Screening of Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues – May 26, 2015

SitaRita Banerjee will introduce and lead the discussion for Nina Paley’s 2008 film, Sita Sings the Blues, on Tuesday, May 26 from 6-8:30 pm for the Institute for Indology and Tibetology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.  The screening will take place in Seminar Room 427 (Ludwigstr. 31, Munich).  The screening is part of the course Modernity and the South Asian Imaginaire at LMU.  Anyone interested in Modern South Asian literature, history, or art house film is welcomed to join the screening. “[The Rāmāyaṇa’s] hero is the blue-skinned Rama, avatar of the deity Vishnu, but Ms. Paley is more interested in Sita, his wife, whose devotion becomes both a romantic inspiration and a feminist cautionary tale [in Sita Sings the Blues]. Her adventures are narrated by three shadow puppets who speak in the accents of modern Indian English and who quibble over details and interpretations. Meanwhile, Sita, Rama and other characters from the Rāmāyaṇa are rendered in various styles, including a “Betty Boop Goes Bollywood” look for the musical numbers and an illuminated-manuscript manner for the dramatic scenes. All of this is entwined with the simpler, sadder, more drably drawn chronicle of a woman named Nina, whose longtime boyfriend, Dave, takes a job in India and eventually breaks her heart. This is a stripped-down, modernized variation on what happens to Sita, whose absolute love for Rama is repaid with suspicion, a humiliating trial by fire (to test her purity) and banishment.” – A.O. Scott, The New York Times

 

Screening of Tareque Masud’s The Clay Bird – January 13

the_clay_bird_posterRita Banerjee will introduce and lead the discussion for Tareque Masud’s 2002 film, The Clay Bird (মাটির ময়না), on Tuesday, January 13 from 6-8:30 pm for the Institute for Indology and Tibetology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.  The screening will take place in Seminar Room 427 (Ludwigstr. 31, Munich).  The screening is part of the course Bengali 3: Intermediate Bengali Language and Literature at LMU.  Anyone interested in Bengali Cinema or South Asian Art House Film is welcomed to join the screening.  In The Clay Bird (Māṭir Maynā), Tareque Masud follows the increasing religious, linguistic, and political tensions leading up to Bangladesh’s War of Liberation from Pakistan in 1971. The film is based on Masud’s childhood experience in a madrasa (Islamic seminary) during the late 1960s in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). This was a very turbulent period in Bangladesh’s history, when as the eastern wing of the greater Islamic state of Pakistan, the country was torn between a strong secular and democratic movement and a pro-Islamic military junta bent on stifling dissent and reform. Although there are oblique references to the historical events of that time, the story Masud tells is an essential human one, told through the eyes of a child. Māṭir Maynā became the first feature film from Bangladesh to be selected for presentation at Cannes Film Festival. At Cannes, it was given the honor of being the opening film of the Directors Fortnight section of the festival, and won the International Critics Prize for best film in that section. However, even as the French and international press were lauding the film for its positive portrayal of Bangladesh and its tolerant traditions, the Bangladesh Censor Board gave their own verdict: the film was banned from public screening because it was deemed too religiously sensitive.

Screening of Satyajit Ray’s The Big City – December 5

mahanagar-poster-1Rita Banerjee will introduce and lead the discussion for Satyajit Ray’s 1963 film, The Big City (মহানগর), on Friday December 5, 2014 from 6-8:30 pm for the Institute for Indology and Tibetology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.  The screening will take place in Seminar Room 427 (Ludwigstr. 31, Munich).  The screening is part of the course Bengali 3: Intermediate Bengali Language and Literature at LMU.  Anyone interested in Bengali Cinema or South Asian Art House Film is welcomed to join the screening.  “In The Big City (Mahānagar), Ray sets his ironic and humorous eye on the plight of the Bengali middle class, caught amid the changing moralities of city life. The cultural crossfire is internalized in each individual. Focusing in particular on the role of women in this metamorphosis, Ray tells a story that is both minutely particular to Calcutta and universally recognizable. Madhabi Mukherjee gives a beautifully unfolding performance as the timorous housewife who finds her strength when she takes a job—selling knitting machines door to door—in order to help support her family and her husband’s extended family, all of whom resist the move. ‘Few directors can match Ray’s facility for observation or his perceptiveness in registering those tiny moments of conflict when a casual nuance can drop like a bomb.’” —David Wilson, Monthly Film Bulletin.  The screenplay for The Big City (Mahānagar) was written by Satyajit Ray and adapted from a story by Narendra Nath Mitra.

