Samir Roychoudhury

(1 November 1933 - / Panihati, West Bengal / India)

Biography of Samir Roychoudhury

Samir Roychoudhury poet

Samir Roychoudhury (Bengali: সমীর রায়চৌধুরী) is considered as one of the founding fathers of the Hungry Generation Movement.

Birth and Early Life

Samir Roy Choudhury was born at Panihati in West Bengal on November 1st 1933, in a family of artists, sculptors, photographers and musicians. His grandfather Lakshminarayan, doyen of the Sabarna Roy Choudhury clan of Uttarpara, heard learned drawing and bromide-paper photography from John Lockwood Kipling, father of Rudyard Kipling, who was Curator at the Lahore Museum (now in Pakistan), and thereafter established the first mobile photography-cum-painting company in India in the mid-1880s. The company was later taken over by Samir's father Ranjit (1909–1991). Samir's mother Amita (1916–1982) was from a progressive family of 19th century renaissance.

He studied at City College, Kolkata. Here he saw his classmates Dipak Majumdar, Sunil Gangopadhyay and Ananda Bagchi who were planning to start a poetry magazine known as Krittibas (1953). He was an active member of Krittibas group. Samir became an active member of the group. Eka Ebong Koyekjan, the first collection of poems by Sunil Gangopadhyay was funded and published by Samir. When Dipak Majumdar left Krittibas group, Samir along with others were eased out of the group. He had edited the Phanishwarnath Renu issue of the magazine. Thereafter he took up a job of marine fisheries expert in a ship. His first poetry collection was known as Jharnar Pashey Shuye Aachhi that was based on his experience in the ship.

Thereafter he shifted to inland fisheries which helped him to be a part of the poorest boatmen, fishermen and fishnet-knitters families of rural India. He travelled for three decades to tribal areas like Chaibasa, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and so on. These places were the centres of Hungryalist poets, writers and painters. It has witnessed many creative happenings which has become a part of Bengali literary folklore. Samir had emerged as one of the original thinkers later termed as Adhunantika by the famous linguist Dr Prabal Dasgupta.

Seeds of Hungryalism

Samir's grandfather, Sri Lakshminarayan Roy Chowdhury established a permanent photography-cum-painting shop at Patna, Bihar in 1886, the city from which Samir, along with his younger brother Malay Roy Choudhury, Shakti Chattopadhyay and Debi Ray, had launched the Hungryalism (হাংরি আন্দোলন) movement in November 1961. Samir's uncle Pramod was Keeper of Paintings and Sculpture at the Patna Museum. Pramod's daughters, Sabitri and Dharitri were accomplished veena players and classical singers. Dharitri was a painter as well. Samir's mother Amita Banerjee came from a family where her father Kishorimohan Banerjee was a post-graduate and an assistant of Ronald Ross, Nobel prize winner for discovering the causes of malaria. Right from childhood Samir was thus in the company of people who could groom for his later literary achievements.

Krittibas Phase

Samir studied at City College, Calcutta, where he found as his classmates, Dipak Majumdar, Sunil Gangopadhyay and Ananda Bagchi, who were preparing to start an exclusive poetry magazine, named Krittibas (1953). Samir became an active member of the group. Sunil Gangopadhyay's first collection of poems Eka Ebong Koyekjan was funded and published by Samir. However, when Dipak Majumdar left Krittibas, Samir along with Sandipan Chattopadhyay, Ananda Bagchi and Utpalkumar Basu were eased out of the group, although Samir had edited the Phanishwarnath Renu issue of the magazine. Samir left the group and took up a job of marine fisheries expert in a ship which most of the time was in the Arabian Sea, an experience which was later beneficial for Hungryalism inputs. His first poetry collection Jharnar Pashey Shuye Aachhi (ঝর্ণার পাশে শুয়ে আছি) (Sleeping Beside An Waterfall) was premised on the blueness of experience of this marine period.

