30 July, 2021

No Rhyme, Only An Anguished Cry

The Hungryalists found a visceral new idiom to lance the pustules around them. The resultant backlash typifies the hypocritical bhadralok intellectual.

No Rhyme, Only An Anguished Cry

In early May, a BJP activist, Priy­anka Sharma, trolled the ruling Trinamool Congress Party leader and the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee. Sharma was inspired by the freak Met Gala look of actor Priyanka Chopra, and hoisted it on Mamata to great comic effect. Sharma was arrested and spent days in jail before a bail was granted. Malay Roy Choudhury, around whom the Hungryalists mov­e­­ment spun, was jailed for a month in 1966 by Calcutta’s Bankshall Court. The Congress leader, the late Prafulla Chandra Sen, was in power. Malay’s crime was to have written Stark Electric Jesus, a visceral poem echoing Howl. But the pressure to bring Malay under control was not so much statist as societal: good people were offended.  Does that sound familiar? How little things have changed, since. Malay was exonerated by the Calcutta High Court in 1967.

Maitryee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury maps the literary movement, largely unacknowledged.  In the process, she shows how Calcutta’s lost generation found an unlikely...

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