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Kiran Nagarkar (1942 – 5 September 2019) was an Indian novelist, playwright and screenwriter. A noted drama and film critic in Indian media, Nagarkar was one of the most significant writers of post-colonial India.[1]

Kiran Nagarkar
2013 – at the bookfair of Leipzig, Germany
2013 – at the bookfair of Leipzig, Germany
Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India (now Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)
Died (aged 77)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Literary movementIndian
Notable awardsSahitya Akademi Award,
Order of Merit of Germany
SpouseTulsi Vatsal

Amongst his notable works are Saat Sakkam Trechalis (tr. Seven Sixes Are Forty Three) (1974), Ravan and Eddie (1994), and the epic novel, Cuckold (1997) for which he was awarded the 2001 Sahitya Akademi Award in English by the Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters.[1][2][3] His novels written in English have been translated into German. In 2012, he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.[4]

Personal lifeEdit

Nagarkar was born in 1942 in Bombay in a middle-class Maharashtrian family.[5][6] He studied at Fergusson College in Pune and the S.I.E.S. College in Mumbai.[7][6] His grandfather, B. B. Nagarkar, was a Brahmo and had attended the 1893 Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago.[8]

From June to November 2011 he was 'writer in residence' of the Literaturhaus Zurich and the PWG Foundation in Zurich.[9]

He was married to Tulsi Vatsal, sister of industrialist Anand Mehta.[7][10] Nagarkar was a life long critic of the establishment and stood by his political views throughout his literary career.[11]

Nagarkar was admitted in hospital on 2 September 2019, after he had suffered a brain haemorrhage at a friend's place during the celebration of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival.[12] He remained in coma for two days and died on 5 September 2019.[7]


Nagarkar is notable among Indian writers for having written acclaimed novels in more than one language. His first novel, Saat Sakkam Trechalis published in Marathi language in 1974, was translated into English by Shubha Slee in 1980 and published in English in 1995 as Seven Sixes Are Forty Three.[13] It is considered one of the landmark works of Marathi literature.[14] His novel Ravan and Eddie, begun in Marathi but completed in English, was not published until 1994.[15] Since Ravan and Eddie, all Nagarkar's novels have been written in English. All his novels have been translated into German language.[12]

His third novel, Cuckold on mystic Meerabai's husband, Bhoj Raj, was published in 1997 and won the 2001 Sahitya Akademi Award. It took him nine years to write his next, God's Little Soldier, a tale of a liberal Muslim boy's tryst with religious orthodoxy, which was published in 2006, to mixed reviews.[16][17][18]

In 2012, he published The Extras, a sequel to Ravan and Eddie that traces the adult lives of Ravan and Eddie as extras in Bollywood. The third and last book in the Ravan and Eddie series was written in 2015, Rest in Peace, to complete a trilogy.[7]

His 2019 novel, The Arsonist, is a re-imagining of the life of Kabir, the 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint. It also critiqued the rise of Hindu majoritarianism in India.[11]

Plays and screenplaysEdit

In 1978, Nagarkar wrote the play Bedtime Story, based partly on the Mahābhārata. Its performance was extra-legally banned for 17 years by Hindu nationalist[13] fundamentalist parties,[19] including the Shiv Sena,[20][21][22][23] a far-right political party;[24] Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Hindu Mahasabha.[25] He warned about the twin dangers of censorship faced by India in the introduction of the Bed time stories.He stated: "Legal censorship in India can often be gauche, club-footed and hyper-protective of anything and everything but the freedoms of speech and expression. Extra-legal censorship in the country, however, is fearless and effective. It successfully prevented Bedtime Story from being performed for seventeen years."[13] In 2018 during an interview, Nagarkar did not appear to be concerned about the censorship prevailing in the country in 2018. He recalled the past incidents when the radical groups in Mumbai had threatened to prevent his play from staging. Nagarkar confidently stated in the interview that, "these things happen from time to time, and then only we can assure that art is still living."[26]

Nagarkar's theatre work also includes Kabirache Kay Karayche and Stranger Amongst Us, and his screenplay work includes The Broken Circle, The Widow and Her Friends, and The Elephant on the Mouse, a film for children.[26][27] Nagarkar played the role of Brother Bono as a cameo appearance in Dev Benegal's Movie Split Wide Open.[28]

Awards and honoursEdit

Kiran Nagarkar at the Chandigarh Literature Festival in 2010

Kiran Nagarkar was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and Sahitya Akademi Award among others. He had received the Rockefeller grant and a scholarship by the city of Munich.[12]



  • 1974: Seven Sixes are Forty Three (tr. of Saat Sakkam Trechalis). Translated by Shubha Slee. Pub. Heinemann, 1995. ISBN 0-435-95088-6.[7]
  • 1994: Ravan and Eddie[7]
  • 1997: Cuckold[7]
  • 2006: God's Little Soldier[27]
  • 2012: The Extras[7]
  • 2015: Rest in Peace[7]
  • 2017: Jasoda: A Novel[27]
  • 2019: The Arsonist[7]
Kiran Nagarkar at Chandigarh Literature Festival in 2016

