Book Review: The Firebird by Saikat Majumdar

The Firebird by Saikat Majumdar is probably belonging to the period of 1970’s and 1980’s. The book traces events in Kolkata – erstwhile Calcutta-India. The plot relives the typical atmosphere of theatres; and, additionally, the story is woven around a middle-class Bengali family which is dysfunctional by nature.

The plot is of the times when the Communist Party was emerging as a powerful organization and attempting to “weed out” the so-called-so-imagined: pleasures and indulgences, connected with the field of actors, singing-artists. All of such cultures were being regarded by the Communist Party as evils destroying the society.

Saikat Majumdar’s novel also describes the double-standards in our societies – these double-standards are prevalent, universally. For example, Garima Basu, the stage actress is considered as a loose woman lacking moral values because she acts in the theatre productions. At the same time, on the other hand, the married men folk who frequented the red-light areas to sleep with prostitutes – their wayward ways are not only tolerated but accepted.


The book is gloomy. But, that is the reality… the reality that gloom is an integral part of our lives. Ori, Garima, Shruti, the old grandmother are the real life-characters of the world in The Firebird.


In the central theme of the book is: Ori’s dilemma of her mother’s reputation. Ori is a little boy whose mother, Garima Basu – is unlike the mythical Firebird who is supposed to light up the midnight sky. Garima as a mother is unable to bring any light in her kid’s life though his childhood could have been cozy and secure. But, sadly, it is not, due to the circumstances beyond anyone’s control.


Ori’s mother is gossiped about as a fallen woman, and these gossips pierce the kid’s heart to no end. Ori’s father represents defeat and decadence. The man has isolated himself from all realities by locking himself inside his own mind’s cave. He recreates solace by relying on sleeping pills.


A child’s deep longing for love, and the attachment he yearns for – makes the reader feel the deep anguish and pain which Ori constantly suffers from. I feel Saikat Majumdar’s aim is achieved because he has succeeded in weaving out a depressed tale.


Saikat Majumdar comes out strong with his narration. The backstage crew, the red-light district of Sonagacchi, the dark narrow lanes of Kolkata – the way they are described with the suitable intensity, succeed in strengthening the essence of the storyline.


Firebird is engaging all the way. Saikat Majumdar’s style of writing is impressive and racy. Saikat Majumdar’s other books are Silverfish – a novel, and he has a book of criticism, Prose of the World.


The Firebird is published by Hachette Book Publishing India Pvt. Ltd.

Geeta Chhabra

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