Updated: March 26, 2021 6:36:12 pm
One of India’s best known editors and a tireless supporter of the arts, Anil Dharker passed away on Friday morning in Mumbai, following hospitalisation for a heart ailment. During his lifetime, Dharker had donned many hats and was the lifeline behind the popular literary festival, Tata Literature Live.
“He was a multifaceted person with interests that ranged from cinema to single malts and tennis,” said author Jerry Pinto. There are two visions of Dharker that he remembers, one as the dapper man who wore a kurta and churidar with great style; and the other, in shorts and t-shirt, sweating after a match at the Bombay Gymkhana. He was a liberal and had a fierce courage as a writer and as an editor. And so, when parochialism reared its ugly head, you could rely on him to speak as a cosmopolitan voice.
Dharker worked as an editor across several publications, of different genres, starting with the Debonair, then Mid-day, The Independent, and the Illustrated Weekly of India. Media producer and former Rajya Sabha member, Pritish Nandy, who was associated with Dharker since his journalism years, described him as being “committed to liberal causes and found him a man of great science and knowledge.” Nandy added, “Anil reinforced the role of the editors in our time.”
Author Kiran Manral, who has known Dharker since 1996 and worked with him, said, “He will be missed. He never shied away from voicing his opinion. He was among the last bastion of the best editors.”
With an engineering degree from the University of London, Dharker’s first stint was in architecture, looking at fire safety in multistoried buildings. His interest in cinema, and his writings on it, led him to the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), then called the Film Finance Corporation. Eventually, he headed the NFDC, helping several young filmmakers launch their first oeuvres and enabling NFDC to co-produce Richard Attenborough’s seminal film, Gandhi.
In recent years, Dharker was best known for his unrelenting interest in India’s literary landscape. Those associated with Dharker remember him for encouraging young authors and was generous with his time for them. He was the founder and director of Tata Literature Live, an annual literature festival that has run for eleven editions and has a prominent place in Mumbai’s cultural calendar. During the course of the festival, Dharker was a familiar face at panel discussions and cafes, where he would be spotted wearing his iconic kurtas. Nandy said that this was Dharker’s idea in “an age when books are no longer centerstage, to build excitement over new book releases”.
In a statement issued, Tata Literature Live! said: The Mumbai Litfest acquired international acclaim under his visionary leadership, a role which combined rare inspiration and tremendous hard work in equal measure. Anil Dharker was the quintessential Renaissance Man, myriad-minded and deeply knowledgeable across genres; an engineer by training who shone in the Arts. He married his scientific temper to a keen love for literature, cinema, music and art, straddling both Indian and Western traditions… As an editor, cultural leader, festival director and committed human rights activist, he applied both rigorous examination and humanity to all he undertook.
“His work ethic was impeccable, his energy unbounded, and his support for his team steadfast and gracious at all times. He always drove himself and us to fly higher and stronger. Tata Literature Live! is testament to that spirit. It has been an honour, pleasure and privilege to be associated with Anil Dharker as a leader and a friend. We will miss him more than we can ever say.”
Paying tributes to the late journalist, Shobhaa De tweeted: “Goodbye dearest Anil. An elegant mind, a stylish writer, and a loyal friend. You will be missed by all those whose lives you touched. RIP”.
— Shobhaa De (@DeShobhaa) March 26, 2021
Expressing grief over Dharker’s demise, columnist Bachi Karkari tweeted: “Extremely saddened by the passing of the many talented Anil Dharker. I can safely say no other Indian Litfest curator had his deep, emotional commitment or drive. Knew him for well nigh 50 years. Flourish as much up there, dear Anil.”
Poet, lyricist and Chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) Prasoon Joshi tweeted: “Saddened to hear about Anil Dharker passing away. Will miss and cherish the discussions we had about life. A stimulating mind, nurturer of literature and art who thrived on ideas.”
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