On 12th September 1894 Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, leading figure of Bengali Literature was born. He is best known for his most famous work titled Pather Panchali, which was later, adapted into the Apu Trilogy films by celebrated film maker Satyajit Ray.
Bandopadhyay was born in Muratipur in North 24 Parganas District in present day West Bengal. His father was a Sanskrit scholar and story-teller and Bandopadhyay was the eldest of among five children. Young Bandopadhyay was a gifted student and he studied at the Bongaon High School, after which he completed a degree in Economics, History and Sanskrit at Ripon College Kolkata.
Following his education, Bandopadhyay worked as a teacher and also as a travelling publicist. He was also associated with Khelatchandra Ghosh, a popular figure in music. Bandopadhyay coached Khelatchandra’s children and also served as a teacher at the Khelatchandra Memorial School. Later Bandopadhyay returned to his native place where he worked as a teacher at Goplanagar School.
As a writer, most of Bandopadhyay work is set in the heartland of rural Bengal. Though a lot of Bandopadhyay’s books are set in Bongaon, such as Adrash Hindu Hotel, Bipiner Sansar, Pather Panchali (one of his most popular works) and Ichamati. Bandopadhyay published his first short story titled Upekshita in 1921 in Probashi, one of Bengal’s leading magazines at its time. Thought it was not until 1928 when he published his first novel Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) that Bandopadhyay received critical acclaim. Pather Panchali and its sequel Aparajito made Bandopadhyay a distinguished name in the world of Bengali literature and both books were translated into many languages and along with Apur Sansar were even made into a celebrated film trilogy by popular film maker Satyajit Ray. Ray was so impressed by Bandopadhyay’s writing that he referred script writing students to study the author’s work.
His novel Ichamati studies culture defined by caste and follows rural life along the banks of the Ichamati River flowing through undivided Bengal. The novel is a beautiful portrayal of indigo planters, their lives and the caste system prevalent in Bengal in colourful details. Relationships in the novel between characters have been portrayed in a sensitive manner and the double standards of the Brahmins has also been touched upon, which throws light upon the religious and social life in rural Bengal.
Bandopadhyay’s writing has received immense critical acclaim and has even been compared to the likes of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Pather Panchali is by far considered a work of art by the author. Pather Panchali is also part of the CBSE syllabus for students who opt for Bengali. Many readers of the book strongly believe that the book is far better than the film made on it, even though the Apu Triology is considered to be one among the best films made in the history of cinema. Popular author Amit Chaudhuri describes the book as "Unique for its tenderness and poetry. Pather Panchali rejects both nineteenth-century realism and social realism (the social milieu described in it would have logically lent itself to the latter) for an inquiry into perception and memory.” Martin Seymour Smith, a British poet and literary critic has described Bandopadhyay as one of the finest modern Indian novelists.
This legendary writer passed away on 1st November 1950 of a heart attack; he was 55 at the time.
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