Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay

11 Dec 2018
16 Jan 1938
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Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, alternatively spelt as Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, (15 September 1876 – 16 January 1938), was a Bengali novelist and short story writer of early 20th century.

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay was born on September 15, 1876,in Devanandapur, a small village two miles northwest of Bandel in Hooghly, West Bengal. His father Motilal Chattopadhyay was an idler and dreamer who held irregular jobs. He could not finish novels and stories that he had started writing, but passed on his imagination and love of literature to Sarat Chandra. He, wife Bhuvanmohini, and their five children lived for many years in his father-in-law Kedarnath Gangopadhyay’s house in Bhagalpur, Bihar.

Sarat Chandra was a daring, adventure-loving boy. Most of his schooling was in informal village schools called pathshalas. He was a good student and got a double promotion that enabled him to skip a grade.He passed his Entrance Examination (public examination at the end of Class X) but could not take his F.A. (First Arts) examination or attend college due to lack of funds.

Sarat Chandra started writing in his early teens. After finishing his formal studies, he spent much of his time interacting with friends, acting in plays, and in playing sports and games. Several of his famous novels and stories were written during this period.

In 1893, Sarat Chandra moved to Burma. He got a temporary job in Burma Railway’s audit office and later worked for many years in Burma’s public works accounts office. While living in Rangoon, he married his first wife Shanti. He was deeply hurt when his wife and one-year old son died from plague. He married his second wife Mokshada (later renamed Hironmoyee) also in Rangoon and taught her to read and write. She outlived him by 23 years.

In 1916, Sarat Chandra moved backed to India and settled in Howrah, near Kolkata. He devoted himself to writing and established himself as one of India’s major novelist and story writer. He was involved in India’s freedom struggle and served as the president of Howrah district branch of Indian National Congress (1921-1936). University of Calcutta awarded him the prestigious Jagattarini medal. University of Dacca awarded him an honourary doctorate (D.Litt.). In 1938, he died from cancer of the liver.

After returning from Burma, Chattopadhyay stayed for 11 years in Baje Shibpur, Howrah. Then he made a house in the village of Samtabere. He spent the later years of his life as a novelist in Samtabere and in another house in Kolkata. His house in Samtaber is often called as Sarat Chandra Kuthi in the map of Samtaber or Samta, in the Howrah district of West Bengal.

The two storied Burmese style house was also home to Sarat Chandra’s brother, Swami Vedananda, who was a disciple of Belur Math. His and his brother’s samadhi can still be seen there. The trees like that of bamboo, galoncho and the guava trees planted by the renowned author are still tourist attractions.

Sarat Chandra wrote novels, novellas, and stories.He came to maturity at a time when the national movement was gaining momentum together with an awakening of social consciousness. Much of his writing bears the mark of the resultant turbulence of society. Sensitive and daring, his novels captivated the hearts and minds of innumerable readers both in Bengal and in the rest of India. His best known novels include Palli Samaj (1916), Choritrohin (1917), Devdas (1917), Nishkriti (1917), Srikanta, Griha Daha (1920), Sesh Prasna (1929) and Sesher Parichay published posthumously (1939).

The following classification of his works is based on “Sarat Rachanabali” (collected works) website

His works have been made into some fifty films in many Indian languages,particularly his novel Devdas made into sixteen versions, from Bengali, Hindi to Telugu. Parineeta also been made twice. Majhli Didi (1967) by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Swami (1977) for which he was awarded Filmfare Award for Best Story are other adaptations. Another famous film Chhoti Bahu (1971) is based on his novel Bindur Chhele. His Novel ‘Datta’ was adapted into a Bengali film (1976) starring Suchitra Sen and Soumitra Chatterjee in the lead roles.

The other movies based on his novel were Nishkriti, and Apne Paraye (1980) by Basu Chatterjee, starring Amol Palekar.The Telugu film Thodi Kodallu (1957) is also based on this novel. Gulzar’s 1975 film, Khushboo is majorly inspired by his work Pandit Mashay. The 1961 Telugu film Vagdanam by Acharya Atreya is loosely based on his novel Datta. Also the 2011 film Aalo Chhaya is based on his short story, Aalo O Chhaya.

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