Monday, February 02, 2009

Though it's not final and requires a bit of touch up, here's the cover page of the most important book of the year (as far as I'm concerned, anyway):

Painsath Lakh ki Dakaiti was a landmark in Hindi pulp fiction, when it first appeared several decades ago. It's been reprinted 15 times by 7 different publishers, and has sold more than 3 Lakh copies. It kickstarted a new genre in Hindi pulp thrillers - a hero who is a wanted felon, who's broken out of jail and continues to commit crimes.

And the cover above is of the translated English version, published by Blaft, coming out by the end of Feb.

Okay, so why is this the most important book of the year for me?

Forunately for me, the folks at Tehelka magazine have published the answer on their site, saving me the trouble. See for yourself.

So now I'm famous, apparently :)


Anonymous said...

Hey Sudarshan,
15 years ago, while waiting for my CET (engineering admission) results to come out, I remember reading my first (and alas last) Hindi Pulp. It was either Surendra Mohan Pathak or Ved Prakash Sharma.
Basically plot had cynical hero who is lied to by everyone of the suspects, but manages to get truth out of them. Climax had him at the shooting range and realizing because he was not a shooter that the clock that had been broken during the murder by a seemingly random bullet was deliberately shot at to provide an alibi.

good stuff!

jj said...

Oh man, you actually translated it? Shit! :)
That's me with the first comment. I was googling away to discover more about the pulp writers - I really do think you and I share a lot of the same sensibilities despite being techies. :)
I have been away from the north for um mumble, mumble years, but I realize to my shame that I can never "enjoy" reading Kannada. Talking/watching in Kannada is ok, but still a hindiwallah at heart. :)
Anyway there is a very simple reason that pulp writers need to be celebrated.

A language can have a serious, vibrant "literary" literature only when there are a sufficiently large number of readers who have realized the idea that it is possible to gain pleasure from reading! Pulp guys,despite this excellent articulation from a literary man certainly do that.

jj said...

The philosopher detective Sudhir Kumar Kohli is another series character of Pathak. This series is totally reciprocal likewise Sunil as in this dilli ka khaas kism ka haraami is the hero and likewise Inspector Devender Kumar Yadav who can easily be persuaded to do something dishonest.
This seems to be the most likely suspect.

Sudarshan said...

Hi jj,
(do you have a blog/site, btw?) If you stopped after reading one single pulp book, you obviously haven't read enough to get hooked.:)

Your point about the importance of pulp and local language literature was also made by U.R. Ananthamurthy in an interview on rediff a while back: . I really love that backyard and frontyard quote of his. What else is pulp but the backyard of language, where you go to have fun, and later perhaps do some serious creative thinking?

jj said...


do you have a blog/site, btw?)

Umm, If I write, potential audience can be divided into two.

a) friends and relatives
b) like-minded strangers

For friends and relatives, I would feel too guilty that I am using a blog (rather than face 2 face) to address them.

For Like minded strangers, hmm, good point. :)

What else is pulp but the backyard of language,

But alas, too many of the serious-minded literary types fail to realize how much a language needs a pulp tradition. I learned to read at the age of three with the help of a Hindi Indrajal Rip Kirby comic.
I really liked the guy whose link I provided, but I do think everytime he earnestly pooh-poohs a Gulshan Nanda's place in a school text, he unwittingly does tell the next generation that reading in Hindi is too much work and not at all fun. :)

jj said...

One more thing - what they fail to realize is that when they actively discourage Hindi pulp, it is ENGLISH pulp that picks up the slack! The appetite for racy stuff will always exist amongst pre-adolescent boys (and boys at heart). By trying to make as if there is no place for such stuff in Hindi, you inevitably make everyone turn to English for such pleasures. :)

Sudarshan said...

Good point there, jj. Did you notice, btw, that no one seems to call James Hadley Chase, Sidney Sheldon, Irving Wallace, etc. 'pulp' here in India? They're always 'crime thrillers', 'action', or whatever. Saves people from admitting that they're going to English pulp after sneering at Hindi... They can say they're reading 'thrillers'.

jj said...

You are so right! I thought about what you said and it seems to me that the REAL difference is that one is sold in airports and the other in railway stations. :) :)

Congrats on the translation, btw.

Salil said...

Congrats! I'll make it a point to buy it. But I'd like to read the original Hindi version first.

Sudarshan said...

Salil - You'd have to get a copy of the original from second hand bookstores in North India, since railway station stalls usually keep only the newest books.

mahesh said...

Dear Sudarshan,

I finished reading your translation in one shot in two hours. Congrats you have done a good job! Can we expect more translations from you?

Did you just send an e-mail to the people at Blaft and get started? Or did you have a rough draft and then you made a proposal?

Do let me know!

Do visit my blog when you have free time.

Best wishes,

Sudarshan said...

Hi Mahesh,
Thanks for that - Do tell your friends about it. I do plan to do more translations, as soon as we figure out which book to do next, and discuss it with the author.
We went through a proper selection process after I contacted Blaft - I did a sample translation for them, did some research on the popular books, worked out plot outlines of the possible choices, talked to Pathak ji himself, and so on. It also helped that Blaft happened to have a book reading in my city, and I went there and met them. The whole thing took a few months to set up.