Plays and screenplays

  • 1978: Bedtime Story[27]
  • Kabirache Kay Karayche[27]
  • Stranger Amongst Us[30]
  • The Broken Circle[26]
  • The Widow and Her Friends[26]
  • The Elephant on the Mouse[26]
  • Black Tulip[31]


  1. ^ a b c Sanga, p. 177
  2. ^ Sahitya Akademi Awards 1955–2007: English Archived 11 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine Sahitya Akademi Official website.
  3. ^ "In Conversation: The artful storyteller". The Hindu. 5 March 2006. Archived from the original on 4 November 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2008.
  4. ^ a b Staff writer (7 November 2012). "Germany confers Cross of Order of Merit, to Babasaheb Kalyani, Kiran Nagarkar". ANI. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Kiran Nagarkar: God's little soldier". 2 May 2006. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Sahitya Akademi awardee novelist Kiran Nagarkar dead". Mint. 5 September 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Vij, Gauri (6 September 2019). "Sahitya Akademi Award-winning writer Kiran Nagarkar dies at 77". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  8. ^ "Unapologetically Nagarkar". Harmony Magazine. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  9. ^ Angela Schader (20 June 2011). "Der indische Romancier Kiran Nagarkar ist Zürichs neuer "writer in residence"". Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  10. ^ "Humour and honours". Ahmedabad Mirror. 12 November 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  11. ^ a b Kohli, Diya (22 June 2019). "'I'm not trying to deny it has affected me': Kiran Nagarkar". Mint. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  12. ^ a b c "Kiran Nagarkar - The born storyteller no more". mid-day. 6 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  13. ^ a b c Tripathi, Salil (28 February 2015). "When Kiran Nagarkar said the unsayable". HT Media. livemint. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  14. ^ "Unapologetically Nagarkar, Harmony Magazine". Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  15. ^ "'The terrorist is inside us'". The Tribune. 15 April 2006. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  16. ^ "The Soldier Reads". Outlook. 24 April 2006. Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  17. ^ "LITERATURE: The light and the tunnel". The Hindu. 13 April 2006. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  18. ^ Shashi Tharoor (8 May 2006). "Review:A Fancy Bird Too Heavy To Fly". Outlook. Archived from the original on 11 August 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  19. ^ "Award-winning author Kiran Nagarkar dies". Mumbai Mirror (2). The Times Group. Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  20. ^ Tejuja, Vivek (20 March 2015). "Kiran Nagarkar's 'Bedtime Story and Black Tulip' a terrific read". Network18 Group. News18. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  21. ^ Dutta, Amrita (6 September 2019). "The bilingual bard of Bombay and Mumbai, Kiran Nagarkar gave Indian writing in English an electric charge". The Indian Express. Indian Express Group. The Indian Express. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  22. ^ Joshi, Poorva (17 March 2016). "Mumbai is indifferent to the rest of the country: author Kiran Nagarkar". (2). HT Media. Hindustan Times. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  23. ^ Bhattacharya, Chandrima S. (29 October 2015). "Duty to protest: Author". (1). Calcutta, West Bengal, India: ABP Group. The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  24. ^ Preston, Alex (10 February 2013). "The sharp end of Indian politics". British Broadcasting Corporation News (1). BBC. BBC News. Archived from the original on 20 November 2016. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  25. ^ Purandare, Vaibhav (2012). Sundarji, Padma Rao; Dasgupta, Shrabani; Mathpal, Sanjeev; Sahadevan, Shaji (eds.). Bal Thackeray and the rise of Shiv Sena. Mumbai, Maharashtra: Roli Books Private Limited. p. 288. ISBN 9788174369918. Retrieved 6 September 2019. In 1977-78, the [Shiv Sena] party, along with the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, extra-legally banned Bedtime Story, a play written by Kiran Nagarkar.
  26. ^ a b c d e March 7, Vinayak Mohan On (7 March 2018). "A Conversation With Kiran Nagarkar On Art, Language & Freedom Of Expression". Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  27. ^ a b c d e टीम, द वायर मराठी (5 September 2019). "कादंबरीकार किरण नगरकर यांचे निधन". द वायर मराठी. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  28. ^ "The Sunday Tribune - Spectrum - Wide Angle". 2 April 2000. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  29. ^ Staff writer (17 February 2013). "The Hindu Literary Prize goes to Jerry Pinto". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 20 February 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  30. ^ Bose, Ishani (20 October 2013). "The critics gave me absolutely no support: Writer of Bed Time Story Kiran Nagarkar". DNA India. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  31. ^ Tripathi, Salil (28 February 2015). "When Kiran Nagarkar said the unsayable". Retrieved 6 September 2019.


External linksEdit