotha Chilo (Stories to tell) blog reviews the movie based on Monica Ali's award winning novel Brick Lane. The filming of Brick Lane caught much media attention because of protests of some members of Bangladeshi communities in the UK and the unit had to change location of filming to avoid threats. But Monica Ali maintains that “the ‘controversy’ was whipped up in the media”.

“Monica Ali's 2003 novel Brick Lane was feted for its ability to blend the personal and the political as it recounted the experiences of a young Bangladeshi woman's journey of self-discovery. It was illuminating about the hidden lives of Britain's Bangladeshi community and the growing racism abroad in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The respectable film version heavily compresses the novel into a less complex but still touching, small-scale tale of female empowerment that almost feels like a variation of Shirley Valentine.”

Bangla Blogging platform Sachalayatan [bn] boasts of being more of an online writers’ community rather than a collection of some conventional blogs. It has been promoting budding as well as established writers to post their literary works there. And adding more to the task it has already published a few literary E-books in Pdf versions and has more collaborative projects [bn] in hand. Now users can read it online or download their copy of the literature free, print it and read it like a conventional book.

The first publications is a collection of poems of Sunil Saifullah, a notable young poet who prematurely ended his life in 1981. Some of his poems were only once published by the students union of his University (Jahangirnagar University) in 1982. But these few books went into oblivion in course of time and now he is barely known to people of Bangladesh. Bloggers of Sachalayatan first discussed about his works, went to the University library to collect a copy of the book and recreate the Book. You can download the book from here [bn].

Some comments [bn] on the feat:

সৌরভ: জয় হোক এ উদ্যোগের। এ চেষ্টার মাধ্যমেই জন্ম জন্মান্তরে সজীব থাকুন আমাদের মাঝে কবি সুনীল সাইফুল্লাহ।

Sourav: Bravo to this initiative. With this work let poet Sunil Saifullah live among us for eternity

সুমন রহমান: বাংলা সাহিত্যে এরকম সারপ্রাইজ আরো কিছু আছে। আমার মনে সচলায়তনের ই-বুক প্রকল্প দিয়ে সেসবের সুরাহা আমরা করতে পারবো।

Suman Rahman: There are more such surprises in the Bangla literature. I think we will be able to sort them out with the Sachalayatan E-Book project.

Fele Asha Chelebela
Another recent Bangla E-Book publication “Fele Asha Chelebela” is a 109 page collection of childhood memoirs of twenty one bloggers which portrays the true picture of the lives of Bangladeshi youths, society, their upbringings etc. Its popularity prompted the bloggers to decide to publish it in future as a printed book with more collections of writings. You can download it from here [bn].

You never know some day these collaborative Bangla E-books with the help of New Media will be able to really change the scenario of literature of the country.

And last but not the least please do read the recent writings of the female bloggers of the Nari Joibon project to know about Bangladesh from their view. Nari Jibon is a not-for-profit organization in Bangladesh who is providing education to poor and under-privileged women making them self reliant through different short term education and skill development programs. It has brought these female voices to Blogging with the help of a Rising Voices micro-grant.

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