Renowned poet, writer, critic, artist and filmmaker Dilip Chitre passed away at his residence here on Thursday. Mr. Chitre (71) is survived by his wife Vijaya and grandson Yohul. His only son Ashay died a few years ago.
Mr. Chitre’s brother, Ajit, told The Hindu that the poet had been ailing for a year. He contracted ‘chikungunya’ last December and developed other complications. Investigations revealed that he was suffering from liver cancer, and though he underwent chemotherapy, it did not help.
Mr. Chitre was one of the leading poets of the post-Independence era, writing with as much flair in English as in Marathi. Along with Arun Kolatkar, he was a pioneer of modern Indian English poetry. He was also a pioneering member of the ‘Little Magazine Movement’ of the 1960s.
An accomplished translator, his most noted contribution was ‘Says Tuka,’ a translation of the abhangas (devotional poems) of 17th century Marathi poet-saint Tukaram. His film Godam received the prestigious French Prix Special du Jury award.
Mourning his death, the former Maharashtra Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, called Mr. Chitre a “multi-talented personality,” while Sushilkumar Shinde, another former Chief Minister, termed his death an “irreparable loss.”
Doyens of Marathi theatre and literature attended Mr. Chitre’s funeral. “His death is a loss of his body, but he will remain with us in spirit. He wanted to make a film on Sant Tukaram. It is rare to find a person as inspired as he. Kolatkar and Chitre gave grandeur to Marathi and Indian English literature, and yet he was very simple,” noted actor Mohan Agashe said.
As Mr. Chitre bids farewell to the grand world of literature, lines from one of his poems, ‘Father Returning Home,’ fittingly convey the unity in death of the infinite stretches of past and future: “His eyes dimmed by age/fade homeward through the humid monsoon night…He will now go to sleep/Listening to the static on the radio, dreaming/Of his ancestors and grandchildren, thinking/Of nomads entering a subcontinent through a narrow pass.”
In the same poem, there is an oft-quoted line, famous for its imagery: “Now I can see him getting off the train/Like a word dropped from a long sentence.” In poetic terms, Mr. Chitre’s death is the loss of a word from the long sentence of Marathi and English literary traditions. The life and lines he has left behind, however, will often be remembered by adoring readers across the world.