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Malay Roy Choudhury
|Occupation||Poet, writer and journalist|
|Movement||Postmodernism and Hungryalism|
|Spouse(s)||Shalila Roy Choudhury (-present)|
|Family||Sabarna Roy Choudhury|
|Awards||Sahitya Akademi Award (2003, refused)|
Malay Roy Choudhury was born in Patna, Bihar, India, into the Sabarna Roy Choudhury clan, which owned the villages that became Kolkata. He grew up in Patna's Imlitala ghetto, which was mainly inhabited by Dalit Hindus and Shia Muslims. His was the only Bengali family. His father, Ranjit (1909–1991) was a photographer in Patna; his mother, Amita (1916–1982), was from a progressive family of the 19th-century Bengali Renaissance. His grandfather, Laksmikanta Roy Choudhury, was a photographer in Kolkata who had been trained by Rudyard Kipling's father, the curator of the Lahore Museum.
At the age of three, Roy Choudhury was admitted to a local Catholic school, and later, he was sent to the Rammohan Roy Seminary Oriental Seminary. The school was administered by the Brahmo Samaj movement, a monotheistic religion founded in 1830 in Kolkata by Ram Mohun Roy, who aimed to purify Hinduism and recover the simple worship of the Vedas. There, Roy Choudhury met student-cum-librarian Namita Chakraborty, who introduced him to Sanskrit and Bengali classics. All religious activities were banned at the school, and Roy Choudhury has said that his childhood experience made him instinctively secular.
Roy Choudhury has proficiency in English, Hindi, Bhojpuri and Maithili, apart from his mother tongue Bengali. He was influenced, though, by the Shia Muslim neighbors who recited Ghalib and Faiz in the Imlitala locality. At the same time his father had two workers Shivnandan Kahar and Ramkhelawan Singh Dabar at his photographic shop at Patna ; these two persons introduced Roy Choudhury to Ramcharitmanasa written by Tulasidasa as well as saint poets Rahim, Dadu and Kabir
Roy Choudhury did his master's degree in humanities. He later studied Rural Development which gave him a job in NABARD, where he got the opportunity to visit almost entire India for the upliftment of farmers, weavers, fishermen, artisans, craftsmen, potters, cobblers, landless labourers, jute farmers, potato growers and various under-caste Indians.
The Hungryalist movement was initially led by Malay; his brother, Samir Roychoudhury; Shakti Chattopadhyay; and Haradhon Dhara, known by his pseudonym Debi Roy. Thirty more poets and artists subsequently joined them, the best-known being Rajkamal Chaudhary, Binoy Majumdar, Utpal Kumar Basu, Falguni Roy, Subimal Basak, Tridib Mitra, Rabindra Guha, and Anil Karanjai. The movement's English name was derived from Geoffrey Chaucer's line "in the sowre hungry tyme", and its philosophy was based on Oswald Spengler's "The Decline of the West".
Hungryalism petered out in 1965, when the West Bengal government issued arrest warrants for eleven Hungryalists, including Roy Choudhury and his brother. Some members, such as Subhash Ghosh and Saileshwar Ghosh, testified against Roy Choudhury in Kolkata's Bankshall Court. He was jailed for a month for his poem Stark Electric Jesus by Kolkata Bankshall Court in 1966. However he was exonerated by the Kolkata High Court in 1967. From the letters of Sunil Gangopadhyay written to Sandipan Chattopadhyay during 1964 published recently it is known that Sunil Gangopadhyay felt that Hungry generation literary movement was a threat to his Krittibas group of poets of 1950s.
Roy Choudhury went on to write poetry, fiction, plays, short stories and essays on Bengali social and cultural issues. He has written more than seventy books till date.
Howard McCord, a professor of English at Washington State University and Bowling Green University who met Roy Choudhury during a visit to Kolkata, wrote in City Lights Journal Number Three: "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. ... Acid, destructive, morbid, nihilistic, outrageous, mad, hallucinatory, shrill—these characterize the terrifying and cleansing visions" that "Indian literature must endure if it is to be vital again."
With his 1963 poem "Prachanda Baidyutik Chhutar" ("Stark Electric Jesus"), which prompted the government's actions against the Hungryalists, Roy Choudhury introduced Confessional poetry to Bengali literature. The poem defied traditional forms (e.g., sonnet, villanelle, minnesang, pastourelle, canzone, etc.), as well as Bengali meters (e.g., matrabritto and aksharbritto). His poem "Jakham" is better known and has been translated into multiple languages.
His best-known poetry collections are Medhar Batanukul Ghungur, Naamgandho, and Illot, and a complete collection of his poems was published in 2005. He has written about 60 books since he launched the Hungryalist movement in November 1961.
Roy Choudhury has also translated into Bengali works by William Blake ("The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"), Arthur Rimbaud ("A Season in Hell"), Tristan Tzara (Dada manifestos and poems), Andre Breton's Surrealism manifesto and poems, Jean Cocteau ("Crucifixion"), Blaise Cendrars ("Trans-Siberian Express"), and Allen Ginsberg ("Howl" and "Kaddish"). He has also translated Paul Celan's famous poem "Death Fugue".
He was given the Sahitya Academy award, the Indian government's highest honor in the field, in 2003 for translating Dharamvir Bharati's Suraj Ka Satwan Ghora. However, he declined to accept this award and others.
