Leila (novel)

Leila is a 2017 Indian dystopian novel written by Prayaag Akbar. Set in the 2040s, the story follows Shalini, who tries to find her missing daughter Leila in a totalitarian regime. It was published by Simon & Schuster in several formats worldwide on 20 April 2017 and received a positive critical reception. It is also available as an audiobook narrated by Tania Rodriguez.

Leila
Leila (novel).jpg
First edition cover
AuthorPrayaag Akbar
CountryIndia
LanguageEnglish
GenreFiction
Drama
PublisherSimon & Schuster (India)
Publication date
2017
Media typePrint (paperback, hardback)
Pages207
ISBN978-0-571-34133-7

The novel was awarded the 2018 juried Crossword Book Award for fiction and the Tata Literature Live First Book Award the same year. It was also shortlisted for The Hindu Literary Prize. Leila was adapted as a Netflix series by Deepa Mehta, Shanker Raman and Pawan Kumar with Huma Qureshi, Siddharth, Rahul Khanna, Sanjay Suri and Arif Zakaria. The series premiered on 14 June 2019 to mostly positive reviews from critics.

PlotEdit

In the late 2040s, with drinking water and fresh air being extravagances, India is ruled by The Council. Shalini is married to Rizwan Chaudhury, a Muslim man with whom she has a daughter, Leila. One day Rizwan is abducted and killed by goons known as "Repeaters" in an attempt to cleanse the bloodlines and stop inter-faith marriages. Her daughter Leila is also abducted. Shalini is sent to a Purity Camp where she serves as a slave for sixteen years. During her long stay, her mental health starts deteriorating. One day she escapes. She is later caught and sent back to the camp where she is appointed as a housekeeper to the Dixits, an advantaged family at the Record Towers. Mr. Dixit is one of the designers for the up-and-coming Skydome, which will be utilized to make fresh air.

Shalini gains access to the tower through the bureaucracy, in order to get more information. Mr. Dixit is sent to the camp after he neglects to make the arch by the due date. Feeling for Mrs. Dixit, Shalini helps her escape. One day, Shalini gets into the wealthy facility to find answers concerning the whereabouts of her missing girl. She sees a blurb demonstrating one of the specialists she thinks is one of the men who came to kill her husband and kidnap Leila. Shalini sees a video of Dixit clarifying that the Skydome will resemble a climate control system with vents blowing tourist outside of it that can murder individuals outside of it.

While checking for the whereabouts of her daughter, Shalini stumbles on a file of all the children in the country. She notices Leila's picture and her school. Shalini visits the school and sees a little girl free from any danger yet being brainwashed into being a blind follower. Shalini thinks of her as Leila. The girl does not recognize Shalini. A politician Mr. Rao, tells Shalini to get inside the facility and switch off the power and take photos of the Skydome's arrangements.

Shalini performs the task and then meets with Rao and gives him the film reel she took before of his preferred sonnet. Rao helps Shalini get into the Skydome work as her daughter will perform there. He gives Shalini content to peruse to the capacity, arranging an upset in an offer to govern over Joshi. Shalini shrouds the light inside Rao's lunch. As Joshi arrives, the youngsters perform for the group of spectators. Joshi then solicits one from the kids, which happens to be Leila, to remain with him. Shalini leaves the building and as she is standing outside, she stares up at the girl she thinks is Leila. Shalini feels like the girl is calling out to her but it is never sure whether it is real or her imagination.

DevelopmentEdit

 
Kazuo Ishiguro's writing influenced Akbar to write the story from a female perspective.

