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Padgaonkar wove magic with his words

Mangesh Padgaonkar  

People live. People die. It is natural for humans to depart this life when you are what is called “old”. But when I heard on Wednesday about the demise of Mangesh Padgaonkar, a towering personality of Marathi literature, I was shocked. Not only because he was gone, but also because literature cannot afford to lose giants such as Padgaonkar. It hurts.

For the last six decades, Padgaonkar wrote exquisite poetry, and also translated several landmark English and Hindi books into Marathi so that the community is introduced to great literary works in other languages. Even though his first three poetry collections – Dharanritya, Gypsy and Chhori – were romantic poems, it was with Vidushak and Salaam that he ventured into realism. Salam, for instance, was political satire.

Although Padgaonkar was best known for his superbly-crafted lyrics for landmark Marathi films, he has also written lyrical poems, satire ( Vatratika in Marathi), free verse, ‘bolgani’ and many more, each touching almost every aspect of life. He often wrote for children.

Padgaonkar translated the works of medieval poets such as Surdas, Kabir, and Meerabai into Marathi, along with Shakespeare’s The Tempest , Julius Cesar , and Romeo and Juliet . Translating the Bible would be an enormous project in itself, but he was determined to do it. In the end, he succeeded. His translations were so well received that the Sane Guruji Smarak Trust held a two-day seminar on them.

Needless to say, Padgaonkar’s poetry influenced many generations, and even his film lyrics have a certain timelessness to them. That they touched the hearts of millions would be an understatement; Marathi filmgoers still hum his lines, decades after they were written. He would write much of his poetry in the colloquial, and that helped, too.

I first met Padgaonkar when I was in primary school, and it happened because of his poem Chhori , which was about a sensitive teenage girl. My father, Dr MS Patil, a renowned Marathi critic and Padgaonkar’s university classmate, used to recite it whenever he was asked to do so.

Over the years, I realised that Padgaonkar was not only a great poet, but also a good human being. He was always there to give feedback about my writing; mentoring me through his words even though he did not realise it at the time. We often had long discussions over the phone about the art of writing poetry and short stories. I ended up learning a lot from him.

The first time Padgaonkar praised my work was when he thought I dealt with sexuality in a sensitive way in my short story Ushir Hotana (Getting Delayed). When I received the Bhairu Ratan Damani Award for my poetry collection Vena , he was the first to call me and tell me how delighted he was as he had also been a recipient.

One of his great contributions to Marathi poetry was public performances along with two other legends – Vasant Bapat and Vinda Karandikar. This trio travelled all over Maharashtra and later across India, doing stage shows with their poetry, something that was unique at the time.

Many young writers were influenced by the three greats, and decided to follow their footsteps. Not that it was an easy journey. Many critics slammed Messrs Padgaonkar, Bapat, and Karandikar for developing a trend that was “spoiling the young generation”. Critics felt that public performances were merely an avenue to create more audiences, and it did not get translated into any real appreciation for poetry. Nevertheless, they carried on. One of Padgaonkar’s greatest works is Gypsy , which depicts his life as a poet. It is an eloquent exposition of the creative process of writing a poem. Padgaonkar speaks of how a poet creates and destroys his own creation, and yet keeps on going in search of the unsaid and unknown things.

This poem has stayed in my subconscious forever. Today it seems this “gypsy” has gone in search of the unknown. He has responded to someone’s call and said goodbye to us. The poet who inspired his fans for over six decades is no more, but Padgaonkar will remain in our hearts through the best possible medium – his words.

(Neeraja is an award-winning Marathi poet, short story writer, and essayist)

Padgaonkar’s poetry influenced many generations, and even his film lyrics have a certain timelessness to them

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 11:32:45 AM |

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