Did you know that the the modern incarnation of polo was born in Manipur? In Polo in India, a coffee table tome, Jaisal Singh, a leading figure in the Indian polo scene, goes into the origins, evolution and nuances of the game that’s witnessing a fresh revival in India with corporate sponsorship and new patrons. The book is also researched and edited by Priya Kapoor. Traditionally a royal sport, princely states such as Patiala, Jodhpur and Jaipur, and Udaipur in the 1980s, had a lot to do with making polo an early 20th century sport with loyal following. The book devotes a chapter to polo’s growing popularity in other parts of the world.
West meets east
Art historian and critic Partha Mitter, professor of art history at the University of Sussex, has penned many books on art movements in Europe and India. His latest, The Triumph of Modernism: India’s Artists and the Avante-garde, 1922–1947, deals comprehensively with the years when modernist tides in European art met Indian nationalistic feelings to produce a unique body of work, especially in Bengal. He considers the relatively unknown Bauhaus exhibition held in Calcutta in 1922 as a turning point and traces the journeys of artists such as Rabindranath Tagore, Nandlal Bose, Benodebehari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij in this well-illustrated book, bound to be a treat for serious connoisseurs and historians.
Prolific chronicler of Indian cricket, Boria Majumdar, couldn’t have let the notorious World Cup 2007 go by without turning it into an opportunity for a book. In Corridors of Uncertainty, Majumdar takes up all that ailed the tournament in West Indies—the tragic death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, the Indian team’s debacle, dwindling television revenues, the importance of sponsorship and just the dull event that it was—and turns it into a saleable book. The better chapters in the book are those that look beyond the tournament and tries to examine the future of professional cricket and its often ugly commercial face.
It’s one of the most acclaimed fiction titles by a writer of Indian origin to have come out this year. In What You Call Winter, a collection of stories, US-based Nalini Jones pieces together worlds separated by distance and death, and connected by memory and emotions. The home of her characters is Santa Clara, a fictional Catholic town in India, reminiscent of the Mumbai suburb Bandra. A variety of characters—a wistful mother, an eccentric aunt, a daughter returning home from the US, the ghost of a man long dead and children—populate her canvas, and Jones is particularly adept at giving each character their unique language and manner of speaking.
Film journalist Kaveree Bamzai’s Bollywood Today is intended to capture the trends that have shaped the Hindi film industry in the last six or seven years. Her introduction, Brave New Bollywood, is an ode to the corporatization of the industry—professionally-run studios, technical advances, swish services for film crew etc. She begins with a visit to Yash Raj Studio and readily concludes: “That’s new Bollywood, a mix of old and new, convention and audacity, feudalism and fearless risk-taking... In what the late American movie critic, Pauline Kael, would have called its trashy shameless heart, lie a thousand stars and many more stories.” The rest of the book has short profiles of the actors and directors who have made the industry vibrant in these years. Parts of the book are written in engaging prose, but pity Bamzai doesn’t look beyond the big studios and stars to document the smaller, experimental currents in Indian cinema.