Akbar had wanted to write since his childhood and retire as a journalist to pursue a writing career. He wanted to depict the political changes that can "have a devastating impact on people's lives" by humanising the impact.[1] He said that he was drawn by the "isolated, insular experience" of cities like Delhi and Mumbai: "In today's India, there are forces at work which are beyond our immediate control. There are huge, overarching political changes that can have personal ramifications, and can go on to devastate lives."[2] He started writing with the idea of a mother and a daughter being separated.[3]

After reading Kazuo Ishiguro's 1982 novel A Pale View of Hills, Akbar wanted to write a story from a women's perspective as it made him realise that a male writer could write well in a woman's voice.[4] Akbar began writing the story with Shalini and her daughter while the elements of dystopia came later on.[4] Akbar felt that in India, it is always important to ascribe the "minute identities of caste and subcaste to each other." He said this experience inspired the setting of the novel.[5][6]

The novel was written over the course of five years.[7] Akbar said that he deliberately chose "Leila" as the main character's name as it is both a Muslim and a Christian name. He wanted to show that "people also exist between the [religion] space."[7] Leila was published by Simon & Schuster on 20 April 2017 in various formats.[8] The audiobook version, narrated by Tania Rodriguez, was released on 4 April 2019.[9]

ReceptionEdit

Writing for The Economic Times, Lopamudra Ghatak described the novel as "stark" and Shalini's pain "at her loss and longing" ... "evocative".[2] Minakshi Raja of The Free Press Journal described the book as "well worth a read" but felt the ending was conventional.[10] Karishma Kuenzang of India Today said that the book is "intriguing enough to keep you hooked till the last page".[1] She also compared it to Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines, which was based on a similar theme.[1] Ananya Borgohain of The Pioneer praised the novel saying it is "fascinatingly surreal and social at the same time."[11]

A review published by The Telegraph pointed that the resemblance between the reality and the "horrific world that Akbar conjures up is striking."[12] Aditya Mani Jha of The Hindu Business Line compared the mother-daughter bond with that in Cormac McCarthy's The Road.[13] Rini Burman of The Indian Express wrote: "Prayaag Akbar conjures up a future society, the inner seams of which reflect rigid class and caste divisions — almost eerie echoes of the reality we are living out now."[14] Keshava Guha of The Hindu called it a "gripping debut novel that is a dystopian work that speaks directly to the ongoing changes in India's politics and society."[15] Nandini Krishnan of The Wire praised the writing and said that the world of the novel is "not frightening so much as credible."[16]

Avantika Mehta of Hindustan Times described the novel as a "powerful debut" that "knocks you sideways with its complex questions."[17] Bhanuj Kappal of The National described the writing as "tight and unrelenting" that never lets the reader's attention drift.[18] Trisha Gupta of Scroll.in felt the future shown in the novel is "really already here."[19] Somak Ghoshal of HuffPost praised the novel and noted the mother-daughter relationship as the highlight.[20]

Nudrat Kamal of Dawn called the prose "engaging" and said the "narrative tension of Shalini's increasingly desperate attempts to reunite with her daughter keeps the reader in its thrall."[21] Aditya Singh of The Millions felt the novel was a "political and social allegory" with a "powerful commentary on the inherently unstable foundations that India's societal setup rests upon."[22] Roger Cox of The Scotsman called the novel timely and memorable saying it "takes "xenophobic small-mindedness to its chilling conclusion."[23] Kerryn Goldsworthy of The Sydney Morning Herald noted that Akbar successfully "create(s) a society in which everyone must be labelled by categories and sub-categories of race, religion and family, and movements around the city are strictly monitored."[24]

Akbar was awarded the juried Crossword Book Award for fiction. He also won the Tata Literature Live First Book Award.[25][26] It was also shortlisted for The Hindu Literary Prize.[27]