Rita Banerjee’s Mis/Translation poems featured in Quail Bell Magazine

who-lambOver the next few weeks, Quail Bell Magazine will be curating and publishing a series of “Mis/Translations” poems by Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai.  Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai are the founders and directors of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop (CWW). You can read about the CWW’s upcoming Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga, Writing, and Juice Cleanse Retreat in Quail Bell Magazine. In the interview, the CWW shares tips on creating a creative discipline of writing, yoga, and self-care.  Rita also discusses the creative writing invention exercise “Mis/Translations” and how it can help kick-start your writing. Rita’s poem, “Who Lamb” was inspired by a Mis/Translation exercise at the last CWW Verderonne retreat. Norma read her own poem, “hullám/wave” in Hungarian and Rita “Mis/Translated” based entirely on the sound and feel of  words that were foreign to her.  – Jessica Reidy

Rita Banerjee Interviewed in Quail Bell Magazine

CWW-Nov2223-YogaWritingCleanseJessica Reidy, Pushcart Nominee, member of VIDA and Quail Bell Magazine, novelist, and yoga practitioner, interviews Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Elissa Joi Lewis, Alex Carrigan and Megan Tilley for her article Writing through Holiday Stress: Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Pre-Thanksgiving Retreat in Quail Bell Magazine.  In the article, Jessica Reidy discusses how daily yoga, craft of writing seminars, and workshops go hand in hand to spark creativity, encourage relaxation, and produce good writing habits.  Jessica Reidy writes,No matter how cozy your family is, the holidays are stressful. Writers need their time, space, and routine to create and sustain their work, and these necessities fall by the wayside as Thanksgiving marches nearer. Then add the surplus of heavy food, sugar-packed nostalgic treats, and the stress-eating, and you’re feeling like a hot mess and your manuscript is still unfinished. The Cambridge Writer’s Workshop (CWW) knows this all too well, which is why the Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga & Creative Writing Juice Cleanse was born. On Saturday November 22 and Sunday November 23rd, from 2-4 PM, at Ashtanga Yoga Shala in New York City, we will be hosting an afternoon of creative writing classes, yoga classes, and juice for writers who need to decompress and write their hearts out, all with a little raw juice kick.”  (Read the article & interview at Quail Bell Magazine, register for Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga & Creative Writing Cleanse at Cambridge Writers’ Workshop)

Screening of Satyajit Ray’s Company Limited – November 11

companylimited2d3Rita Banerjee will introduce and lead the discussion for Satyajit Ray’s 1971 film, Company Limited (সীমাবদ্ধ), on Tuesday November 11, 2014 from 6-8:30 pm for the Institute for Indology and Tibetology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.  The screening will take place in Seminar Room 427 (Ludwigstr. 31, Munich).  The screening is part of the course Bengali 3: Intermediate Bengali Language and Literature at LMU.  Anyone interested in Bengali Cinema or South Asian Art House Film is welcomed to join the screening.  “In Company Limited, the hero is the amiable, self-satisfied, and ambitious young sales manager of a factory manufacturing electric fans, comfortably married and nicely set up in a smart apartment. The arrival from the country of his beautiful, intelligent, naive young sister-in-law unsettles him at the same moment as a crisis in his department awakens him to his own ability to fight dirty. He gets his directorship and emerges from the experience a good deal wiser and rather less certain of himself… This is one of Ray’s best films. The domestic relationship—the unrealized triangle of the man and the two girls—is revealed more by what is left out than by what is shown. At the same time it is one of Ray’s most richly comic films, with shrewd satire on the American-styled business world of Calcutta.” —David Robinson, London Times

