Pratikshan at 25

In the early 1980s a group of sensitive, creative minds—a designer, a poet, a novelist, a journalist and rights activist, and a publisher—came together to form one of the best known and pioneering publishing outfits of the city.

The Pratikshan journal was launched as a fortnightly on 2 July 1983. Conceptualized and edited by Swapna Deb, this journal in Bengali sought to provide a balanced coverage of political, cultural, literary, social and economic issues. One of the regular attractions of this journal was the transcript of a monthly roundtable organized by Pratikshan, in which major thinkers and scholars exchanged ideas on a particular subject. Another annual feature in the journal would be the Central Budget review by the eminent economist Bhabatosh Datta.

In January 1984 Pratikshan published the first facsimile edition of Rupasi Bangla by Jibanananda Das (1899–1954). Designed exquisitely by Purnendu Pattrea, this book was unique in many ways. Using motifs from the traditional nakshikantha [intricately stitched and embroidered quilt] of Bengal, Pattrea illuminated Das’s text, with a feel of the quiet, sylvan rural Bengal, so characteristic of his poetry.

The same year Pratikshan embarked on the ambitious project of bringing out the complete unpublished works of Jibanananda Das, for which it has the exclusive rights. With new titles being added to this prestigious list every year, the series allows readers the rare privilege of studying the poet in his experimentations, and remains one of Pratikshan’s bestsellers.

Meanwhile, Pratikshan was also trying to build up a new, discerning readership in Bengali. It was the first publishing house in eastern India to have a distinct programme in art publishing. Monographs, albums, portfolios, posters representing the best of art in eastern India made up the first list which more recently has branched out into publishing in English; the first major items in the list include The Vision of Ray: Cine Posters and Beyond, Paintings of Abanindranath Tagore and Khuddur Jatra [Abanindranath’s brilliant take on the Ramayana illustrated in collage].

Purnendu Pattrea, a constant and enduring presence in the Pratikshan family, initiated several projects including a whole series in children’s literature; a series of selected short stories by contemporary Bengali writers, a single volume devoted to each of 40 selected writers; and a ‘pocket book’ series, each focusing on an aspect of cultural memory.

The rich Pratikshan list includes original fiction, poetry, and essays by major contemporary Bengali writers from both West Bengal and Bangladesh; and monographs on aspects of theatre, folk music, cinema, physics and social sciences.

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