Bollywood Reflected

The novelist Ismat Chhugtai knew Bollywood only too well.. Her novel Masooma has been translated from the original Urdu by Tahira Naqvi and published by Women Unlimited.

Masooma, published in 1962, may well be regarded as a work that celebrates all of Ismat Chughtai’s talents as a writer. Perhaps her darkest novel, a narrative of lost hope and endless cycles of corruption and injustice, it traces the journey of Masooma, a young woman from a respectable Muslim family who becomes embroiled in a game of exploitation and treachery and becomes Nilofar, a commodity that can be easily bought and sold. Once again, in telling Masooma’s story, Chughtai cuts open the underbelly of India’s political landscape and the underpinnings of the Bombay film world to reveal their shadowy and unsavoury side.

The book has ... inimitable style ... racy prose and a strong narrative with a powerful sense of drama says The Book Review. She grabs your attention with her poker-sharp words – in which sometimes an entire world of experience is buried in a single sentence. Where did she get that amazing observation, that acerbic wit, that dry sense of humour? And why can’t we have more writers like her? (The New Indian Express). Her writing is ironic, caustic, frank, bold and, yes, irreverent ... She is merciless in her depiction of corruption, deceit, injustice and hypocrisy. Yet, her empathy for her characters is always evident, as is her pain for their suffering The Hindu).

Chughtai, born in 1915 in Badayun, was the first Muslim woman in India to acquire a BA degree. She is counted among the earliest and foremost women Urdu writers, and focuses on women’s issues with a directness and intensity unparalleled in Urdu literature among writers of her generation. Author of several collections of short stories, three novellas, a novel, Terhi Lakir (The Crooked Line), and Kaghazi Hai Perahan (The Paper-thin Garment), a memoir. With her husband, Shahid Latif, a film director, whom she married against her family’s wishes in 1942, she produced and co-directed six films, and produced a further six independently after his death.

Tahira Naqvi, a translator of Urdu fiction and prose, taught English for twenty years, has taught Urdu at Columbia, and now heads the Urdu programme at New York University. She has translated Ismat Chughtai’s short stories, her novel and her essays. She has also translated the works of Khadija Mastur, Sa’dat Hasan Manto and Munshi Premchand. Naqvi also writes fiction in English. She has published two collections of short fiction, Attar of Roses and Other Stories of Pakistan and Dying in a Strange Country.  Her short stories have been widely anthologised.

In our Fiction and ILT sections, in paperback, 152 pages, Rs 250. ISBN: 9788188965663

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