Among the People

From marine Samir shifted to inland fisheries, which gave him an opportunity to become a part of the poorest boatmen, fishermen and fishnet-knitters families of rural and riverine India. For three decades he travelled extensively in such tribal areas as Chaibasa, Dumka, Daltonganj, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga etc. places. These places were the centres where the Hungryalist poets, writers and painters gathered and engaged in creative happenings which has become a part of Bengali literary folklore. During this period Samir emerged as one of the original thinkers, a school of thought later termed as Adhunantika by the famous linguist Dr Prabal Dasgupta. Young writers, poets and artists as well as film makers visited him during his tribal sojourn. Among the visitors were Octavio Paz, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gary Snyder, Rajkamal Choudhury, Phanishwarnath Renu, Dharmavir Bharati, Santoshkumar Ghosh, S H Vatsayan Ajneya, Falguni Ray, Basudeb Dasgupta, Subo Acharya, Tridib Mitra, Alo Mitra etc. Shakti Chattopadhyay stayed with him at Chaibasa for more than two years. He is still an important figure before the contemporary younger poets and thinkers ( like Anupam Mukhopadhyay ) .

Creative Work

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'. Samir has been creative off and on. After his first collection of poems he published Aamar Vietnam a collection of poems, though not based on Vietnam, but premised on the sensitivity of a person who lives in a different world and is regularly bombarded by war-news which are shockingly inhuman. Then after a decade his third collection of poems Janowar (জানোয়ার) (The Animal) was published written in a different vein. Among the Hungryalists, he is considered to be a master of word formation and language-plasticity. He shifted his base permanently to Calcutta (Kolkata) in the beginning of 1990s and started his own magazine aptly called HAOWA#49 or Unapanchash Vayu in Sanskrit which is a state of unknown mind. He also started Haowa#49 Publications for which his younger brother Malay Roy Choudhury joined as Creative Consultant. HAOWA#49 (হাওয়া # ৪৯) magazine virtually changed the avant garde literary scene. People who were once critical of the Hungry Generation movement (হাংরি আন্দোলন), and even denigrated Hungryalism, started respecting them. Post-graduate thesis have been written on the two bothers, considered to have up-welled fresh mind-waves in an otherwise stagnant creative pool.

Adhunantika Controversy

Samir wrote several treatises on Adhunantika aspects of our Indian, especially Bengali society, that have impacted post-colonial mindset, and obviously arts, literature and culture. Critics have claimed that Adhunantika is Postmodern version of Hungryalism, and that postmodern features Bengali creative writing had emerged way back in 1960s when the Hungry generation movement was launched with freely distributed weekly bulletins which could have been published by any participant of the movement. Samir introduced an Indianised version of postmodernism which was being called, apart from Adhunantika, Uttaradhunika, Uttar-Adhunika, Bitadhunika, Bhashabadal, Atichetana, Adhunikottarvad etc. Hungryalism got a new valuation with these concepts, and the newer generation of poets, writers and thikners got an alternative platform. Samir edited, since 1990, books on Ecofeminism, Postcolonialism, Postmodernism, Complexity, Hybridity and The Other. He edited Postmodern Bengali Poetry (2001) and Postmodern Bengali Short Stories (2002) which included writings from Bangladesh as well as entire India. Earlier only upper-caste writers from West Bengal used to have prime of place in such collections. Samir changed it all; he invited poems and short stories from all strata of, not only West Bengal, but entire India and Bangladesh. A new word Bahirbanga was coined by him for diasporic Bengalis.

Samir Roychoudhury's Works:

Collection of Poems

Jharnar Pashey Shuye Aachı, Janowar, Aamar Vietnam, Mangsher Kasturikalpo, Adhunantik Kabita Guchha.

Collection of Short Stories

Postmodern Bidaler Sandhaney, Khul Ja Simsim, Chhata Haranor Barshakalın Dukhkho, Adhunantik Galpa Guchha, Sigareter Tirobhab.

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