Screening of Satyajit Ray’s The Hero – October 28

Nayak2Rita Banerjee will introduce and lead the discussion for Satyajit Ray’s 1966 film, The Hero (নায়ক), on Tuesday October 28, 2014 from 6-8:30 pm for the Institute for Indology and Tibetology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.  The screening will take place in Seminar Room 427 (Ludwigstr. 31, Munich).  The screening is part of the course Bengali 3: Intermediate Bengali Language and Literature at LMU.  Anyone interested in Bengali Cinema or South Asian Art House Film is welcomed to join the screening.  In Satyajit Ray’s The Hero (Nāyak), a sharp-witted, serious young journalist finds herself stuck on a train with a movie superstar in Ray’s surprising examination of “intellectual” and “popular” cultures. Collisions are expected when the bespectacled intellectual (Sharmila Tagore) and the blustery movie star (Uttam Kumar, himself a Bengali matinee idol) wind up sharing tales and time on the train together, but soon the star finds himself revealing a surprising intelligence and self-doubt, as well as secrets from the past. And for the journalist, what begins as the hope of a star exposé turns into the glimpse of one man’s failures and dreams, as well as cinema’s (and fame’s) capability to destroy itself. Many believed the intellectual Ray was anticommercial or antipopular cinema, but The Hero offers a perceptive, empathetic look at that world’s dreams, hopes, and artistic dilemmas. Critic Albert Johnson described it best: it is “a realistic film about the unreality of dreams.” —Jason Sanders

Cambridge Writers’ Workshop 2014 Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop 3rd Annual Yoga & Writing Retreat was held from August 7 -20, 2014 at the Château de Verderonne in Picardy, France, located approximately 50 miles north of Paris. The conference featured workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as craft of writing seminars, art classes, free time to write, and daily yoga and meditation classes.  The faculty includes writers Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, and Jessica Reidy, and yoga instructor Elissa Lewis.  The retreat was a wonderful time to generate new writing, revise longer manuscripts, enjoy French cultural excursions and countryside life, and practice relaxing sessions of yoga.  Photo Galleries of the 2014 Yoga & Writing Retreat are now up on the CWW Website as are blog posts of daily activities as recorded by Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Elissa Lewis, Victor Pachas, Jessica Reidy, and Meghan Tilley:

August 7 | August 8 | August 9 | August 10 | August 11 | August 12 | August 13 |
August 14 | August 15 | August 16 | August 17 | August 18 | August 19 | August 20

Paging Ms. Marvel: The Perks & Perils of Creating an Islamic, Feminist Superhero

Kamala_KhanRita Banerjee’s review of the new Ms. Marvel series, “Paging Ms. Marvel: The Perks and Perils of Creating an Islamic, Feminist Superhero,” has just been published on Jaggery: A DesiLit Arts and Literature Journal.  Here’s a selection from the review:

“The new Ms. Marvel comic series focuses on the trials and tribulations of Kamala Khan, a Muslim Pakistani-American high school student from Jersey City. The series is a reboot of the original Ms. Marvel comics made famous by the character of Carol Danvers, who debuted as Ms. Marvel in 1977 and eventually rose to become Captain Marvel in 2012. This new Ms. Marvel, written by G. Willow Wilson and inspired by the adolescence of Marvel Comics editor Sana Amanat, is full of surprises—from sly observations on cultural stereotypes to explorations of geek culture and the fan fiction–verse to redefining concepts of female beauty and empowerment. Or as Amanat writes at the end of the premiere issue of Ms. Marvel, “this book is a victory for all the misfits in the world,” as embodied in the “loveable, awkward, fiercely independent” Kamala. But in attempting to create an Islamic feminist superhero in the guise of an adorable and awkward teenager, Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel has its fair share of both perks and perils.” – Rita Banerjee

Check out the full review here.

