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On Lalon & The Lost Lustre of the Bengal Renaissance

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

Bengal Renaissance rejectionists are a dime a dozen, especially in the current "Bengali Intellectual scene". Sunil Gangopadhyay, one of the biggest names in Bengali Literature, published two novels on the topic - সেই সময় (Those Days) and প্রথম আলো (First Light), even winning the coveted Sahitya Akademi award for the former.  But this literary giant, an expert on the topic, himself rejects the very notion of the so-called "Bengal renaissance". "People claim it happened," says an aged Sunil Gangopadhyay on Rituparno Ghosh's talk show, "But actually it never did. A certain time period can only be categorised as 'Renaissance' when all spheres of art are developed simultaneously. Moreover, this sudden wave of development should take everyone along with it. This wasn't the case for Bengal. Rich men and women mostly reaped all the benefits. The Tagores dominated both literary and cultural spheres. The Brahmo Movement was mostly restricted to the rich upper-classes. There was little to no development of art. Even the plays being written by Girish Chandra Ghosh and Amarendranath Dutta were highly derivative and commercial." No one could argue against Mr. Gangopadhyay's statement, and slowly but surely, the numbers of 'Bengal Renaissance Rejectionists' (The B.R.R, if you will) grew. ​ Two of the biggest names to come out of Bengal during this time period are Lalon Fakir a