Kiran Nagarkar - The born storyteller no more

Updated: Sep 06, 2019, 15:11 IST | The Guide Team | Mumbai

The Sahitya Akademi award-winning writer Kiran Nagarkar passed away on Thursday evening after suffering a brain haemorrhage

Kiran Nagarkar
Kiran Nagarkar

Kiran Nagarkar, who was 77, passed away late Thursday. The author collapsed from a brain haemorrhage while at a friend's place where he had gone for Ganpati celebrations. He was rushed to Bombay hospital where he remained in a coma for two days, finally succumbing last night.

Considered to be one of the country's most prolific writers, Kiran Nagarkar worked as a journalist, screenplay writer, and a copywriter along with noted poet Arun Kolatkar. His first book Saat Sakkam Trechalis (1974) was written in Marathi and translated into Seven Sixes are Forty-Three by Shubha Slee in 1980. Since then, all his books have been translated into German. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award for the best novel in English for Cuckold — a novel set in the early 16th century — in 2001, the Rockefeller grant and a scholarship by the city of Munich. Nagarkar also made a cameo in Dev Benegal's Split Wide Open where he essayed the role of Brother Bono.

Kiran NagarkarKiran Nagarkar in his youth

Nagarkar's legacy as a writer was synonymous with the literature the city has produced. Raavan and Eddie, a popular series he penned was rooted in a chawl in Mazgaon. It was praised by Khushwant Singh as a "first-rate novel" and hailed him as "a born story-teller with an unerring eye for detail - and an artist of the erotica". This year, Juggernaut published the writer's latest book The Arsonist.

A friend said the author had been plagued by illnesses all his life. Last year, he was said to have suffered serious lung problems.

Friends Speak

Jagath Tekkate, COO, Kitab Khana

Jagath

'His last book, The Arsonist, came out recently and he was very excited about it. He, in fact, wanted to have its launch at Kitab Khana, a place he used to visit frequently. The last book he picked from the shelves was Shanta Gokhale's One Foot on the Ground. He was a thorough gentleman. We have lost a great soul'

Murzban F Shroff, writer

There is always something despairingly sad about the death of a writer because you'd like to ascribe an immortality to the person as you would to their works. Although Kiran and I didn't interact much, both of us being relatively low-key, we shared a similar career graph. We both broke away from advertising in order to create works of literature, we both wrote about the underbelly of Mumbai. He was, in every sense of the word, my elder, mining into themes of diversity, intolerance, and bigotry and driven by a Chekhovian fascination to raise uncomfortable questions. Kiran will continue to live and speak through his works'

Sidharth Bhatia journalist and writer

'We never worked together but I knew him rather closely and in fact, about 15 days ago, we spoke about something and decided we will meet. Then, three days ago I learnt of his medical situation. Obviously there are a lot of sad thoughts, but I know that he would have liked to be remembered in a particular way. He had a mischievous sense of humour, not just as a writer but also as a person. I have always thought of him as the quintessential Bombay writer, and I say Bombay, because he wrote at a time when this city had not become Mumbai. But most importantly, he was an outspoken liberal and that's how I will remember him'

Preeta Mathur Thakur, president, Ank theatre

Preeta Thakur

'The last time I met him was regarding my script for a theatrical adaptation of his book, Cuckold, which held at least six plays in it. He was a thorough researcher; for Cuckold, he spent several months in Rajasthan. I had been trying to reach him for the past few months, but he was a bit of a recluse. You could not find him unless he wanted to be found. I had so much to say to him, and there was still so much waiting to be done by him. This is a huge loss'

Juggernaut Books

Publisher, The Arsonist

All of us at Juggernaut Books are deeply grieved and shocked at Kiran Nagarkar’s sudden death. Kiran was one of our greatest writers and we are very proud that we had the privilege of publishing his last book, The Arsonist.

Like all his works, The Arsonist too is a work of great imagination and narrative pace, full of profound and often shocking truths. Kiran’s inspired telling of Kabir’s life places the mystic saint in a world which might be modern or ancient, but in which religious, caste and ethical conflicts are as charged and relevant as ever. Kiran Nagarkar’s Kabir is an iconoclastic rebel, a man with more questions than answers, and with a wisdom shorn of any ego, as he engages with the most urgent social and political issues of our times. The Arsonist is a work of enduring value, destined to become a classic.

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