‘Growing up, Gulzar’s lyrics were not just melodies to me; they were an intimate connection etched into my heart. As a singer, his compositions echoed through my childhood, and I found myself frequently humming his tunes. However, it wasn’t just the music that captivated me; it was the enchantment woven into his words. This profound admiration for Gulzar’s artistry sparked my interest in exploring his literary world, leading me to his book, ‘Actually I met them.’ To my astonishment, the journey took an unexpected turn when Sanjay Kumar Sanyal, a respected producer at Assam Publishing Company, presented me with a unique opportunity – to translate Gulzar’s book into Assamese. The outcome was the Assamese rendition named ‘Smritir Manuhbor.’ The unveiling ceremony was graced by Mumbai’s screenplay writer and director, Akashaditya Lama, alongside Kolkata’s Ranjan Ghosh.’
Subham Panseshwar delved into a conversation with Namrata Datta about the book and her fascinating journey of creativity.
Q: How did your foray into writing begin?
Namrata: My journey into writing commenced during my school days, although initially, I never envisioned sharing my creations with the world. Singing occupied the forefront of my pursuits at that time. After marriage, a serendipitous encounter with La Rochefoucauld’s ‘Maxim’ ignited an unplanned translation journey, fueled by a growing attachment to the book.
Fate intervened when I met Mr Jiten Deka, a senior publisher from Nalbari, who, after a brief discussion about books, requested a manuscript. His unwavering confidence became a pivotal catalyst. Completing the translation and handing it over to him, I soon discovered a report in the weekly newspaper Sadin, acknowledging the Assamese translation of ‘Maxim’ by me. It was a report by Bedabrat Bora. This unexpected recognition was a gratifying milestone.
Q: Tell us about your original writing.
Namrata: Inspired by Keshab Mahanta’s Assamese lyrics, I harboured a fervent desire to unravel the untold stories behind those melodious tunes. Approaching him, he generously agreed to share his insights, culminating in the creation of ‘Priyatama ei Jivan.’ The book garnered positive feedback. Additionally, I authored a novel titled ‘Kathopakatha,‘ derived from a distinctive Sunday program I conceptualized for a local FM channel. It was a fictional narrative in the form of conversation. Curated songs were inserted in between the conversation to enhance the situation and the mood of the narrative. Rituparna Das, a distinguished broadcaster and playwright-director, lauded the program’s form and content. Later, I expanded this concept into a novel. Mr Das hosted the book release event. Pervez Ahmed, a filmmaker, and my school friend, even translated parts of the novel into an English film under the title ‘Cherrypicker’, now available on mxplayer.
Q: You wrote a book on Assamese Lyrics and the Freedom movement. Could you share more about this book?
Namrata: This book emerged from a research project that earned me a Senior Fellowship from the Indian Government’s Department of Culture. Titled ‘Reflection of India’s Freedom Movement in Assamese Lyrics,’ it proved to be a laborious yet profoundly fulfilling undertaking.
Q: What about your book on Modoji’s Maan Ki Baat?
Namrata: The concept for this book originated from Sanjay Kumar Sanyal. We meticulously selected excerpts from Modiji’s ‘Mann Ki Baat,’ focusing on social responsibility, community development, success stories, and innovative ideas evident in his speeches. I firmly believe these speeches unveil the leader’s inner spirit, philosophy, and administrative approaches. The resulting book, titled ‘Mor Priya Deshbashi,‘ is an essential read for those seeking to understand the man behind the Prime Minister.
Let me add one line more, I translated some poems by GulzarJi and those were published in book form by a prestigious publication house of Assam- Journal Emporium. The title of the book is ‘Gulzaror Kabita’ (Poems by Gulzar). That was probably first translation of Gulzar in Assamese book form.
Beyond her writing journey, her career has taken diverse paths, from being a casual announcer and news reader at Akaswani and Doordarshan to transitioning into private TV channels and FM radio. She has also worked in newspapers and magazines. Presently, her active involvement in social work. Her projects includes co-authoring a book with my husband – , titled ‘Pati, Patni and Bandhabi (Man, woman and Girl Friend).’ And household hacks for working women titled Gharuwa Diha (Household Tips).
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