About the Author: Govardhanram Tripathi (1855-1907) was born in Gujarat, and was one of the most popular writers and thinkers of his time. His four-volume novel, Saraswatichandra, is universally regarded as a classic. Sameer Acharya is a writer and director based in Los Angeles. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA and a master’s in public policy from George Mason University.
Review: In this retelling of Govardhanram Tripathi’s sprawling magnum opus, Saraswatichandra, Sameer Acharya brings to life an Indian literature’s greatest classics for modern readers. Saraswatichandra has long been regarded as one of the finest works of Gujarati fiction. It had a profound impact on millions of Indians, including Mahatma Gandhi, seeking to navigate the development of an Indian identity while recognizing a changing political and cultural climate. It is believed that the main character, Saraswatichandra, was an inspiration to Gandhi and many of India’s freedom fighters, as a man who sought to learn about a nation of people, so he could devote his life to uplifting that nation, particularly the poor and uneducated. The characters and storylines in Saraswatichandra have gone on to inspire millions of people and has been recreated in both film and television. It is the story of unrequited love between Saraswatichandra, a quiet, romantic and selfless young man who seeks to serve his countrymen, and Kumud, the beautiful and kind-hearted daughter of a prominent minister of a princely state in the Indian state of Gujarat. Saraswatichandra and Kumud are arranged to be married. But due to family conflicts, Saraswatichandra breaks off the engagement and seeks to live out his life in service to God and his people. But he can’t ignore his love for Kumud. He attempts to get to her home and beg her father’s permission to marry her. But he arrives too late. Kumud was quickly married off to another man, Pramadhan, also the son of a prominent and wealthy minister. And while Saraswatichandra was devastated, in his heart he had to know if Kumud was happy in her new life. He travels to Suvarnapur, where Kumud lives with her husband and his family. Saraswatichandra disguises his true identity and ends up working for Kumud’s father-in-law, before he learns that seeing him every day was torture for her. Not wishing to cause her any more pain, Saraswatichandra leaves Suvarnapur. Their fates align and they both end up at the same holy ashram on the Gujarat coast, where they must reconcile their feelings while acknowledging society’s customs and traditions. The key themes from the original storyline remain just as prevalent today as they were when it was first published. And I must admit that Sameer Achrya has done a marvelous job in being honest to the original themes. Saraswatichandra is a love story. And yet, the reader is left to wonder how should cultural values and political opinions be shaped by outside forces?
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