Found in translation




With a surge in literary translations and cinematic adaptations, Marathi literature has found a new readership. The latest addition to the catalogue is Vikrant Pande’s fine translation of N.S. Inamdar’s “Rau”, which inspired “Bajirao Mastani”

Marathi literature is reaching out to people through books, which in turn, are appealing to the connoisseurs of good cinema. Ranjit Desai’s “Raja Ravi Varma”, “Shala” by Milind Bokil and N. S. Inamdar’s “Rau” have all won acclaim in the world of cinema. The books, all translated by Vikrant Pande, have earned praise for their content.

For Pande, who also did a wonderful job of translating Inamdar’s “Shahenshah”, a captivating portrayal of Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb, it has been a passion to highlight Marathi literature. And “Rau”, the novel that inspired the award-winning film, Bajirao Mastani, is the latest offering from Pan Macmillan.

Pande, with the distinction of three movies based on his translated work, reflects on his wonderful journey. “It has been very satisfying as it shows that the stories had an inherent appeal to be made into movies, all of which got great accolades. My main intention of translating was to take the stories to a wider audience and the movies expand the reach. Raja Ravi Varma was internationally acclaimed, Shala won a National Award and Rau is extremely popular.”

Recently, “Shahenshah” was also received with appreciation. How does “Shahenshah” compare with “Rau”? “Shahenshah covers in detail the 50-year reign of Aurangzeb and is about an Emperor who is feared by all and is extremely intelligent yet faces a heartbroken and lonely death. “Rau” focuses largely on the relationship of Bajirao Peshwa and Mastani. Their love story is appealing; as all tragic romances are.”

“Shahenshah”, Pande explains, has a large canvas. “It does justice to Aurangzeb’s long life and events thereof. He spent the last 23 years of his life in the Deccan trying, in vain, to vanquish the Marathas. ‘Rau’ is, on the other hand, an intense passionate drama between Bajirao-Mastani and their fight against the Maratha Brahmins’ so-called-virtues and the opposition they face from literally everyone. ‘Shahenshah’ can be read dispassionately while Rau tugs at your heart. ‘Shahenshah’ is a dramatic retelling of a historical fiction while ‘Rau’ is royal romance and a tragedy to boot.”

On which of the translations was more challenging, Pande reflects, “ ‘Rau’ was more challenging as it had the passions, the nuances of emotions, and the regional flavour, which are always difficult to translate. ‘Shahenshah’ was in that sense linear. In ‘Rau’, I had to ensure that I did not let go the essential ‘Marathi Peshwa Brahmin’ flavour of the characters while ‘Shahenshah’ demanded that I maintain the royal appeal of the Emperor. At the same time, I had to ensure that Rau appealed to the larger non-Marathi speaking readers as the translation is meant for them.”

Pande’s forte is storytelling in a simple yet racy style. Does “Rau” capture the period well? How much does the film script deviate from the original (in Marathi)? Pande responds, “N.S. Inamdar captures the essence through the description of Mastani’s dresses and the grandeur of Shaniwar wada. The film’s script deviates a lot from the original novel. The main deviation was in showing Mastani as a royal princess unlike an ordinary dancer from Bundelkhand in the original novel. The royal origin of Mastani is a popular one as it appeals to a lot of people. Inamdar’s research shows that Mastani was just a dancer from Bundelkhand who was invited to Pune for a function. The film shows Bajirao’s wife Kashibai and Mastani dancing together which has been objected to by a lot of people. The film shows Bajirao’s personality well. He was a valiant warrior, someone who nibbled on a cob of corn, casually astride a horse as he surveys a battle in action.”

Pande has stuck to the original with his fine translation. How does he view the producers/directors taking liberties with history in the name of film making? “The producers have a right to take creative liberties. I liked the movie and was not emotional about the fact that some of the events were creative imagination of the director. Film adaptation is fine as far as it does not change the essence of the story. The film beautifully shows the tragic romance, the command the Brahmins had on the administration and the power which Bajirao’s mother, Radhabai, carried. It showed well how Bajirao, despite being a stellar general, was not able to go against the combined power of his brother, mother and son. He could snub Shahu Maharaj but could not convince his own family who believed in the ideals of a Peshwa who represented the entire Konkanastha Chitpawan Brahmin community and was supposed to lead by example.”

Pande was most impressed by the character of Mastani. “He may be a flamboyant character who dared to go against all, willing to even step down from the post of Peshwa for his love. But my favourite is Mastani. She professed her love for Bajirao but was afraid of marrying a Peshwa. She was content in the knowledge that Bajirao loved her and was not enamoured of staying in the Shaniwar haveli except for the fact that she could meet Bajirao whenever she wished to. She loved him unconditionally. Inamdar captures her vulnerability, her fears and her angst extremely well.” It took Pande “six months” to complete the work but it would have a lasting impression on its readers, thanks to his superb translation.

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Printable version | Dec 10, 2019 3:37:50 PM |

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