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Chandra Chari

By Rudrangshu Mukherjee ; Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (Translated from the Bengali by Malobika Chaudhuri)
Penguin Books, New Delhi, India, 2005, pp. 109; pp. 91, Rs. 150.00; Rs. 99.00


Penguin Books has decided to join the bandwagon of ‘treat-books-as-a-purely-commercial-proposition’ genre by releasing quickies, in translation or otherwise, to coincide with the release of popular movies based on those books. Not having any sales figures to show whether indeed this gimmick rakes in huge profits on book sales as with the box office, one can but comment on the publications themselves.   Rudranghsu Mukherjee, a committed historian turned editor of The Telegraph, has done a signal service to the neophyte at the altar of History Reading by writing this slim monograph on a colourful character in the history of India’s first bid for freedom from colonial rule in 1857.   On a sleepy Sunday afternoon in March 1857, an agitated sepoy in the English East India Company’s 34th Native Infantry marched on to the parade ground in Barrackpore, exhorting his comrades to join him in protecting their religion from the Europeans. When British officers arrived to arrest him, he drew his sword on them and then turned his musket on himself. Injured, he was carried off the parade ground, tried and hanged a few days later.   Rudrangshu scores in the way he presents the facts in the context of economic-sociological realities, and in ‘reading’ against the grain, he raises the qustion: ‘Who was the real Mangal Pandey? A dashing figure and a fiery patriot embarked on a suicidal mission to defend his country’s honour, or merely an ‘unexpected intrusion’ into history? Rudrang-shu’s contention is that it is the latter because that it was not Mangal Pandey but Meerut which acted as a trigger to the uprising.   Excerpts from documents on the trial of Mangal Pandey have been included, because a) that is the only source on the sepoy and b) the author feels that since his interpretation of the episode runs counter to ‘nationalist’ historiography, the documents would enable the readers to form their opinions and evaluate the ‘validity or otherwise’ of his take on an interesting spotlight in hitory. For those who lack the patience to deal with the printed word however, Mangal Pandey is portrayed by Aamir Khan in the film, The Rising!   Parineeta, a Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay classic that has captured the imagination of generations of readers, is the other title published by Penguin to coincide with the release of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s film. Set in early twentieth century Kolkata Parineeta (Espoused) is the story of ...

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