Noted novelist and playwright Kiran Nagarkar, known for his books ”Cuckold,” and ”Bedtime Stories”, died in Mumbai on Thursday night. He was 77.
Mr Nagarkar, a Sahitya Akademi Award winner, had been sick for some time and was admitted to a hospital in south Mumbai where he died at night, hospital sources said.
The novelist, playwright, film and drama critic, and screenwriter both in Marathi and English were one of the most significant writers of post-colonial India.
Among his most known works are ”Saat Sakkam Trechalis” (Seven Sixes Are Forty Three) (1974), ”Ravan and Eddie” (1994) and the epic English novel ”Cuckold” (1997), for which he was honoured with the 2001 Sahitya Akademi Award.
Mr Nagarkar’s novel ”The Extras”, which is a sequel to ”Ravan and Eddie”, traces the adult lives of Ravan and Eddie as extras in Bollywood. It was released in late January 2012.
Completing the trilogy, Mr Nagarkar released ”Rest in Peace: Ravan & Eddie” in 2015.
Mr Nagarkar released his latest novel ”Jasoda” in November 2017.
As the Indian literary world loses one of it’s leading writers, here is a look at some of his best works:
Seven Sixes Are Forty-three (Saat Sakkam Trechalis)
Considered a landmark in Marathi literature, the novel follows struggling writer Kushank Purandare and the diverse characters that live around him. There’s his ex Aroti, now married to another man, Kuku who has gouged her eyes out, and Kathave who beats his daughters, among others. With dark humour and intriguing prose, it traces Purandare’s mindset of wallowing in his past, doing odd jobs, and waddling through an uncertain world filled with incoherence and lacking empathy.
Ravan and Eddie
Ravan and Eddie humorously tells the story of two extravagant characters as they embark on adventures in post-colonial urban India. With Mumbai as a backdrop, it brings the city alive, making it seem almost like another character in their story while bringing class differences to the fore. He followed this up with The Extras in 2012, where he traces the two protagonists’ lives as adults as they work as Bollywood extras; and finally, Rest in Peace in 2015 where the two have become established music directors in Bollywood and are determined to achieve stardom, completing the trilogy.
Named after Bhakti mystic Meerabai’s husband Bhoj Raj, Cuckold won Nagarkar the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2001. It’s situated at the stressful time of change when the successor to the Mewar throne must be decided. The protagonist Maharaja Kumar, heir apparent, takes readers on a narrative journey, questioning long-established conventions and scrutinising widely-understood assumptions about the feudal world. Politics and personal life blend together as Cuckold presents commentary on society and religion, war, and palace intrigues of the time, brilliantly recreating the 16th century.
God’s Little Soldier
The story follows Zia Khan, from a cultured Muslim family as he grows up in Bombay, and a gifted mathematician. The book follows him on a spiritual quest as he’s torn between the religious orthodoxy of his aunt and the easy-going opinions of his parents. At Cambridge, he fervently accepts orthodoxy, leading him to a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. However, he’s soon disillusioned, and looks desperately for peace. The story is an emotional roller-coaster narrated compellingly, questioning the ambiguities of good and evil, and the conflicts that stem between people.
Nagarkar’s 1978 play Bedtime Story sees a grandmother telling the tale of the Mahabharata, the stories of Karna, Eklavya and Draupadi. Based partially on the Mahabharata, it highlights the gender and class violence, the oppression and the injustice lining the epic. Written after the 1975 Emergency and a prime target for religious fundamentalists, the play also highlights how little has changed from the ancient Kurushetra war to the Second World War, bringing the themes to contemporary boardrooms.