Book Review: The Lonely Monarch

The owners of Star Theatre were quite disheartened at first. Then they began to hope that Sisirkumar would land in a mess with an inexperienced playwright's debut attempt. Convinced of this, some of them turned up uninvited for the first show of Sita and sat among the audience. The play was launched ... and the rest is history!

Calcutta, 1924. In the vibrant world of Bengali theatre, Sisirkumar Bhaduri, a young man of talent and vision, is the king. A brilliant performer, he is loved and respected by his peers, adored by spectators and acknowledged as a master by Rabindranath Tagore himself. Yet, Sisirkumar remains passionately committed to one singular dream: to steer his audience away from the raucous melodrama that has come to be called entertainment towards an evolved enjoyment of stage performance.

The Lonely Monarch - this searing novel brings to life Sisirkumar's relentless efforts to free the stage of Western influences and mediocrity; his frustration and disillusionment with apathetic patrons and obdurate audiences; his ruinous weakness for alcohol; and the impossible ideals that alienated him from his closest friends and the women in his life ...

For benefits of readers reading this review: the novel needs an introduction. The Lonely Monarch is originally written in Bengali by Sunil Gangopadhyay as Nihsanga Samrat and translated into English by Swapna Dutta. The novel is primarily based on life of a prominent figure from the world of Bengali Theatre of the twentieth century- Sisirkumar Bhaduri, who is unambiguously considered as the King of Bengali Theatre. Like all historical fiction though, this should be not be considered as the biography of Sisirkumar Bhaduri. Instead, this is a piece of fiction where history of Bengali theatre has provided the necessary backbone and luminaries from Bengal's cultural renaissance has taken the story forward. Along with Sisirkumar, here the reader meets Sunitikumar Chattopadhyay, Srikumar Bandopadhyay, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Budhhadeb Bose and many other stalwarts of Bengal's cultural past. I was particularly amused when the author Sunil Gangopadhyay, that new boy,  is introduced to Sisirkumar Bhaduri as a poet and a friend of another Bengali poet. The Lonely Monarch has a neat storyline, simple in presentation and fast in pace as several of Bengal's cultural icons interact with each other. If a book can end with the Monarch of Bengali Theatre embracing the would be future King - Satyajit Ray, you should never expect less.

This book is in the same league as that of Pratham Alo (The First Light) and Sei Samay (Those Days) also written by the same author. A commendable effort on part of Swapna Dutta who has not only succeeded in keeping the translation as close as possible to the original but also provided a helpful postscript including few words about the luminaries whom people outside Bengal may not know. As for the reader, who is not conversant with the prominent cultural figures of Bengal, this may prove a bit difficult to connect initially, but should definitely worth the try.

Book Information
Author:Sunil Gangopadhyay
Publisher:Hachette India
Date of Publication:2013
Number of Pages:Approx 240 with cover

Book Review: The Lonely Monarch

Another brilliant title to read and review. I had received the review copy from Hachette India. Thank you Hachette India for giving me this opportunity. You can buy this book at amazon or at flipkart in case you live in India.

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