Soumitra Chatterjee: His Life in Cinema and Beyond, Amitava Nag

When Soumitra Chatterjee debuted in Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar in 1959, a star was born in Bengali cinema. Chatterjee soon transcended the boundaries of the Bengali film industry to become an internationally celebrated actor. Famously known as “Ray’s actor,” in a career spanning six decades, Chatterjee worked with visionary filmmakers Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha, Chidananda Dasgupta, Aparna Sen, Tarun Majumdar, Rituparno Ghosh, and Goutam Ghose, to name but a few.

Chatterjee acted in more than 300 films and won a string of awards, including the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award (1995), the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1999), the Padma Bhushan (2004), the Dadasaheb Phalke Award (2012) and the Legion d’Honour awarded by the French Government (2018). But it was not just on the silver screen that Chatterjee shone. He was also an accomplished playwright and theatre actor, a poet, a painter, the literary editor of the magazine, Ekshan, and an elocutionist.

Soumitra Chatterjee: His Life in Cinema and Beyond, is the first comprehensive attempt to portray the life of the actor in all its facets. It traces Soumitra’s initial years of searching for identities to the final decades when he reached the pinnacle of his career as an actor and an artist.

Meow Meow: The Incredible True Story of Baby Patankar, Srinath Rao

On March 9, 2015, a constable in the Mumbai Police force, Dharmaraj Kalokhe, was arrested by the local police for possession of a white powder believed to be the synthetic drug Mephedrone. His partner, Shashikala “Baby” Patankar, was the informant. Later she was arrested by the police, too.

In the days that followed, the Maharashtra Police declared her a criminal and the media labelled her “drug queen,” but Baby always considered herself an innocent. Unearthing new facts about the case, Meow Meow is a blow-by-blow account of Baby’s capture and the investigation that followed. It is also the story of Mephedrone – better known as Meow Meow – which, when it entered the schools, colleges and pubs of Mumbai, changed the rules of the game and the enforcement of narcotics laws in the city.

Meow Meow is the tale of one of Mumbai’s most baffling crime and the intriguing life that Baby Patankar led.

Lata: A Life in Music, Yatindra Mishra, translated from the Hindi by Ira Pande

An ode to the majestic life of the iconic singer Lata Mangeshkar, Lata: A Life in Music tells the life story of one of India’s most loved vocal artists. The book also brings to fore the lesser-known aspects of the great musician, introducing the readers to Lata Mangeshkar as an intellectual and cultural exponent and providing a rare glimpse into the person behind the revered enigma.
At the confluence of cinema, music and literature, this is the most definitive biography of the voice of the nation that also documents sociocultural changes from the late British era through post-Independent India right up to the 21st century. This is the story of the various myths, mysteries, truths and contradictions which make a human an icon and also make an icon incredibly humane.

The Social Life of Democracy, Sundar Sarukkai

Drawing from BR Ambedkar’s view that democracy is not a form of government but more a form of society and mental disposition, The Social Life of Democracy argues that democracy needs to be seen as a form of social life that has to be part of everyday practice. Noting that the obstacles to realising Ambedkar’s vision of democracy are both material and conceptual, Sundar Sarukkai critically examines the meaning of democratic action and the function of democracy in different domains ranging from homes to governments.

He also examines its relation to labour, to science as well as to religion, and analyses the ethical processes that are central to democracy. Finally, clarifying the concepts of truth in politics and the ideas of freedom and choice. The Social Life of Democracy persuasively argues in favour of bringing democracy into our everyday lives rather than leaving it exclusively in the domain of electoral politics.

A New History of India: From Its Origins to the Twenty-First Century, Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Shobhita Punja, and Toby Sinclair

A New History of India covers all the major landmarks of Indian history from prehistoric times up to the 21st century – starting with the country’s geological origins a few billion years in the past and the migration of Homo sapiens from Africa into the region several millennia ago. It traces the evolution of Indian civilisation through a multitude of epochs, personalities, and turning points, including the Harappan Culture, Vedic Society, the age of Mahavira and the Buddha, Ashoka and the Mauryas, the Gupta period, the Delhi Sultanate, major kingdoms in the east, west, and south, the Mughal empire, European incursions into the subcontinent, the British Raj, the freedom struggle led by Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Bose, Tagore, and others, Independence and Partition, and key developments in the life of the modern republic.

Accompanying overarching narrative are essays on archaeology, caste, religion, art, architecture, philosophy, language, culture, the economy, and various aspects of the nation’s plural, diverse society.

CIU: Criminals in Uniform, Sanjay Singh and Rakesh Trivedi

Furore erupts across India when explosives are found in a vehicle parked outside the house of Mukesh Ambani. The controversial head of Mumbai Police’s elite Crime Investigation Unit (CIU), who handles all high-profile cases, becomes the chief investigation officer of this case. A series of sensational events lead to the mysterious death of the sole witness in the case, adding more to the drama than just a vehicle, explosives, and terrorist threats.

What unfolds next has the potential to embarrass the state government. Is the CIU chief a player or a pawn in this surreptitious conspiracy? With six investigative agencies now pursuing this case, who will emerge the hunters and who the hunted? Who will turn out to be the most dangerous players of this dirty game-the biggest “criminals in uniform”?

India’s Tipping Point: The View From 7 Race Course Road, S Narendra

In September 2022, India’s GDP crossed that of Britain to make it the world’s fifth largest economy. For a country that had been struggling with slow growth for decades, it was a significant moment. The tipping point-that moment when a process of change is initiated which will transform how we think, behave or live-came in the summer of 1991 under the leadership of someone considered the person least likely to launch such a change.

The government of PV Narasimha Rao, who had just turned 70, announced a series of measures that have today placed India among the top economies. This was not all. The five years of his prime-ministership, from 1991 to 1996, were marked by several other changes whose impact continues to be felt. Alongside devastating events like the Babri Masjid demolition and tackling bitter politics in a divided Congress party.

S Narendra was a close associate through this period and sheds light on many key events and the internecine rivalries and politics that Rao had to counter to be able to function. He was a cog in the wheel of bigger things but perfectly placed to see what happened in the grey area between policy-making, administration and politics, and to explain, at least in part, the actions of the man at the centre of it all.

The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise, Pico Iyer

Travelling from Iran to North Korea, from the Dalai Lama’s Himalayas to the ghostly temples of Japan, Pico Iyer brings together a lifetime of explorations to upend our ideas of utopia and ask how we might find peace in the midst of difficulty and suffering. Does religion lead us back to Eden or only into constant contention? Why do so many seeming paradises turn into warzones? And does paradise exist only in the afterworld – or can it be found in the here and now?

For almost 50 years Iyer has been roaming the world and in this culminating work, he brings together the outer world and the inner to offer us a surprising, original, often beautiful exploration of how we might come upon paradise in the midst of our very real lives.