13 May, 2021

Tales Told By Gaslight

In the warren of streets of a quarter of old Calcutta, a flaneur plunges through the night. It’s the 1920s, and the sinful city seethes in dark luridness.

Tales Told By Gaslight

Readers of a certain vintage, (most would be above 80 now) awaited every new offering from Hemendra Kumar Roy with bated breath in their boyhood. Jawker Dhan, or its sequel, the adventures of Jayanta, Manik, the bumbling Bimal, held them in thrall. Exotic locales, boisterous boyish fun, raucous humour, scientific detail, detection were all grist for the mill of this prolific writer with an enviable sense of pace. There was also a thrilling sense of menace in an age before they could be conjured on celluloid by special effects. Bollywood and Tollywood both used him; his marvelous sense of detail must have made it easy for film adaptations.

Many of Hemendra Kumar’s works are non-fictional adult writings. The highly appropriate cover design by Pinaki De suggests that Calcutta Nights is not kid-lit. Its Bengali predecessor is the amazing Hutom Pyanchar Naksha (1861), the Sketches of Hutom the Owl, itself a denizen of the night, by Kaliprasanna Sinha. In the persona and using the nom de plume of Meghnad Dutta, Hemendra Kumar tells you...

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