MAHARAJ KUMARI BINODINI DEVI (1922-2011) was an award-winning writer from Manipur, in North-east India. She was the youngest daughter of Maharaja Sir Churachand Singh of the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur and his queen Maharani Dhanamanjuri Devi. Besides her Sahitya Akademi Award-winning Boro Saheb Ongbi Sanatombi (The Princess and the Political Agent), she wrote short stories, radio plays, dance dramas, essays and song lyrics. She wrote original film scripts for features and documentary films and adapted several of her works into screenplays for films like My Son, My Precious (1981) and Ishanou (1990) that premiered internationally at Cannes and the Museum of Modern Art. She was also a translator of Bangla literature and a sculptor who studied at Santiniketan. She held political office and used her writing for environmental, civil and women's causes. She was the founder of LEIKOL, the Manipuri women writer's collective and a founding member and president of Roop Raag, an arts organization of Manipur.
L. SOMI ROY is the translator of his mother Binodini's works from their original Manipuri. He is the founder of Imasi: The Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi Foundation in Imphal. A film curator from out of New York, he has curated for US institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art and Asia Society. He has written on film, theatre and photography for Artforum, Drama Review, the British Film Institute and International Documentary Association. He has given talks at the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian,
Harvard University and the Royal Asiatic Society of London, and has taught at New York University and Manhattan Marymount College. His translations of Binodini include Crimson Rainclouds (2012) and The Maharaja's Household: A Daughter's Memories of Her Father (2015). He is a promoter of international polo in Manipur and works for the preservation of the Manipuri pony.
In 1979, Binodini won the Sahitya Akademi Award for her groundbreaking feminist novel Boro Saheb Ongbi Sanatombi, a work of historical fiction based on the life of her rebellious aunt, Princess Sanatombi of Manipur. Now translated into English by Binodini's son L. Somi Roy, this is the love story of Sanatombi and Lt Col. Henry St
P. Maxwell, the British representative in the Tibeto-Burman kingdom of Manipur.
A poignant tale of love and fealty, treachery and valour, it is set in the midst of the imperialist intrigues of the Raj, the glory of kings, warring princes, clever queens and loyal retainers. Reviving front-page global headlines of the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891, Binodini's perspective sparkles with wit, empathy and beauty, vividly bringing to life the court and manners of a little-known kingdom. In doing so, she recovers its extraordinary history and a forgotten chapter of the British Raj.
|Penguin 35 Collectors Edition: The Princess and the Political Agent