Saikat Majumdar’s the Firebird is a poignant tale of growing up days of a young boy Ori. He hails from a respectable family. His mother is a small time theatre actress. Her acting in plays is not approved by her family members. The story is about how one tale made up by Ori leads to the devastation of his family.
Though the novel nowhere tells the time period when it is set, from the descriptions it appears to be set in the seventies or eighties. Yet the moral policing of political parties with their mutilated concepts of art and culture appears very contemporary. The novel shows the world around the protagonist through his own eyes. The writer has articulated the feelings and emotions of a child very well. You can feel his unhappiness, his longing for his mother’ company as well as his attachment with his grandmother and not to forget his bitter-sweet relationship with his cousin.
The novel is very unlike something which I have read in recent times. The backdrop of Bengali theatre is fresh and hence interesting. The writer has articulated the theatre scenes very well. You can feel the happenings on the stage. The book depicts how a child is shaped by his environment and how he is sucked into the cadres of a party that engages in vandalism. The novel is realistic but becomes melodramatic towards the end. The story, though unhappy one, is engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. After reading the book I felt gloomy. The story underlines how responsible we adults must be while talking to our children. It also shatters the myth that children never lie.
Saikat’s language is simple. He weaves the scenes very vividly. Yet some parts are confusing. Particularly Ori’s conversation with the college-mates of his cousin who had visited prostitutes. Ahin Mullick’s character has come out very well. He has a dark and intriguing persona. He adds the mystery element to the novel. Who is he? A paedophile, a pervert or just a man immersed in the love of theatre. The novel also brings to the fore the plight of theatre artists who neither got the respect nor the money which they deserved. What I liked about the novel is the storytelling expertise of the writer. He doesn’t waste time in unnecessary descriptions. He keeps transiting from one scene to another with the reader wanting for more. The book is a page turner, offers something new though towards the end it takes the same old path. Also I found the title The Firebird inappropriate. Yet, this is a novel you cannot miss.