2012: The year that went by~

January 1, 2013

Sonal and Satadisha review the year before bidding adios!~

Though the end of a calendar year tends to be a rather arbitrary point in the timeline of the world, the fact that it marks a momentary break for most people makes it as good a time as any to look back on the recent past. We have tried to do a fairly good job of boiling down the last 12 months to the
moments that are most worth remembering in the literary world.
When words moved to silver screen:
Remarkable specimens of literature have often been transferred to motion pictures that have created uproar in cinematic history. J.K.  Rowling’s Harry Potter, Stephanie Meyer’s The Twilight Series, Up, Lord of The Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia have enriched the little rooms for fantasy in
our minds not only using pictures which their words paint but also giving life to those pictures. Not only kids but also adults exhaled a heavy sigh when Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows closed with itself the curtains for our favourite wizard boy! Apart from these renowned examples of
children’s literature books for adult readers have also received their share of space in the giant screen. Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Scorsese’s Goodfellas or the triumphs of 007 picturised time and again over the ages have given us the unforgettable taste of the #oh-so-badass! world. While
men of other world viz. Spiderman, Batman, Superman have left us in awe movies like A Beautiful Mind, The Shawshank Redemption have taught us precious lessons. Each of these movies has aided its literary version to surpass and thereby outlive its share of fame. Unlike other fields our own
country has not been lagging behind in promoting its literature through movies. The times when the dynamic Satyajit Ray immortalised the works of Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay by creating Pather Panchali, Apur Songshar have etched some of the golden moments of Indian cinematic
history. 2012 did not lag behind in taking forward this trend of transforming books to movies and gave light to Tolkien’s Hobbit, Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and the buzz-of-the-year Life of Pi. As a matter of fact Life of Pi has been one of the most debatable topics in various addas over cakes
and coffee in winter evenings. After having several experiences one finally realises the futility of the discussion which tries to elucidate how close the movie came to its original scripted form. People addicted to books can never be satisfied with the onscreen elements as the only thing that brings
solace to their insatiable thirst is the scent of those crispy broken pages piled in the bookshelf by their nightstand. The idealist will say that the only way to truly appreciate a book is to halt at its every word and read it repeatedly till the pages go yellow and brittle. However, in a less perfect
world, the least which these good movies can do is to spread the intrinsic message of the author to not-so-Bookish people establishing once again the difference in life which reading him would have made.
To Rushdie:
Only a handful of great men have taken birth in this world and fewer of these have been great authors. Undoubtedly Salman Rushdie is one of them. Men like him weave a world of their own using words, a world ethereal by nature, so beautifully embellished by them with everything kind
and gentle that has evaporated from our own mundane one. And the only thing which they require to fulfil this surreal journey is a space where their creativity can have its free run. Sadly ours is a grim world of violence, brutalism and rape and of course the fatwas! Apart from their golden
imagination every artist needs unparalleled courage to keep his art alive no matter what. They make the hapless world a better place for inferior people, people who do not possess any divine art of their own but can admire one when brought before them. In this year a question was raised
which asked whether the repeated blows by religious sects and other controversies have led to the downfall of a gifted author to a mediocre socialite. Many would cite the criticism which his latest creation Joseph Anton has received from the many wise men. However one good thing which art teaches us is that there can be no downfall in it. Art is no battle of dynasties that one author will overpower another. Art is like a growing memoir of the everlasting wonders being created till time ceases to flow. The Beatles have never been replaced by Pinkfloyd. Similarly there is no fall in
literature, like there is no such thing in music. There may be a cease, yes, or an end. But the artefacts of one author remain and outlive his mortality. We need to acknowledge this for the dear little man who has certainly mastered magical realism leaving us befuddled at times as we tried to
judge what was magic and what is real. The least we can do to thank him is to say that there is no downfall.
Jaipur Literary Festival: Selling out
Not so long ago, eager bright faces and serious intellectual ones were the norm at Diggi Palace. More recently, and more so this year than ever before, it has become a place to be seen rather than a place to see. Discussion, engagement and interaction have ceded ground to more page 3 party like concerns. Socialites take center stage as the student feels marginalized. The rumours of an entrance fee might just sound the death knell for any future student participation. Even as the teeming crowds might lead one to believe that the reading public in India is growing exponentially, trying to find serious enthusiasts and stimulating conversation is a needle and haystack situation. It resembles a mela with gawking spectators each time.
The Hobbit: Smaug’s screen debut
While the Lord of the Ring movies provided a veritable cornucopia of delights for every viewer, Peter Jackson’s latest offering might alienate non-hardcore fans a tad. Turning a slim book into three three hour movies takes a bit of effort, and a lot of dwelling on what might otherwise seem insignificant. The result is a long movie crammed full with details that, much like an inside joke, tickle the fan but leave the casual movie goer looking shifty and uninvolved. That said, it is an excellent movie, beautifully shot and well structured, if only you have the patience for it. As a fan put it glibly, this is Peter Jackson’s offering to Tolkein nerds.
Literary Awards: Europe looks beyond
The literary canon is now a relic of history. The normative is a thing of the past and literature is no exception. The once Eurocentric literary awards have opened their eyes to what lies beyond their shores, as shown by the presence of many South Asian names on the Man Booker list this year. While it shouldn’t be a matter of excessive pride and joy to us, since we don’t live for acclaim from the “other”, it does bode well for that very “other” that it has begun to cast away its biases.
Intolerance: When heads hung in shame
Much has happened in 2012 which has more than disturbed. Literature did not disappoint. We’ve already mentioned Rushdie, more shameful than that was the hullaballoo over A K Ramanujan's essay (Three Hundred Ramayanas: Fives Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation). When the student space is invaded by a political sham like this one there isn’t more that can be wrong with a country.
As ever, 2012 was a mixed bag. It offered a lot to celebrate as much as it showed that there is much to learn. It is unrealistic to hope for a year full of rainbows, so let us hope that 2013 brings us some stellar literary moments that will outshine the inevitable negativity.

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