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'Duvidha' is realism, 'Paheli' reflects modern yen

IANS [Tuesday, January 10, 2006]

True literature is timeless and can be interpreted in different ways, says octogenarian writer Vijaydan Detha whose tale "Duvidha" was given a twist in Amol Palekar's film "Paheli".

"The story of 'Duvidha' reflects reality, while 'Paheli' is the progressive thinker's yen to lend a modern twist to my tale," said Detha, Rajasthan's storyteller non-pareil, while speaking about Palekar's film version, which is India's entry for the Oscars this year in the foreign film category.

"Nevertheless, I am happy that an endeavor has been made to make the folktale reach a larger audience. The credit for the success of the movie goes entirely to Amol Palekar and Shah Rukh Khan," the literary genius said with endearing humility.

While Detha in his novel dwelt on the dilemma of an individual caught in a web of circumstances, where a decision is not easily made due to socio-cultural constraints, Palekar lent the story a cerebral touch with the main protagonist making a conscious choice.

In Delhi to participate in a literary festival on the topic of "Urban alienation", the literary craftsman was conferred the title of Katha Choodamani by Katha, an institution at the forefront of promoting quality literature.

An amused smile flit across his face as Detha reflected on the celluloid version of his classic folk tale of a young bride and a ghost in Rajasthan's rustic milieu.

Detha's classic of the 1970s has become a favorite for filmmakers. Two veteran film directors - Mani Kaul (who made "Duvidha" in 1973) and Palekar ("Paheli" in 2005) have been mesmerized by the ostensibly simple tale, which in fact has a multi-layered texture.

Palekar's "Paheli" is the story of Lachchi (Rani Mukerji), who is married to a man only interested in making money. A ghost (Shah Rukh Khan) falls madly in love with her.

On the wedding night itself, the husband leaves home for five long years on account of his business. The ghost takes on the husband's appearance and enters Lachchi's life.

A few years later, when the husband returns home, the villagers and relatives are bewildered. How this situation gets resolved is the "Paheli".

In Dheta's original tale, the story ends on a less dramatic note. A wise shepherd tricks the ghost into a bag that is thrown into a deep well and the real husband returns home in triumph.

His wife silently picks up her homely tasks again with tragic submission, for it is the ghost whom she loves.

However, Palekar has lent a twist to the tale whereby the woman makes a conscious choice and prefers to remain with the ghost whom she loves.

This, said Detha, might appeal as progressive thinking to the modern mind, but hardly reflects reality.

Detha's classic dwells more on the plight of the individual caught in the crucible of circumstances, where there are no pat answers and life is a less dramatic but starker reality.

The power of Dheta's pen lies in the fact that he is able to capture the dilemma and leave it to varying interpretations. Also, he has portrayed the sensibilities of the young woman caught in a dilemma.

How Detha relates a universal tale by rooting it to the soil in the form of folklore is what lends depth to the tale, while it does not lose its contemporaneous nature.

The Sahitya Akademi award winner with several other honors to his credit, hails from Borunda village in Jodhpur district. In a span of five decades, he has written 10 novels, 1,200 short stories and about 150 essays in his native Rajasthani as well as Hindi.

His "Charandas Chor" was immortalized by celebrated theatre director Habib Tanvir.

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