Written by Sameer Manekar
“Pu La aimed to work for the society through his art. He would pay the school fees of underprivileged children, connect budding writers to publishers, donate for upcoming libraries and literature festivals, without expecting any kind of payback or publicity,” said Mangala Godbole, eminent Marathi writer and close acquaintance of Purshottam Laxman Deshpande, popularly known as Pu La.
To mark the birth centenary celebration of Deshpande, Global Pulotsav 2018 is being organised in Pune with several programmes lined up till November 25. A panel discussion on various attributes of the celebrated Marathi writer and humourist was conducted on Tuesday at the Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad on Tilak Road.
The panel discussion, Dene PuLanche (Pu. La.’s contribution), saw the presence of Milind Joshi, chairman of Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad, Jyoti Subhash, veteran film and TV actor, Ramchandra Dekhane, Marathi writer and researcher of folk literature as well as Dinkar Gangal, chief editor of Think Maharashtra and founder of Granthali Publications. The panel was hosted by Godbole.
Commencing the discussions by introducing Pu La as the ‘Tagore of Maharashtra’, as once termed by GD Madgulkar, an eminent Marathi poet, the panel talked about Deshpande’s characteristics as a writer, playwright, activist, and his contribution to literature, society and folk culture.
Mesmerised by Deshpande since an early age, senior actor Subhash talked about the passion and energy that drove the writer in his works. “We have read him mostly as a humorist, but when I watched his performance as Sant Chokhoba in the 1950 Marathi film, Hee Vat Pandharichi, I was spellbound. That moment I realised his ability as an actor. He could change the emotions in his eyes, which was completely different from his personality that we had seen. I have rarely seen this level of passion, dedication and purity in any other artiste.”
Talking about the politically conscious Deshpande, Joshi said the celebrated writer believed in being an activist when it was time to do so, and he returned to art when his participation was no longer needed. “Deshpande did not participate in any political rallies or protests during the emergency, but instead utilised his time in translating the letters of JP Narayan to Indira Gandhi in Marathi, to make the Marathi reader aware of it. He did not join the politicians for celebration over the formation of Janata Party government. It is important to realise the role of an artiste in the society, and Deshpande was well aware of that.”
While speaking about Deshpande’s contribution towards folk culture, Dekhane said, “The truth of art and the truth of the world are no different. The person who understands and relays this fine amalgamation of truth and art is the real artiste, and that’s who Pu La was.” Dekhane also talked about Deshpande’s humour, and how the celebrated writer was conscious of humour not just as a tool to make people laugh but also as a medium that is equivalent to the richness and importance of knowledge and language. “He was not just a humorist but a humour scholar — vinod pandit.”
Asked about Deshpande and his literature’s relevance in today’s time, Gangal struck a doubtful note on the written word’s fading relevance. “Maharashtra experienced the richness of language and literature till the 80s and 90s. Words were the predominant medium in those days. But since the emergence of different media of communication, like TV, words have began to lose their relevance.”
Godbole acknowledged the gap between Deshpande’s works and current generation, but was also hopeful of the future. “I do not think Pu La will ever be forgotten. Because of emergence of other media, there is a huge gap between his literature and today’s generation. But these same media can be used to propagate his works. It can be distributed through audio, video as well as by introducing it among youngsters in families by his enthusiasts.”