New Login   

Behind the Stage and in the Wings!

Sukrita Paul Kumar

By Ismat Chughtai. Translated from the Urdu by Tahira Naqvi
Women Unlimited, Delhi, 2007, pp. 231, Rs. 250.00


'My years in the film industry were heady ones’. So said Ismat Chughtai. Having married Shahid Lateef from the film world in 1942, she gradually got inducted into the film domain herself and wrote scripts for several well-known Bombay films. Indeed, her intimate knowledge of this world was bound to get into her fiction. As is known, there is not much distinction between the actual life experience of Ismat and the fiction she created. Her novel A Very Strange Man, recently translated and published in English, is no exception then.   In his Preface to Ismat Chughtai’s collection of short stories, Chotein, the well-known Urdu writer Krishan Chander wrote, ‘In disguising courage, drowning their readers in astonishment and restlessness, and then all of a sudden, finally converting this restlessness into happiness, Ismat and Manto are very close to each other, and in this regard very few Urdu short story writers can compete with them’. Such certification from a contemporary writer of eminence, in itself, calls for attention. However, what is noteworthy is the general readers’ consistently enthusiastic responses to Ismat Chughtai’s short stories and novels. In fact, as time passes, Ismat’s writings seem to have greater appeal, as much for readers as for scholars of literature. Her boldness in expression and of thought speaks for her commitment to authentically depicting the reality of ordinary living experiences usually romanticized, fudged or adorned with unreal language. She is known for her stories ‘Lihaaf’, ‘Chauthi ka Joda’, ‘Mughal Bachha’ and many others.   Tahira Naqvi and a few others are doing good service to both English and Urdu in translating and gradually bringing more and more of Ismat Chughtai’s works into English. Undoubtedly, the translation of Ismat’s fiction presents a daunting challenge since it is so rooted in the cultural ethos of the ‘inner courtyard’ where women gossip and domestic scandals excel. In fact having recorded such reality in an authentic language of the middle class Muslim women, Ismat came to be known as the creator of ‘begamati zubaan’. Her novel Ajeeb Aadmi (A Very Strange Man), though thematically quite different from her other writings, carries the same inimitable style of hers evidenced elsewhere, that of a racy prose and a strong narrative with a powerful sense of drama.   Interestingly, along with many other Urdu writers of the Progressive Writers’ Movement, Ismat too came to be closely associated with the film ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.