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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ponytale Books to publish Suchitra Bhattacharya’s Mitin Mashi in English

Suchitra Bhattacharya is one of those rare writers who became an instant favourite with her readers as soon as she took up writing. Although her first novel was Ami Rai Kishori (1988), it was with her next novel Kancher Dewal (1992) that she established her identity as a writer. The film version of her novel Dahan won several National Awards and with her Kanchher Manush, she became a household name.

Pragya Paromita (Mitin mashi of the Third Eye Detective series) had already made her first appearance as a detective in Palabar path nei, a novel for adults. So when the editor of Anandamela asked Bhattacharya to write a detective series for children she decided to retain the same detective with her young schoolgirl niece Tupur assisting her. That is when Mitin turned to “Mitin mashi” and Bhattacharya wrote several stories about the mysteries they solve together, with Partho, Mitin’s happy-go-lucky husband, lending his support in the background. Popular stories in this series include Sarandar shaitan, Jonathaner barir bhoot, Keralay kistimaat and others.

As a genre detective stories have always been popular in Bengali. But nearly all the major sleuths so far—right from Hemendra Kumar Roy’s Jayanto-Manik; Nihar Ranjan Gupta’s Kiriti-Subrata; Saradindu Bandopadhyay’s Byomkesh-Ajit and Satyajit Ray’s Feluda-Topshe—have all been males, the only exception being Nalini Das’ Gandalu, who are four schoolgirl detectives, and now Mitin Mashi.

The Mitin mashi stories are especially popular because the setting is very contemporary which makes the young readers identify with the characters easily. Unlike Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Mitin mashi is not an armchair detective. She surfs the Net, makes extensive use of her mobile phone, is adept with crossword puzzles and Sudoku and is always ready to rush to the scene of action.

There is something special about the themes of the Mitin mashi stories too. Bhattacharya skillfully brings in people who are a familiar sight and yet about whom the general reader doesn’t know too much—be they Armenians or the Chinese of Calcutta or the Jews of Kerala. She weaves in the information as an integral part of the story. Given that her writing style is conversational, it never seems superimposed. And the fact that both Mitin mashi and her assistant Tupur are females, give the series an added distinction.

Bhattacharya strongly believes that as women have already proved their ability to excel in every field and hold their own in a man’s world, there is no reason why they cannot become successful detectives as well.

Just as Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Kakababu is a successful detective despite being physically challenged because he has the brains, the knowledge, the ability to put two and two together and the courage that goes with it, Bhattacharya’s Mitin mashi is a successful detective, despite being a woman and a homemaker, for the very same reasons. Apart from her success as a detective, she leads a normal and happy life with her fun loving husband Partho and her four-year-old son Boomboom.

Mitin mashi’s priorities are humane. She is not after the money and is perfectly ready to help a client free of cost if she feels that he really cannot afford to pay, provided the case really interests her. She has a sense of humour and is quick paced in her work.

Arakieler Heere, part of the Bhattacharya's Third Eye Detective series, has been translated into English by popular author, editor and translator, Swapna Dutta, as The Arakiel Diamond, and will be published by Ponytale Books in February 2011.

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