Pu La: What he meant to me

PL Deshpande's Batatyachi Chawl
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It was a Saturday worth remembering. I had gone cattle grazing or rather Mhais (buffalo) sighting at the theater nearest me. What I mean is that two filmmakers came out with their own versions of PL Deshpande’s humorous essay Mhais. Chandi and Mhais were based on the essay by our beloved writer dating at age 54 PuLa.

Last week also happened to be his 13th death anniversary, the date being June 12. All of a sudden, one feels like reviving the emotions connected to a man who probably made the impossible possible – connect the whole of Maharashtra. As I write on what he means to me (his fan), Marathi literature and the state, keep in mind that such bias in Maharashtra is possible only for two people, Shivaji Maharaj and PuLa Deshpande.

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PL Deshpande
PL Deshpande’s ‘Asami Asami’

I belong to the last generation who got to see him at his work via the Doordarshan show Kathakathan. This was the time when television meant good viewing, despite government monopoly over it. I (a mere fawn) understood every word he spoke and smiled. I got mesmerised by his observations, wordplay and perceptive and obvious humour.  He was a pro at making us laugh at ourselves, and he accomplished it so beautifully. All this won him yet another fan, me.

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If you dissect PuLa’s works, you realise the relative ease with which he is able to make a point. Unlike PG Wodehouse to whom he is compared in terms of writing and humour, PuLa wrote on the common man and his writings were mostly addressed to him. For example, his Kathakathan was a series of humourous essays and life sketches revolving around people and things you would know. Paliv Prani (Pets) offered us a look at the world of pets and animals, while Mi Ani Majhe Shatrupaksha (My enemies and me) had him talk about his experience with certain avoidable people. Mumbaikar, Punekar, Nagpukar highlighted the characteristics of the citizens of these three cities. The list goes on. Every word spelt a connection. So much so, the word Punekar got attached with the people of Pune and is one that evokes innumerable emotions in each of us.

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He wrote plays, travelogues, books, made movies, wrote songs, composed music… if Bengal had the multifaceted Satyajit Ray, we had PuLa. His book Batatyachi Chaal (The Chawl of Potatoes) was a window in the world of chawls. Varyavarchi Varat (The procession on Air) showed episodes in his life – a literary meet in a village to a tale on the one Sunday in his life. Asa Mi Asami (It’s me, a common man) spoke of a common man who tries to understand the changes taking place in his family and the world around him. Generation have danced to the tunes of Nachre Mora (Dance Peacock), a song he composed on the words of another legend GaDi Madgulkar (GaDiMa). The list goes on.

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Batatyachi Chawl
PL Deshpande’s Batatyachi Chawl

I see PuLa as the eyes and ears of Maharashtra, a state which always had luminaries and revolutions in every field, be it literature, art, culture, language, history, social causes and so on. Unlike other literary greats, PuLa maintained the fine balance of philosophy, good & clean humour (or as PuLa would say, “Kambre varti aslele vinod” , mass appeal and literary standards. For a generation, which has to fight to find a clean idol in human form to worship, he is one of the few who comes into the category.

PuLa defines Marathi literature and was and still is one, whose work touches everyone who listen to it.

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