Current AffairsIndia

Quality movies and literature become a country’s visiting card: Vadim Polonsky

Kolkata, Feb 01 (GCCurrentAffairs) Noted Russian historian, poet and author and Director of the A.M Gorky Institute of World Literature Vadim Polonsky feels a country’s cinema and literature make its reputation and are like its “visiting card” to the rest of the world.
Speaking exclusively with UNI, Polonsky who delivered this year’s Ashok Sarkar Memorial Lecture at the 44th International Kolkata Book Fair, shared his feelings on Indo-Russian cultural exchange .
Excerpts of the conversation:
Q. How much of a country’s cinema and literature can represent that country to the world?
Vadim: I think the literature and cinema of any country can make a country’s reputation. There is nothing better than this that can represent. It becomes a visiting card for a country that has quality movies and strong literature. For example, we know India through Bollywood. However, India is such a big country and it has so many traditions which we also want to know.
Q. But to a communist country, works of Rittik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen are likely to be more attractive. How popular are the Rittik, Mrinal and Satyajit Ray in Russia?
Vadim: Intelligentsia and the cinema experts of our country know them better. They know because they keep searching about the alternative to Bollywood and they definitely know this part.
Q. We read and felt Maxim Gorky’s ‘Mother’ in our language. Are the artist’s emotions alike everywhere or does the socio-political environment of the country affect an artist’s mindset as well?
Vadim: Of course, it changes. Already for the 30 years, we are in a capitalist regime. I’m assuming that Left ideas are slowly waking up or being strong again. It is a fact that with socio-political changes there comes a change of thought or mindset. The New Biography of Lenin is a hot-selling book at the moment. This means that people are awakening to Lenin again. When the author started writing he was neutral but at the end of the book, he became an apologist.
Q.This time, Russian delegates are talking a lot about children’s literature at the book fair. Is today’s Russian children’s literature similar to the Soviet period or has there been some erosion of quality in the meantime?
Vadim: I think that the children’s literature in the Soviet period was really very unique and exists no longer on earth. There is still a lot of children’s literature, but it is definitely of not that quality. I have three children, I still read the stories of Soviet period to my little daughter.
Q: What is your opinion of children’s literature other than Soviet children’s literature? Or, have you ever had the opportunity to read the translated version of Benagli Indian writers like Lila Majumder, Upendra Kishore Ray Chowdhury, Sukumar Roy or Sanjeev Chattopadhyay?
Vadim: It is a pity that these writers’ literature is not translated in our country. However, I got a translation of a Bengali Folklore, translated by one of our very famous translators. Those stories are my favourite and they are also the ones I read to my kid.
Q: Do you want to take an initiative to translate children’s literature of Bengal into Russian? Russian children can enjoy that.
Vadim: Of course, we will take this initiative. And, we are really thankful that there is an Institute of Literary Translation. If given the application, they can concede that this translation might happen. They will then take the initiative. So we are now waiting for these applications.
Q. Nowadays kids are reading books very rarely. They are being distracted towards the electronic medium. How do you think they could be made interested in reading books again?
Vadim: I have no universal recipe for this. But, I have a formula so that the disease of gazettes and interest of books can be put together. A schoolteacher in Moscow did this as an experiment. He read a classic and told the kids to post it on Social Media against real life. This raised children’s interest to participate in social media posts. What is best is that all the kids fall for the book first. Like this, even with social media, the practice of reading books may return. If you repeatedly hit your child with a hammer, they will not read. They have to realise that reading is cool, reading is fashionable, if I don’t read then I will be left behind. Only then, I think they will read.
Q. In India films have been made based on the stories of Dostoevsky, many people love Tarkovsky’s cinema, here. These are very familiar names in our cinema circle. You were talking about Bollywood, does a Bollywood movie made from a Russian story ignites people’s interest in Russia more? As in the recent past, noted Bollywood film maker Sanjay Leela Bhansali made ‘Saawariya’ based on Dostoevsky’s ‘White Nights’.
Vadim: I am not be fully aware of this, but this doesn’t mean that anyone is not aware of such movies. Russian film exponents have a special attraction towards the cinema of India, Iran and Korea. In connection with your questions, I would say that those who are experts are sure to know. They have a different curiosity to know what is alternative to Bollywood.
Q. You know English very well. Are you doing any of your own translation work from Russian to English?
Vadim: I translate mostly from French and Italian. I did translation in English, but now my main focus is on scientific works.
Q. What’s your take on Tagore’s ‘The Russian Letter’?
Vadim: I see Rabindranath Tagore as a teacher. Tagore is classic. I read him at school, and then after that. I can’t comment on his writing, he really is beyond everything.

Via UNI-India

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