Rita Banerjee interviewed for her novella A Night with Kali in Speaking of Marvels

KaliCoverWilliam Kelley Woolfitt, who runs Speaking of Marvels, a forum for interviews about chapbooks, novellas, and other short form literature, recently sat down to interview Rita Banerjee about her novella, A Night with Kali (Brooklyn Art House Co-op, 2011).  In the interview, Woolfit asked Rita a series of questions from which were her favorite chapbooks and novellas, to questions on her current writing projects, and her advice to writers working on new projects and book manuscripts.  You can read the full interview here.  Here is a selection of questions from the interview:

What’s your novella about?

A Night with Kali is at its core a coming-of-age ghost story. The novella is about a taxi-driver, Tamal-da, who explains why he left his fishing village near Krishnapur, West Bengal, to work on the dirty and crooked streets of Kolkata. Against an oddly purple mid-day sky, the narration opens on the rain-clogged streets of Kolkata, where Tamal’s car gets stuck in a flood. To pass the time and wait for help, he begins to tell his passenger of how he came to this city and his past, which is filled inexplicably with undead things.

What are some of your favorite novellas? How did they influence your writing or your desire to make a novella of your own?

Novellas seem to capture a magical middle ground between the poignancy and sharp edginess of the short story and the more decadent, sprawling ruminations available to novelists.  Some of my favorite novellas include Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, Leo Tolstoy’s Family Happiness, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, and Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.  In Dostoevsky’s novella, the singular psychosis and at times, irredeemable actions of the narrator, an extremely likeable anti-hero, propel the narration forward.  In Tolstoy and Goethe’s novellas, both authors emphasize and exploit the desires and emotional uncertainties of their central characters to hook in the reader. And Conrad and Pynchon excel at exploring how objects, symbols, and terrain can reflect and provide commentary on the psychology and motives of characters.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring novella author?

First, read as much as you can, and don’t be ashamed to read those texts others may not consider “literature.”  Look back at the stories, essays, films, poems, speeches, etc., that inspired you the most.  Figure out what made them so effective.  Did it have something to do with the structure of the story?  The emotional authenticity and dynamism of certain characters?  The comedy and turn of events?  The ability of language to capture a lyrical moment persuasively and succinctly?  Figure out why you are drawn to certain narrative and lyrical works, analyze these texts for elements of their style, structure, and content, and from what you’ve learned, see if you can do it. Go ahead and experiment, grab some coffee or brandy if you need it, and write, write, write until you get it right.

excerpt from A Night with Kali

“By the time I reached the old Kali Mandir in the woods, I had lost sight of the shadowy white figure completely.  Walking by the main gate to the temple, I stopped in front of the arched entrance way.  The priest had not gotten up yet and had not opened the doors this early in the morning.  But through the grilled gates, I could see into the main temple hall, which rose majestically in the middle of the forest canopy.  Looking in, I saw the figure of Kali standing there, in the middle of the hall, with her wide and sinister grin. Her tongue was hanging out and in her hands, she carried a variety of weapons including a machete in one and a knot of severed heads in another.  Across her lithe, blue naked body a garland of skulls draped lightly over her breasts.  A short chain-mail skirt with links in the shape of human hands hiked up one of her hips as she stood with her legs parted wide on the body of her husband, Shiva.  Her tongue, thus, rolled down of its own accord.  Bracketed against the moonlight, she made a ferocious figure.  But there was something protective and eternal about her, too.  There was an air of mischief in her smile and the way her body posed provocatively for the spectator…

Watching the stationary figure watch me, I gave her a quick morning prayer… In the moonlight, the statue’s eyes glittered back at me.”

Full interview available at Speaking of Marvels: Rita Banerjee’s A Night with Kali