24 January, 2021

Strapped To The Undercarriage

Complex, hypnotic and neglected, Raza’s Scene 75 speaks of the rank ruthlessness of ’70s Bollywood and the stewing jostle of the middle class

Strapped To The Undercarriage

Chances of getting lost in translation dangle like a sword of Damocles over anybody who dares to rework a vernacular classic for the benefit of English readers. Failure to comprehend subtle nuances, a dearth of appropriate words to replace its idiom and the sheer inability to read between the lines often make a translator’s job unenviable.

It was, therefore, natural to be sceptical while going through Poonam Saxena’s translation of Scene 75, a brilliant, but grossly underrated, novel of Rahi Masoom Raza (1927-1992). The acclaimed Hindi-Urdu litterateur wrote classic novels and poetry on one hand, and dished out dialogues for Bollywood potboilers on the other, with equal felicity. All his work bore the unmistakable stamp of a master wordsmith, somebody who swore by the secular ethos—the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb—that he had imbibed while growing up in Ghazipur in eastern UP.

Thankfully, Saxena—who had earlier translated another Hindi classic, Gunahon ka Devta by Dharamvir Bharati—stays true to the original,...



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