Biography

Malay Roy Choudhury (Bengali: মলয় রায়চৌধুরী) is a Bengali poet and novelist who founded the "Hungryalist Movement" in the 1960s. His literary works have been reviewed by sixty critics in HAOWA 49, a quarterly magazine which devoted its January 2001 special issue to Roy Choudhury's life and works. Commemorative issues have been published by Ahabkal and Aabar Eshechhi Phirey magazines on Malay Roychoudhury. Prof Swati Banerjee has based her MPhil thesis on his poems' anti-establishment features. Gale Research, based in Ohio, United States, published an autobiography of Roy Choudhury (in CAAS vol. 14), and both the Bangla Academy and the Northwestern University (Illinois), have archives of Roy Choudhury's "Hungry Literary Generation" publications. The Little Magazine Library and Research Centre, Kolkata has a complete section devoted to Malay Roychoudhury's works. Prof B.Dey of Assam University has been awarded Ph D for his 350 page seminal work on Malay Roy Choudhury and The Hungryalist Movement.

Launching of Literary Movement

Creativity ran in the veins, so early in life both Samir and his brother Malay directed many plays including 'Kauwa Babula Bhasm' the script of which was prepared by the noted writer Phanishwar Nath 'Renu'.

The Hungry generation literary Movement was initially spearheaded by Roy Choudhury, Samir Roychoudhury (his elder brother), Shakti Chattopadhyay, and Haradhon Dhara (alias Debi Roy). Thirty more poets and artists subsequently joined them, the best-known being Binoy Majumdar, Utpal Kumar Basu, Falguni Roy, Subimal Basak, Tridib Mitra, Rabindra Guha, and Anil Karanjai.

Roy Choudhury is to the "Hungryalist Movement" as Stéphane Mallarmé was to Symbolism, Ezra Pound to Imagism, André Breton to Surrealism, and Allen Ginsberg to the Beats. The movement is now known in English as Hungryalism or the "Hungry generation", its name being derived from Geoffrey Chaucer's "In the sowre hungry tyme"; the philosophy was based on Oswald Spengler's "The Decline of the West". The movement's bulletins were published both in Bengali and infrequently in English as well as Hindi Language by Roy Choudhury since November 1961. The movement, however, petered out in 1965. Thereafter Roy Choudhury ventured out, apart from poetry, into fiction, drama, and essays on social and cultural issues that Bengali people have been suffering from.

Howard McCord, formerly English teacher at the Washington State University and later professor of English language and literature at Bowling Green University, who met Roy Choudhury during a visit to Calcutta, has succinctly traced Malay's emergence in these words in Ferlinghetti-edited City Lights Journal 3: "Malay Roy Choudhury, a Bengali poet, has been a central figure in the Hungry Generation's attack on the Indian cultural establishment since the movement began in the early 1960s". He wrote, "acid, destructive, morbid, nihilistic, outrageous, mad, hallucinatory, shrill - these characterize the terrifying and cleansing visions" of Malay Roy Choudhury that "Indian literature must endure if it is to be vital again".

Confessional Poetry

With his poem Prachanda Baidyutik Chhutar or Stark Electric Jesus written in 1963, which was the reason why the Hungryalists had to face administrative wrath, Malay Roy Choudhury introduced Confessional poetry in Bengali literature. The poem defied the forms of lyric poetry (sonnet,villanel, minnesang, pastourelle, canzone, stew etc.) as well as Bengali meters (Matrabritto and Aksharbritto), retaining, however, its content vehicle, expressing subjective personal feelings. Roy Choudhury's formlessness is different from Pindar and Rilke. Malay's better known poem is Jakham which has been translated into other languages.

Post-1960s

Although the Hungryalist Literary Movement (হাংরি আন্দোলন) gradually faded after 1965, it is today hailed by several poets and commentators as the most important movement in post-colonial Bengali creative literature. Roy Choudhury has been identified as a major post-colonial poet and novelist, and remains the single most controversial Bengali thinker in the past four decades. During that period, he had experimented with various genres, and amongst his works, the most discussed are the poetry collections: Medhar Batanukul Ghungur, Naamgandho, and Illot, and the short story, "Aloukik Dampatya". His complete poetical work was published in 2005. He has written about 60 books since he launched the Hungryalist Movement in November 1961.

Translations

Roy Choudhury has translated into Bengali the works of William Blake ("Marriage of Heaven and Hell"), Arthur Rimbaud ("A Season in Hell"), Tristan Tzara ("Dada Manifestos", and poems), Jean Cocteau ("Crucifixion"), Blaise Cendrars ("Trans-Siberian Express"), and Allen Ginsberg ("Howl" and "Kaddish"). Ginsberg stayed with Roy Choudhury's parents in 1963.

