The other black book

Originally written in Gujarati, this book got translated in several Indian languages and English. But people associated with Kaali Kitab or The Black Book by artist, author and activist Aabid Surti faced problems and backlash due its content, which criticised religious conventions. Now, that it has finally been released in Gujarati along with five other of his classics, we were keen to ask Surti if he has the strength to face controversies, all over again, “I am only 78 years old,” he says with a smile. After being shunned by several publishing houses due to its controversial content, Navhbharat Sahitya eventually agreed to publish the Mira Road resident’s works.

Gulabi Sandhyana Padchaya, Vaasak Sajja, Cabaret Dancer, Kaali Kitab, Pagle Pagle Pyar and Tutela Farishta; a set of six classics, Aabid Surti, Navbharat Sahitya Mandir, `1,350. Available at Shop 134, Navbharat Sahitya Mandir, Princess Street and other Gujarati bookstores. 

Kaali Kitab managed to make Urdu writer and activist Sajid Rashid lose at the assembly elections, when news got out that he was planning to publish a translation of the book in the ’70s. At this juncture in our chat, Surti makes a few revelations: “People say Rushdie (Salman) was inspired by this book to write Satanic Verses. The story was also selected to be printed in the Playboy magazine when it was first written, but its content deterred its publication.”
Another book that was released as a part of the set of six classics by Surti is Vaasak Sajja. “The book gives you an inside view of the red light area of Mumbai.

Aabid Surti with Vaasak Sajja and another of his famous character, Bahadur, at his home in Mira Road. Pic/Amit Jadhav

It is unlike other books, as I have lived there and seen it from inside,” says Surti. He also informs us that it is being made into a feature film. Tutela Farishta, which has been released, is a biographical book about Surti’s student days at JJ School of Arts. For the record, he is the creator of Indrajal Comics’ lone Indian hero, the super sleuth, Bahadur.

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