22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Kiran Nagarkar

Portrait Kiran Nagarkar
© Hartwig Klappert

Kiran Nagarkar was born in Mumbai in 1942. In addition to plays and screenplays, he has written four novels, establishing his reputation as an outstanding representative of contemporary Indian literature. His books are a target of ideological critique due to the hybrid nature of his version of postcolonialism, involving irreverence alongside seriousness.

Nagarkar studied at the Ferguson College in Mumbai and then worked as an assistant professor, journalist and screenplay writer, and, notably, in the advertising industry. He wrote his first book »Saat Sakkam Trechalis« (1974; Eng. »Seven Sixes are Forty Three«, 1980) in his mother tongue, Marathi. His bitter and burlesque description of young Kushank from Mumbai – achieved by means of a fragmented form and rendered in innovative language – is considered to be a milestone in Marathi literature. In his first play »Bedtime Story« (1978), Nagarkar takes on the subject of modern responsibility by broaching the topic of political crises of the day (for instance the Cuban Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the State of Emergency called for by Indira Gandhi). Due to problems with state censorship as well as religiously motivated restrictions that prevailed over the cultural scene, the play was not staged until 1995. His second book »Ravan and Eddie« (1994) also met with a hostile response. The story of the childhood of two young boys, one Hindu, the other Christian, from families who live next door to each other yet live in completely different worlds, was criticized both as anti-Hindu and anti-Christian. The fact that Nagarakar chose to write this book and other subsequent writings in English, the language of his education, also encountered objections from his fellow countrymen. In his subsequent novels, Nagarkar contrasts bigotry and extremism with a tolerance that feeds on doubt and is open to diversity. In »Cuckold« (1997), this mentality is embodied in a character who looms in Indian historiography. This is the unknown spouse of the famous princess Meera from the 16th century, whose love songs to the God Krishna have passed into popular Indian culture. In »God’s Little Soldier« (2006), the protagonist, who switches faiths without ever abandoning extremism, stands opposed to his questioning brother. »The Extras« is a sequel to the story of »Ravan & Eddie«, told in a very dynamic way and full of humour. Ravan and Eddie try to fulfil their dream of a social career, glamour and Rock and Roll in Mumbai in the 1960s and 1970s.

Nagarkar was distinguished with the H.N. Apte Award for the best first novel, the renowned Sahitya Award and the Dalmia Award »for the furtherance of communicative harmony through literature«. He received a Rockefeller grant and was awarded a scholarship by the DAAD Artists’ Programme and the city of Munich. He lives in Mumbai.