Popular Hindi novelist Ved Prakash Sharma, counted among the highest-selling Hindi writers in the country, died on Friday in Meerut. According to his family members, the 62-year-old writer was not keeping well and had developed an infection that led to his demise.
Famous for novels with unique titles like Dahej Mein Revolver (Revolver as Dowry), Widhva Ka Pati (Husband of a Widow) and Dulhan Maange Dahej (Bride Asks For Dowry), Mr. Sharma started his writing career at the age of 14 and initially ghost written novels for others.
But it was Vardi Wala Gunda (Goon in Uniform), published in 1993, that gave him the big break. The novel, based on atrocities committed by a cop, broke many records and is supposed to have sold more than eight crore copies. While literary critics saw his writing as “pulp fiction,” Sharma saw himself as part of the tradition of detective fiction which was started by great Indian writers like Devki Nandan Khatri, Ibn-e-Safi and Ved Prakash Kamboj. In all he wrote over 176 novels. Mr. Sharma had also written scripts for about half-a-dozen Hindi films and a few of his novels were made into films.
In an interview with The Hindu in 2015, he said that every book he wrote had a positive message to the society and had slammed the critics for pigeon-holing his work as “pulp fiction”.
In the interview he also asked, “ Why my writing is categorised as “pulp” fiction only because it is written on rough paper. Whatever I write has been called by the high-brow literary bodies “pulp” fiction in English or “lugdhi sahitya” (lugdhi being Hindi for rough, referring to the paper it gets printed on), but that doesn’t affect me.”
He had accused the critics of being biased against his writings which were read by popular masses and had said, “So a certain of kind of literature which is read not just by thousands but several millions will remain on the margins of literature just because it is published on rough [inferior quality] paper.”
One famous anecdote, Sharma used to quote was when he was travelling in a train to Darjeeling with his family after of the launch of “Vardi Wala Gunda”. “In the train there were 52 seats. Besides us six people, I found about 40 people reading the book.”
Bhupendra Chaudhary, owner of Janta Book Stall in Meerut, told The Hindu that Sharma's novels used to be booked by readers well ahead of their launch. “Mr. Sharma was like a celebrity and remained one of the highest-selling Hindi writers for several years. Even now we sell his old novels, and people do buy his novels at a time when youngsters have almost stopped reading,” Mr. Chaudhary said.