AdaptationEdit

In February 2018, Netflix announced it was commissioning an original series based on the novel. Produced by Deepa Mehta, it starred Huma Qureshi, Siddharth, Rahul Khanna, Sanjay Suri and Arif Zakaria.[28] Directed by Mehta, Shanker Raman and Pawan Kumar, the series began filming in November 2018 and finished in April 2019.[29][30] It premiered on 14 June 2019 to mostly positive reviews from critics.[31]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Kuenzang, Karishma (23 April 2017). "Former journo Prayaag Akbar's debut novel is about political change impacting human lives". India Today. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b Ghatak, Lopamudra (29 April 2017). "Urban ghettos in Delhi and Mumbai are creating isolated, insular experiences: Prayaag Akbar, author". The Economic Times. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  3. ^ Dore, Bhavya (28 April 2017). "The Angry Fabulist". OPEN. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  4. ^ a b Guha, Keshava (6 January 2018). "Love and other jihads: Prayaag Akbar talks about his novel, 'Leila'". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 24 July 2019. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  5. ^ Pinto, Jerry (21 April 2017). "Prayaag Akbar: The way we live". Mint. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  6. ^ Sharma, Manik (25 June 2017). "Prayaag Akbar on his novel Leila: Almost every privation, indignity in the story is reality already". Firstpost. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  7. ^ a b NL Interviews: A Woman's Search for her Child in Dystopia – Prayaag Akbar's Leila. YouTube (Motion picture). India: Newslaundry. 24 April 2017.
  8. ^ Leila. Amazon. S&S India. 20 April 2017. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Leila". Kobo Inc. Archived from the original on 2 June 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  10. ^ Raja, Minakshi (25 June 2017). "Leila: Review". The Free Press Journal. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  11. ^ Borgohain, Ananya (7 May 2017). "Mystery And Motherhood". The Pioneer. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  12. ^ "Hardback Harvest". The Telegraph. 2 June 2017. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  13. ^ Jha, Aditya Mani. "The handmaid's tale and other alternative facts". The Hindu Business Line. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  14. ^ Burman, Rini (24 June 2017). "Skewed World Order, Dipped in Dystopia". The Indian Express. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  15. ^ Guha, Keshava (13 May 2017). "Keshava Guha reviews Prayaag Akbar's Leila". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 31 October 2020. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  16. ^ Krishnan, Nandini (30 April 2017). "'Leila': A Mother's Quest for Her Daughter". The Wire. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  17. ^ Mehta, Avantika (27 May 2017). "Review: Leila by Prayaag Akbar". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  18. ^ Kappal, Bhanuj (8 June 2017). "Book review: Prayaag Akbar's Leila – a dark indian future that's all too real". The National. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  19. ^ Gupta, Trisha (20 May 2017). "The future that 'Leila' presents is already here, and all of us may be responsible". Scroll.in. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  20. ^ Ghoshal, Somak (10 May 2017). "This Fantasy Fiction Is A Terrifying Reminder Of The Time We Live In". HuffPost. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  21. ^ Kamal, Nudrat (28 October 2018). "Fiction: Building the walls". Dawn. Archived from the original on 10 December 2018. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  22. ^ Singh, Aditya (16 February 2017). "Unchecked Complacency and Privilege: On Prayaag Akbar's 'Leila'". The Millions. Archived from the original on 10 December 2018. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  23. ^ Cox, Roger (14 August 2018). "Book review: Leila, by Prayaag Akbar". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  24. ^ Goldsworthy, Kerryn (6 September 2018). "Leila review: Prayaag Akbar's chilling dystopic debut novel". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 29 January 2019. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  25. ^ "Sudha Murthy, Ruskin Bond, Snigdha Poonam among winners of this year's Crossword Book Awards". 20 December 2018. Archived from the original on 21 December 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  26. ^ "Easterine Kire, Pankaj Mishra, Prayaag Akbar, Pranay Lal bag top honours at the Tata Lit Live". Scroll.in. Archived from the original on 8 July 2019. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  27. ^ Mukherjee, Anusua (11 November 2017). "In the republic of letters: The five novels in the Hindu Prize shortlist". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  28. ^ "10 Indian Originals on Netflix You Need to Watch Out For". News18. 10 November 2018. Archived from the original on 10 November 2018. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  29. ^ "Huma Qureshi shares first set picture from Netflix's Leila series". Hindustan Times. 11 November 2018. Archived from the original on 29 November 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  30. ^ "Huma Qureshi wraps up Netflix's Leila, posts heartfelt note". India Today. 5 April 2019. Archived from the original on 10 April 2019. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  31. ^ Adhikary, Mukesh. "Deepa Mehta's Leila: What the reviewers are not telling you about the Netflix show". India Today. Archived from the original on 19 June 2019. Retrieved 8 July 2019.

External linksEdit