– Non-Fiction –
Plugging Crispin Bates’ Subalterns and Raj at this point serves the dual purpose of assisting people who are new to India’s history and getting me on the right side of a senior colleague at Edinburgh University. A shorter survey is Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal’s Modern South Asia (2nd ed, 2003).
Judith Brown’s books on M.K. Gandhi – Gandhi’s Rise to Power (1974), and Prisoner of Hope (1989) – offer warm, generally sympathetic, and highly readable portraits of India’s nationalist icon.
Tariq Ali’s The Nehrus and the Gandhis (2nd ed, 2005) is a hugely entertaining introduction to India’s post-Independence politics.
– Fiction –
Difficult to know where to start with such an enormous literature, but if I had to go for just six books I reckon I’d choose…
Premchand’s The Chess Players (1924) shows you one of India’s greatest writers on classic form.
Rabindranath Tagore’s The Home and the World (1916) offers a portrayal of late colonial India’s gender and nationalist politics, while Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable (1935) and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance (1995) examine caste and poverty before and after Indian Independence.
Finally, for a taste of South India, Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize-winning The God Of Small Things (1997).
— Film –
Again, where to start… how about:
Guru Dutt’s funny, satirical, Mr and Mrs 55 (1955).
Train to Pakistan (1998), set during the time of India’s partition in 1947.
Lagaan (2001) is an epic film about sport and power in colonial India, and one of the few times when cricket has not been boring.
And if you like your films funny, political, and nuance-free, try Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977), about three brothers separated at birth; one grows up as a Hindu, one a Muslim, and one a Christian:
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