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Popular thriller writer not invited to festival

Like fellow suspense novelist, the late Baburao Arnalkar, Gurunath Naik has readers galore but no place at literary high table.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2010 01:34 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times

At the annual three-day ritual called the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, the All-India Marathi literary meet, prominent authors, booksellers and readers converge to discuss the language’s future.

Missing conspicuously from this year’s line-up is thriller writer Gurunath Naik. But the septuagenarian is not very surprised.

Even though at 72, Naik is about to publish his 1,208th novel, called Aniruddha ani Usha (Aniruddha and Usha), probably a record, he usually finds himself an outsider in literary circles.

In this, he shares the experience of another thriller writer, the late Baburao Arnalkar, a trend-setter who wrote 1,180 books and found popularity among two generations of readers. Leave alone being considered to head such meets, they have rarely even been invited.

Naik and Arnalkar, who died in 1996, are suspense writers in the mould of Suhas Shirvalkar and Baba Kadam.

Characters such as Kalapahad and Jhunzar from Arnalkar’s suspense novels were once heroes among middle-class Maharashtrian youngsters.

“I drew inspiration from Arnalkar and started creating my own characters,” says Naik, sitting in his two-room house at Latur, about 480 km east of Mumbai.

Originally from Goa, Naik moved to Pune for a job. After working a few years there, he moved to Latur, a town in Marathwada district, where he continued producing one thriller after another.

Naik, a journalist by training, wrote his first novel Mrutyukade nenare chumban (The kiss of death) in 1957. Over the years, he created several characters, the most prominent among them being Golandaz and Captain Deep.

“Whenever I start writing a new novel, I leave the previous one behind. This allows me to create a fresh plot for each thriller.”

Some writers of so-called “high” literature might concede that Naik and his confrères have played a role in getting youngsters to read Marathi novels yet they tend to dismiss their works as formulaic.

“It’s sad that Arnalkar and Naik did not get the recognition they deserved,” says Aniruddha Kulkarni an alumnus of IIT Madras who writes about Marathi literature on his blog. “After all, the purpose of literature is gratification at some level.”

Naik is now collecting some of his old novels, which he believes might get into, if not literary festivals, at least the Guinness Book of World Records.

First Published: Dec 26, 2010 01:32 IST