A thought-provoking writer with a little madness in his writing — that’s how septuagenarian Kiran Nagarkar was introduced at an interview panel on Monday, day three of the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
Nagarkar, 71, did not repudiate the description as he sportingly demystified himself to a motley group of readers and fans in the gardens of the David Sassoon library.
"I am an accidental writer. I never knew what I wanted to be when I was young," said the jovial Nagarkar.
In the interview, conducted in Marathi by Loksatta journalist Raj Jagtap, Nagarkar revealed that he had never intended to write in Marathi.
"Having studied only in English after Class 4, I naturally began writing in that language. My first attempt at writing in Marathi was not even a page long," said the author of the famous Marathi play Bedtime Stories and novel Saat Sakam Trechalis (Seven by Six is Forty-Three).
Asked why he never wrote any more plays after Bedtime Stories, Nagarkar said he was "fed up after having to make 78 cuts in the play during the Emergency".
During the interview, Nagarkar also reminisced about his days in the advertising profession, working alongside poet and playwright Arun Kolatkar.
"We were the crisis team for the advertising agency," said Nagarkar, citing an instance when the duo had to come up with an ad campaign for Air India overnight.
Calling himself a "bad follower" of Mahatma Gandhi, Nagarkar said that he had tried to reflect the leader’s philosophy in some of his work, particularly in the novel God’s Little Soldier.
For the audience, being part of a conversation with Nagarkar in Marathi was a unique treat.
"This is the first time I have attended a Nagarkar session in this language," said filmmaker and activist Chitra Palekar, who was in the audience. "I am a big fan and I wish his session had gone on for another hour."
Nagarkar himself wished he could have talked longer. "If I sit down to discuss even one of my books, it would take a few hours. But I really enjoyed the session, and I liked connecting with my readers," he said. "An author can only build half the bridge, the reader builds the other half."