Friday, 14 March 2014

Kim's Review : Moon Mountain

Moon Mountain is a Graphic Novel representation of Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay's "Chander Pahar". For those unfamiliar with Bengali Literature, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay is the author of the "Pather Panchali" on which Satyajit Ray made a film which received much critical acclaim.

What is so wonderful about his stories is that he wrote travelogues detailing countries across the world almost accurately, without ever having visited them. And these were written in the pre-internet age. (He lived from 1894-1950 and started getting published in 1921) All his research was painstakingly done in libraries via encyclopedias, newspapers and journals. He also wrote for children and "Chander Pahar" was considered a Classic.

Moon Mountain has been illustrated by Sayan Mukherjee and the Script has been adapted from the original by Saurav Mohapatra.

The protagonist of the book is Shankar, a Calcutta educated boy, from a small hamlet in Bengal. Given his fathers failing health, as the eldest son, he has to take up the responsibility of being the breadwinner. He unfortunately gets stuck in a job as a pencil pusher in the nearby mill, while what he really loves is the open sky, travel and adventure. He lives vicariously through travel books, until a neighbour brings him a letter from her son-in-law Prasad and asks Shankar to read it to her.

Prasad it turns out, now lives in Mombasa and Shankar immediately corresponds with him directly. Given that this is the pre-internet age, it takes about 2 months for messages to reach from India to Africa and back. Prasad, however does help Shankar get a job in Kenya as a storekeeper and clerk, with a company laying railway tracks in the wilderness of Africa.

And this is where the adventure takes off, Shankar starts living the dangerous yet exciting life he had hitherto only read about. Wild Animals, diamonds, snakes, lions, mythical creatures, explorers, local tribespeople - all feature richly in this illustrated version of "Chander Pahar".

Its a lovely book for a child who is not yet jaded by the internet age and has only seen Africa in an air conditioned van. Its a book, that you can use to discuss with a child how much the world and life has changed in the last 60 years. As an adult, this book will take you bck to your own childhood, where these books were the only escape from generic small town life.

Rating : 3 / 5

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