Banaras Talkies is a short novel based in the Bhagwandas Hostel or the B.D Hostel of the Banaras Hindu University. The book speaks of the adventures of the three friends, the narrator Suraj aka Baba, Anurag De aka Dada, Jaivardhan and others, from the hostel and around the city.
It would not be an overstatement to say that, even if we were to take out? the mentions of “Banaras” from the book, the readers would still be able to sketch a rough portrait of a place as colourful, exuberant and vehement as the city! The book does not lose the gist of its background, i.e the city it is set in, but only adds to it. Use of the idiomatic flourish which the Banarsis are known for, the book keeps us glued to it perfectly well. It might only seldom be soporific; rather, the dialogues that are so well comically written, make us want to not stop reading further. The story, characters and their relationships build subtly, without making the storytelling much complicated. The poem about which I mention ahead is another subtle and beautiful instance of an apt storytelling and a good storyteller is when the author can portray fine tinges and, if we were to say in a more poetic way, ‘harkate’ of the backdrop or the base that the story is built on.
While reading, it only makes us want to be a part of the gang, a hostelite from the B.D Hostel, a student from the BHU, and someone who gets to live in the city; evidently making Satya Vyas a successful storyteller. Also the book does not have an open end, which is a relief, I must say!
Banaras Talkies written by Satya Vyas, is originally in Hindi; translated into English by Himadri Agarwal. The translated version does justice to the book and nowhere loses its Banarsi touch, although, someone who is familiar with the Banarsi and Hindi, would always wish to read it in Hindi. There is a poem in the book which, (spoiler alert) Baba writes for a girl he is in love with, where I’m constantly reminded of the quote from the movie Paterson, which is, ‘Poetry in translation is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.’
When you read the original Hindi poem, you are sure to say, a big ‘are yaar hindi me hi kyun nahi padha!’ So, I again would insist, if you are a connoisseur, or like nuances of languages, dialects, culture, people, characters, and can keep up with a 200 pages book in Hindi, go for the Hindi version.
This instance, ‘Wanna go to Assi Ghat?’ Dada asked ‘Let’s go’, I said and started walking towards it.
from the book, has been the most relatable to me. If you have been to the city and its ghats, I’m sure you could be relating to it as much as I am! And to the readers who have not yet been to Banaras, the only comforting thing I wish to say to you is, “mann banalo to Banaras dur nahin hai, reader ji”
As much as the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” might go, every being will always be attracted to the appearance, albeit just for a moment! The book again doesn’t fail to impress us here. With the vibrant colours, jolly illustrations, and a catchy title, it conveys what the insides might be up for and urges us to choose it. If you wish to read something light, be nostalgic about your time with friends from school or college, or if you are in love with Banaras, this book is for you!
The warm way of storytelling and the Indianness that this book possesses for us to relate to it, constantly reminded me of Ruskin Bond’s writings that I’ve always enjoyed reading. Again when you wish to go for a light read, or short stories you can pick up any one by Ruskin Bond and he won’t disappoint you!
About the Reviewer
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Book Review Credit: Toshita Murugkar