In 1995, Roy Choudhury's writings, both poetry and fiction, took a dramatic turn. A linguist, Probal Dasgupta, dubbed this the Adhunantika Phase (Bengali: অধুনান্তিক পর্ব), a portmanteau of two Bengali words: adhuna, meaning "new", "current", "contemporary", or "modern", and antika, meaning "closure", "end", "extreme", or "beyond". His poetry collections from this phase are Chitkar Samagra, Chhatrakhan, Ja Lagbey Bolben, Atmadhangser Sahasrabda, Postmodern Ahlader Kobita, and Kounaper Luchimangso. His novels from the period include Namgandho, Jalanjali, Nakhadanta, Ei Adham Oi Adham, and Arup Tomar Entokanta.
After Roy Choudhury shifted to Mumbai from Calcutta he has ventured into Magic realism and written novels such as Labiyar Makdi, Chashomranger Locha, Thek Shuturmurg, Jungle Romio, Necropurush and Naromangshokadhoker Halnagad.
In 2014 Roy Choudhury wrote his autobiography in his distinct style titled Rahuketu.
Roy Choudhury lives in Mumbai with his wife, Shalila, who was a field hockey player from Nagpur. Their daughter, Anushree Prashant, lives in Dubai with her husband and two daughters; his son Jitendra lives in Riyadh with his wife Sudipta.
A 2014 film based on Roy Choudhury's poem Stark Electric Jesus was directed by Mrigankasekhar Ganguly and Hyash Tanmoy. It was an official selection at 20 international film festivals in 15 countries. The film won "Best Video Art" in Poland, "Most Promising Video Artist" in Spain, and "Best Fantasy Film" in Serbia.
Roy Choudhury's poems have been recited by famous poets from India and Bangladesh. They are Chaitali Biswas, Susmita Bose. Sadia Sobhan Sara, Labanyo Shahida, Mohona Setu. Sarmin Subha, Debashis Bhattacharya, Tanumoy Goswami, and Shibashis Dargupta. Two of his famous poems 'Stark Electric Jesus' and 'Sending My Cut-Off Head as A Valentine Gift' have been recited and uploaded on YouTube by several young poets both in English and Bengali. His interviews are also available on YouTube.
Stark Electric Jesus, with introduction by Howard McCord, Tribal Press, Washington DC, 1965.
Autobiography, CAAS #14 and 215, Gale Research Inc., Ohio, 1980.
Selected Poems, with introduction by P. Lal, Writers Workshop, Kolkata, 1989.
Hattali (long poem), Mahadiganta Publishers, Kolkata, 1989.
Overview: Postmodern Bangla Poetry (non-fiction), Haowa 49 Publishers, Kolkata, 2001.
Overview: Postmodern Bangla Short Stories (non-fiction), Haowa 49 Publishers, Kolkata, 2001.
Selected Poems of Malay Roy Choudhury, Edited by Dr Tanvir Ratul, Antivirus Publication, Liverpool, 2021.
Shoytaner Mukh (Collected Poems), Krittibas Prakashani, Kolkata, 1963.
Hungry Andoloner Kavyadarshan (Hungryalist Manifesto), Debi Ray, Howrah, 1965.
Jakham (long poem), Zebra Publications, Kolkata, 1966.
Kabita Sankalan (collection of Hungryalist poems), Mahadiganta Publishers, Kolkata, 1986.
Chitkarsamagra (postmodern poems), Kabita Pakshik, Kolkata, 1995.
Chhatrakhan (postmodern poems), Kabitirtha Publishers, Kolkata, 1995.
Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish (translation), Kabitirtha Publishers, Kolkata, 1995.
Ja Lagbey Bolben (postmodern poems), Kaurab Prakashani, Jamshedpur, 1996.
Tristan Tzara's Poems (translation), Kalimati Publishers, Jamshedpur, 1996.
Allen Ginsberg's Howl (translation), Kabita Pakshik, Kolkata, 1996.
Jean Cocteau's Cricifixion (translation), Kabita Pakshik, Kolkata, 1996.
Blaise Cendrar's Trans-Siberian Express (translation), Amritalok Prakashani, Midnapur, 1997.
A (deconstruction of 23 poems), Kabita Pakshik, Kolkata, 1998.
Autobiography of Paul Gauguin (translation), Graffiti Publishers, Kolkata, 1999.
Jean Arthur Rimbaud (critique), Kabitirtha Publishers, Kolkata, 1999.
Life of Allen Ginsberg (non-fiction), Kabitirtha Prakashani, Kolkata, 2000.
Atmadhangsher Sahasrabda (collected poems), Graffiti Publishers, Kolkata, 2000.
Bhennogalpo (collection of postmodern short stories), Dibaratrir Kavya, Kolkata, 1996.
Dubjaley Jetuku Prashwas (novel), Haowa 49 Publishers, 1994.
Jalanjali (novel), Raktakarabi Publishers, Kolkata, 1996.
Naamgandho (novel), Sahana Publishers, Dhaka, 1999.
Natoksamagra (collection of plays), Kabitirtha Prakashani, Kolkata, 1998.
Hungry Kimvadanti (Hungryalist memoir), Dey Books, Kolkata, 1994.
Postmodernism (non-fiction), Haowa#49 Publishers, Kolkata, 1995.
Adhunikatar Biruddhey Kathavatra (non-fiction), Kabita Pakshik, Kolkata, 1999.
Hungryalist Interviews (edited by Ajit Ray), Mahadiganta Publishers, Kolkata, 1999.
Postmodern Kalkhando O Bangalir Patan (non-fiction), Khanan Publishers, Nagpur, 2000.
Ei Adham Oi Adham (novel), Kabitirtha Publishers, Kolkata, 2001.
Nakhadanta (postmodern novel), Haowa 49 Publishers, Kolkata, 2001.
Poems: 2004-1961 (collection of poems), Avishkar Prakashani, Kolkata, 2005.
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