Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee



Realism in Art and Literature

As Encyclopaedia Britannica puts it, realism in the arts means, the accurate, detailed, unembellished depiction of nature or of contemporary life. Realism rejects imaginative idealization in favour of a close observation of outward appearances. As such, realism in its broad sense has comprised many artistic currents in different civilizations.

In the visual arts, for example, realism can be found in ancient Hellenistic Greek sculptures accurately portraying boxers and decrepit old women. The works of such 17th-century painters as Caravaggio, the Dutch genre painters, the Spanish painters José de RiberaDiego Velázquez, and Francisco de Zurbarán, and the Le Nain brothers in France are realist in approach. The works of the 18th-century English novelists Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding and Tobias Smollett may also be called realistic.

Realism was not consciously adopted as an aesthetic program until the mid-19th century in France, however. Indeed, realism may be viewed as a major trend in French novels and paintings between 1850 and 1880 in which the artists and writers attempted to portray the lives, appearances, problems, customs, and mores of the middle and lower classes, of the unexceptional, the ordinary, the humble, and the unadorned. Realism was stimulated by several intellectual developments in the first half of the 19th century. Among these were the anti-Romantic movement in Germany, with its emphasis on the common man as an artistic subject.

Theme of Realism in modern Indian literature is an outcome of the creation of a reading public which was trying to construct an identity in the context of the anti-colonial struggles and nation-building. This attempt combined liberal-reformist ideology with an affirmation of an ‘Indian’ cultural specificity. The realist novel’s focus on growth and individual freedom is transformed in the Indian context with the economic conditions of uneven capitalism. Thus the economic, political as well as the social conditions served to provide the basis for Realism in modern Indian literature

Historical novels or tales on historical characters have always taken liberty with physical facts to heighten the drama or to highlight nuances of characters. Realism in literature more often than not relate to a social phenomenon or milieu or condition than details of physical facts.

The recent controversy over Padmavat as the depiction of Rani Padmini must be seen from this perspective. In a work of fiction, the author has the discretion to take artistic liberty, it being part of his freedom of expression- the fact reinforced by recent Supreme Court verdict.

The Role of Persuasion in Governance

Good governance has major characteristics like participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness, efficiency, accountability and strategic vision and consensus orientation.

The task of governance is difficult in a developing society like India with vast size and population, linguistic diversity, culture, religion and ethnic groups coupled with illiteracy, ignorance, superstition, diverse beliefs and faiths. Because, in a democracy, public opinion and will get primacy and ill-informed or uninformed people will hardly have informed and rational opinion. Disagreement gives rise to conflict, which turns ugly and spirals into major crisis. Therefore governance needs instruments of persuasion, which will impress the public about the legitimacy and benefits of the plans, programmes and schemes. Persuading people to agree or at least to be in sync with the policies and programmes of the government is important for the party in power.

However, persuasion is a tricky task.  Overdoing can and often do turn counter-productive. Like people get weary of hyperactive salesperson- over persuasion can make people edgy. It rarefies the belief-threshold.

Tale piece: How to take batch on a winter morning

Everybody knows the woes of taking a bath on a cold winter morning. Here are three modern ways of taking bath that bypasses the problem areas.

  1. Online Bath: Search for a photograph of river Gangess at Haridwar. Click your mouse thrice on the photo and use that photo as your facebook background.
  2. Mirror Bath: Stand before the mirror in the bathroom. Take water in a mug. Throw water on the mirror.
  3. Virtual Bath: Sit outside with your back towards the sun. Take water in a lota. Pour water on your shadow.

(Courtesy: Social Media)


The author, a journalist-turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. He also writes fiction. English translation of his Odia novel Yamraj Number 5003 is being published shortly.

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