Roy Choudhury's grandfather, Lakshmi Narayan Roychoudhury, who was from the Sabarna Choudhury clan, was a pioneer photographer in Kolkata. He had been trained in photography and drawing by Rudyard Kipling's father who was Curator at Lahore Museum. Lakshmi Narayan used to move from one princely state to another throughout the country with his entire family, which gave the family a broader vista of life and humanity. At old age he established a firm in 1886 that created life-sized oil paintings for the Maharajas and their kin. Roy Choudhury's father, Ranjit, carried on the business until his death in 1991. Roy Choudhury's mother, Amita (whose father Kishori Mohan Banerjee was Ronald Ross's assistant) died in 1982.

Roy Choudhury now lives in Mumbai with his wife, Shalila, who was a field hockey player from Nagpur when he first met her. His daughter Anushree Prashant resides in Holland with her husband and two daughters; his son resides in Kolkata, India with his wife.

Adhunantika Phase

Since 1995, Roy Choudhury's writings, both poetry and fiction took a dramatic turn, which has been termed as the Adhunantika Phase in Bengali literature. The term Adhunantika was coined by linguist Dr Prabal Dasgupta. Adhunantika was constructed out of two Bengali words: Adhuna, meaning new, current, present times, contemporary, modern etc.; and Antika, meaning closure, adjacent, end, extreme, beyond etc. The contemporary condition in West Bengal, India was in urgent need for a term to define itself. The appellation Adhunantika suited the condition best, and was acceptable at the academic as well as micro-cultural world of little magazines. In his post-Hungryalist phase, specially after his poetry collection MEDHAR BATANUKUL GHUNGUR and fiction DUBJALEY JETUKU PRASHWAS, Roy Choudhury emerged as the best interpreter of our times. In this phase his poetry collections were Chitkar Samagra, Chhatrakhan, Ja Lagbey Bolben, Atmadhangser Sahasrabda, Postmodern Ahlader Kobita and Kounaper Luchimangso. His novels, written during this period, specially, Namgandho, Jalanjali, Nakhadanta, Ei Adham Oi Adham and Arup Tomar Entokanta became benchmark for creative Bengali writing.

Memoirs

Malay's father Ranjit (1909–1991)was a known photographer-artist at Patna. his mother Amita (1916–1982)was from a progressive family of 19th century renaissance.Roy Choudhury, on request from younger generation admirers, embarked on a tell-all memoir writing at the end of 1990s. He wrote Chhotoloker Chhotobela and Abhimukher Upajibya in three parts. Such confessional memoirs have rarely been recorded in Bengali until date. He had spent his childhood in the Imlitala ghetto of Patna town (Bihar, India) inhabited by Dalit Hindus and Shia Muslims, where there have never been riots even during pre-independence nightmare. All the mud-houses in the vicinity as well as the local mosque was accessible to the children of the area. Theirs was the only Bengali family. This ghetto life had positively impacted Roy Choudhury and his brother Samir. Roy Choudhury's uncle Pramod was Keeper of Paintings & Sculpture at the Patna Museum, where the young Malay and Samir used to pass whole day moving from room to room as they wished, from pre-historic to Middle Ages to modern time relics. This had been a rare opportunity to relate with the past of not only India but with the whole world. Roy Choudhury was born into the Sabarna Roy Choudhury Clan of Bengal who owned the villages which later came to be known as Calcutta or Kolkata.The Kalighat temple was established by his ancestor Kamdeva Brahmachari and his ancestor Lakshmikanta was an adviser to Maharaja Pratapaditya who had defied Mughal Emperors. History of Bengal runs in Roy Choudhury's veins.

Influences

His childhood experiences in a Dalit-Shia Muslim ghetto gave Roy Choudhury several positive dimensions to his identity. At the age of three he was admitted to the local Catholic School by Father Hillman, who was a photographer and knew Malay's father. He had to attend Bible classes in the school and that is how Malay entered the world of Old and New Testaments, and eventually, western literature. After completion of primary schooling at the Catholic School, Malay was sent to the Oriental Seminary administered by the Brahmo Samaj (Brama Samaj was a monotheistic religious movement, founded in 1830 in Kolkata by Ram Mohun Roy who attempted to recover the simple worship of the Vedas and purify Hinduism), a completely Bengali cultural world where he came across student-cum-librarian Namita Chakraborty, who introduced Roy Choudhury to Sanskrit and Bengali classics. All religious activities were banned in this school. Roy Choudhury claims that his childhood experience has made him instinctively secular.

Awards

Roy Choudhury was bestowed with the Sahitya Academy award for translating Dharamvir Bharati's Suraj Ka Satwan Ghora in 2003, Government of India's highest award in the field, which he politely refused to accept as he never accepts literary and cultural awards; he has been refusing awards from various periodicals since he started writing poetry. This is a feat unheard of in India.
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