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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Fame has sought him, his creations

The popular Hindi adage ‘Jahan na pahunche Ravi, wahan pahunche kavi’ (The poet manages to reach even where the sun doesn’t – in salute to the poet’s power of imagination) stands true for Naresh Saxena, 80. In Lucknow literary circles, he needs no introduction.

lucknow Updated: Feb 25, 2019 15:35 IST
Deep Saxena
Deep Saxena
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Naresh Saxena
Naresh Saxena(Dheeraj Dhawan/HT Photo)

The popular Hindi adage ‘Jahan na pahunche Ravi, wahan pahunche kavi’ (The poet manages to reach even where the sun doesn’t – in salute to the poet’s power of imagination) stands true for Naresh Saxena, 80. In Lucknow literary circles, he needs no introduction.

Even though his first book was published in 2000 at the age of 61, his fame and body of work has reached across the country. His poetry is part of syllabi right from Class VIII to M Phil in various states, and at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

But, that’s not all. He has made a solo film which has won a national award. His play ‘Aadmi Ka Aa’ has been staged over 5,000 times. He has made TV serials for Lucknow, Bhopal and DD National. His musical compositions have been aired on All India Radio and he has given flute and harmonica performances on stage. HT City profiles the multi-faceted Lucknowite.


He was born in Gwalior and after Intermediate, he completed his graduation studies (in engineering) from Jabalpur (1964), and post-graduation studies from Kolkata. In 1965, he joined Lucknow Jal Nigam as assistant engineer, from where he retired in 1997.

“My father was in the irrigation department, so I was brought up in the Chambal region. It is not just a co-incidence that I became an engineer of water! I have grown up in dak banglows around the tributaries of Chambal and have seen rivers and life around it very closely.”

Interestingly, he never went to a school till the age of 10. “We were living in a very remote area, so nothing was near our dak bungalow. So, I was directly admitted in Class V in Moraina. But, my parents took care of my basic education at home. I got into the habit of reading, which made my Hindi strong. Also, my sister later shifted to Etha for Hindi Sahitya Visharad course, so I got chance to read a lot of Hindi literature. That’s how I got into the habit of reading poetry – Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Sumitranandan Pant, Maithali Sharan Gupt and others.”

With no friends around and no one to play with, reading became his best pastime. “My passion for reading grew to the extent that I even ‘picked up’ a few books,” he confesses, bursting into laughter.


His first book ‘Samundra Pe Ho Rahi Hai Barish’ was published in 2000, and without a book to his credit, he had bagged the coveted Pahal Samman, which is awarded once in two years to a poet from across the country for his contribution to literature. “My poetry has been published since I was 17 that too in the prestigious Gyan Uday (Calcutta), Kalpana (Hyderabad) and Dharmyug. I never had to struggle. Gradually, I started getting invitations to kavi sammelans (poet symposia) and have performed on all major stages of India. I never felt the need to write a book till I retired.”

He had two books ‘Samundra Pe…’ and ‘Suno Charusheela (2011) and two collections of poetry (‘Kavi Ne Kaha’ and ‘Naresh Saxena aur unki chuninda kavitayein’) to his credit.


Closest to his heart are ‘Acche Bachchey’, ‘6 December’ (on the Babri mosque demolition), ‘Shishu’ and ‘Chambal ek nadi, ka naam’. “‘Chambal’… is closest to my heart. Never mind my listeners, it even brings tears to my eyes,” he said.

A few lines of his poem ‘Ek Vriksha’ have been immortalised on Lodhi Road (Delhi) and at the Dehradun crematorium. “It (my poetry) has reached places where I had never thought it would reach. A film has been made on my poem ‘Girna’, and on the same creation, a theatrical performance has been held in Varanasi.”

He renders the opening line of the poem: ‘Cheezeon ke girne ke niyam hote hain, manushya ke girne ke koi niyam nahi hotey’ (When objects fall they do so governed by science but there is nothing to measure how far man may fall)!

The poem ended on a hopeful and inspiriting note that if one has to fall then: Giro kisi dushman par, kisi gaaj ki tarah giro, ulka paat ki tarah giro, vajra paat ki tarah giro, main kehta hoon gir kar dikhao to sahi (Fall, but like a sword upon the enemy, fall like the meteor, or like a thunderbolt: Let me see how you can fall)!


“I made a serial ‘Jugalbandi’ for DD Lucknow and one for DD Bhopal in the ’80s. I made a serial ‘Nai Kiran’ that was telecast on national TV on prime time.” Besides, he has made few documentaries.

He won national awards for the only celluloid film he made. “I directed a 20-minute film ‘Sambandh’ that I shot on 35 mm print. It had been shown on DD and at many places and had also featured on ‘Surabhi’ TV. I won the Jury Special Mention Award in 1991 – the same year Amitabh Bachchan (Agneepath) won his first national award. Lata Mangeshkar too won another national award that year. So it was very special.”

‘Sambandh’ was shot in Lucknow (Bakshi Ka Talab) with city-based actors and was based on his own poetry ‘Ek vriksh bhi bacha rahe sansaar mein’. “But, I did not use my poetry in the film and interpreted it with visual medium and conveyed it with montages. The jury chairperson complimented that he has ‘for the first time seen creative use of grammar in the film’.”

Film happened by chance to him. “My wife (late Vijay Naresh) was supposed to direct the film. But, she went to Surinam as director of the Indian Cultural Centre. I had not made a film till then but my experience of TV and documentary came handy and I eventually made the film.”

His wife did not go to college after Intermediate and later, she completed her education privately. She then worked with All India Radio and Doordarshan. “She left her job and went to FTII, Pune and was the first woman to graduate in direction. She was appointed at the level of first secretary at the Embassy of Surinam and later director of Indian Cultural Centre there. Later, she became director of State Institute of Educational Technology.” His daughter Purva Naresh is a famous theatre director and son, Raghav, has an office job.


His first play ‘Ek Hati Manu’ was based on Rani Laxmibai. His play ‘Aadmi Ka Aah’, on literacy, has had 5,000 shows across the country and has been translated in many regional languages. Two of his plays ‘Utterly, Gutterly, Atrocious’ and ‘Pret’ (Ghost) have been adapted and directed by his daughter. Luminaries Urmil Kumar Thapliyal, Suryamohan Kulshrestha and a director from Kolkata have directed plays written by him.

Besides, his music composition has been broadcast from Lucknow, Allahabad and Delhi. “I have never learnt anything. I used to play the harmonica and used to believe that I was the best in the country till I heard RD Burman playing it. I have given stage performances for both flute and the harmonica.”

Talking about his love for music, he said, “All art forms aspire to be music. It was my first love but I could not learn it. My parents did not let me learn it so I learnt it on my own but it was ‘adha-adhoora’ (incomplete). In my serials and documentary, I have played the flute. Now, I can say poetry is closest to me. I have taken on everything as a challenge.”

On writing poetry he said, “Poetry removes the hurdles of life and creates new openings. ‘Arth pehle aatey hain, shabd baad main aatey hain (First comes the perception; the words merely follow)’. We have to search for words according to the perceptions we conceive. Poetry is an art of the language! It’s not just the use of language but a special use of language, and unfortunately, today, people just scribble anything and get labelled as a poet!”

First Published: Feb 25, 2019 15:35 IST