Remembering Kiran Nagarkar: From Ravan and Eddie to Cuckold, a look at the writer's best works

Recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award, noted playwright and novelist Kiran Nagarkar passed away on 5 September, aged 77. He was among the most prominent voices of post-colonial Indian literature, and wrote in both English and Marathi.

 Remembering Kiran Nagarkar: From Ravan and Eddie to Cuckold, a look at the writers best works

Kiran Nagarkar. Photo credit: Facebook @knagarkar.

As the Indian literary world loses one of it's leading writers, here is a look at some of his best works:

Seven Sixes Are Forty-three (Saat Sakkam Trechalis)

Considered a landmark in Marathi literature, the novel follows struggling writer Kushank Purandare and the diverse characters that live around him. There's his ex Aroti, now married to another man, Kuku who has gouged her eyes out, and Kathave who beats his daughters, among others. With dark humour and intriguing prose, it traces Purandare's mindset of wallowing in his past, doing odd jobs, and waddling through an uncertain world filled with incoherence and lacking empathy.

Ravan and Eddie

Ravan and Eddie humourously tells the story of two extravagant characters as they embark on adventures in post-colonial urban India. With Mumbai as a backdrop, it brings the city alive, making it seem almost like another character in their story, while bringing class differences to the fore. He followed this up with The Extras in 2012, where he traces the two protagonists' lives as adults as they work as Bollywood extras; and finally, Rest in Peace in 2015 where the two have become established music directors in Bollywood and are determined to achieve stardom, completing the trilogy.

Cuckold

Named after Bhakti mystic Meerabai's husband Bhoj Raj, Cuckold won Nagarkar the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2001. It's situated at the stressful time of change when the successor to the Mewar throne must be decided. The protagonist Maharaja Kumar, heir apparent, takes readers on a narrative journey, questioning long-established conventions and scrutinising widely-understood assumptions about the feudal world. Politics and personal life blend together as Cuckold presents commentary on society and religion, war, and palace intrigues of the time, brilliantly recreating the 16th century.

God's Little Soldier

The story follows Zia Khan, from a cultured Muslim family as he grows up in Bombay, and a gifted mathematician. The book follows him on a spiritual quest as he's torn between the religious orthodoxy of his aunt and the easy-going opinions of his parents. At Cambridge, he fervently accepts orthodoxy, leading him to a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. However, he's soon disillusioned, and looks desperately for peace. The story is an emotional roller-coaster narrated compellingly, questioning the ambiguities of good and evil, and the conflicts that stem between people.

Bedtime Story

Nagarkar's 1978 play Bedtime Story sees a grandmother telling the tale of the Mahabharata, the stories of Karna, Eklavya and Draupadi. Based partially on the Mahabharata, it highlights the gender and class violence, the oppression and the injustice lining the epic. Written after the 1975 Emergency and a prime target for religious fundamentalists, the play also highlights how little has changed from the ancient Kurushetra war to the Second World War, bringing the themes to contemporary boardrooms.

Updated Date: Sep 06, 2019 10:18:20 IST