French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain launches Hindi translation of Vijay Singh's ‘Jaya Ganga’

‘Jaya Ganga’ tells the story of Nishant, a young Indian writer from Paris, who undertakes a journey along the river Ganges, right from its source in the Himalayas

Image from the launch
Image from the launch

Murtaza Ali Khan

The Ambassador of France to India Emmanuel Lenain recently launched the Hindi translation of Paris-based Indian author and filmmaker Vijay Singh’s 1985 novel ‘Jaya Ganga’ by Rajkamal Prakashan, as well as the reprint in English by Rupa Publications, at the Embassy of France, New Delhi along with Ashok Maheshwari, the Managing Director of Rajkamal Prakashan, Nishtha Kapil, the Deputy Managing Editor at Rupa Publications, and the author himself. The Hindi translation of the novel has been done by the late renowned Hindi poet and writer, Mangalesh Dabral.

‘Jaya Ganga’ tells the story of Nishant, a young Indian writer from Paris, who undertakes a journey along the river Ganges, right from its source in the Himalayas. Haunted by the memory of a beautiful girl named Jaya from Paris, he plans to write a book around this voyage. On the banks of the Ganges, he meets Zehra, an irresistible dancing girl in the tradition of the great tawaiffs, who performs in a nearby brothel. Zehra resurrects the memory of Jaya. With Jaya and Zehra capturing his mind, Nishant undertakes an enchanting journey down the Ganges replete with unexpected encounters with Sadhus, boatmen, engineers, journalists, pimps, and administrators.

The novel was later adapted into a film of the same name by Vijay Singh himself. It was shot extensively in Northern India, including Gomukh, Gangotri, Rishikesh, Haridwar, and Varanasi. Parts of it were also shot in Paris and Limours, France. The film starred Asil Rais and Smriti Mishra in the lead roles. Its extended trailer was shown at the recent launch event at the Embassy of France. The film originally ran for a record 49 weeks in Paris and the UK cinemas after being screened in 40 countries. It was also shown on over 100 television channels worldwide.

At the launch, Ambassador Lenain congratulated Vijay Singh while describing him as a “true friend of France” who throughout his career as writer, filmmaker and journalist “has played a major role in the cultural relationship between our two countries”. He also reminded that France will be the guest of honour at the next year’s New Delhi World Book Fair. Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, Counselor for Education, Science and Culture, Embassy of France in India and Country Director, French Institute in India, who was also present on the occasion invited journalist Anjilee Istwal have a conversation with Vijay Singh on the incredible journey of ‘Jaya Ganga’ since it was first published as a book more than three and a half decades back.

During his conversation with Istwal, Singh revealed that he had written the novel spontaneously over a period of seven and a half weeks. While answering a question about the difference between the book and the cinematic adaptation of ‘Jaya Ganga,’ Singh recollected what a young lady in San Francisco told him at one of the film’s screenings: “When you close the book and close the film it leaves you with the same sentiment.”

While fondly remembering the late Mangalesh Dabral, Singh revealed some of the conversations he had with the late poet during the Hindi translation of the book. “Hindi is close to French in sentiment. People speaking in Hindi and French say similar things but in different metaphors,” explained Singh. While sharing his experiences of shooting the film he recounted, “Travelling on the Ganga was a difficult journey: there was very little water in the river for most upstream parts; there were no boats and there was rampant crime.” Singh further added, “The endeavour of my works is to bring surrealism and spirituality together.”

While sharing his views at the launch, Ashok Maheshwari, Managing Director of Rajkamal Prakashan Samuh, said, “We should remember Mahatma Gandhi and Romain Rolland on this occasion. The Embassy of France and the French Cultural Centre have been instrumental in the cultural exchange between the two countries. Publishing books is a big part of it. Nowadays many books from French are translated and published in Hindi and Indian languages. Also, a number of books are being published from Hindi to French, and I hope this number increases. Many books on India have been written there on Indian History, Indian Politics, Philosophy and many such subjects. Their translation should also come in Hindi.”

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