Last year, in January I was hit by a lightning one morning when I came to know of the sudden demise of the legendary singer Pintu Bhattacharya, who was not only a wonderful singer but also a great human being and a personal guide and guardian in my musical career. My Obituary on him was published on WBRI, and many readers later on expressed their feelings as they were touched by the piece on Pintu Kaku, as I used to call him fondly…However, this morning, in the wee hours, when my friend Supriyo da called me up to say that the noted Author Sunil Gangopadhyay has left for his heavenly abode at 2 in the morning, succumbing to a massive heart attack. I was simply dumbfounded, and could not control my tears…the first feeling which came to my mind was –“I have lost my most favorite author of all time”…Among all his novels, I particularly loved Aranyer Dinratri, Sei Somoy, Sudoor Jharnar Jwole, Chhobir Deshey Kobitar Deshey and Kishoe o Sannyasini…oh what a novel the last one is… not much has been written about this one, but a constant reader knows and feels his most profound thoughts lie between its pages all the while…
Sunil da married Swati Bandopadhyay probably on the February 26, 1967.
They have a son Sauvik, who lives in Boston.
Coming back to Sunil Gangopadhyay, I used to call him Sunil-da, since the mid eighties when I was introduced to him by noted author Sanjib da (Sanjib Chattopadhyay) for the very first time, and found him to be a wonderful philosopher and friend like senior. At that time I was writing articles for The Statesman in English, and often I used to visit him, seeking advice. I am also indeed so fortunate to sit at a distance within the confines of the DESH office while Sanjib da, Ananda da (Ananda Bagchi), and Sunil da often chatted for hours; I being a silent listener.
He was born in Faridpur in what is now Bangladesh, and he was a Master’s holder degree in Bengali from the University of Calcutta in 1954.He was also the founder editor of “Krittibas”, a seminal poetry magazine which started publishing from 1953 that became a platform for a new generation of poets experimenting with many new forms in poetic themes, rhythms, and words. Later, he started writing for various publications of the Ananda Bazar group, and even later worked for DESH magazine, where I often frequented in the early evening hours (my house being a short walk from ABP offices on Prafulla Sarkar Street) to spend some time with Sunil Da, Sanjib da and Dulendra-da (author Dulendra Bhowmik). It was such a lovely time, which began in the mid eighties and stretched well into the nineties.
Coming back to Sunil da, he also became friends with the American poet Allen Ginsberg while he was traveling in India. Ginsberg mentioned Sunil da most notably in his poem “September on Jessore Road”.
As it goes:
“Is this what I did to myself in the past?
What shall I do Sunil Poet I asked?
Move on and leave them without any coins?
What should I care for the love of my loins?”
Sunil Da in return mentioned Ginsberg in some of his prose work, and after serving five years as the Vice President, he was elected the President of the Sahitya Akademi on February 20, 2008.
Sunil-da, along with Tarun Sanyal, Jyotirmoy Datta and Satrajit Dutta had volunteered to be defense witnesses in the famous trial of “Hungrialism” poet Malay Roy Choudhury.
Sunil Gangopadhyay in his lifetime also bagged the following awards”
1972: Ananda Puraskar – for General Work
1983: Bankim Puraskar – for his colossal work – “Sei Somoy”
1985: Sahitya Akademi Award – for his lifetime’s work – once again for “Sei Somoy”
1989: Ananda Puraskar – for his epic novel “Purba Paschim”
2002: Became the Sheriff of Kolkata
2004: Saraswati Samman
2011: The Hindu Literary Prize, shortlist, The Fakir
2012: Sera Bangali Lifetime Achievement Award by Star Ananda
Author of well over 200 books, Sunil is a prolific writer who has excelled in different genres but declares poetry to be his "first love". His Nikhilesh and Neera series of poems (some of which have been translated as For You, Neera and Murmur in the Woods) have been extremely popular. As in poetry, Sunil is known for his unique style in prose. His first novel was 'Atmoprakash' and it was also the first writing from a new comer in literature published in the prestigious magazine- 'Desh' (1965).
It was critically acclaimed but some controversy arises for its aggressive and 'obscene' style.
Sunil said that he was afraid of this novel and went left Calcutta for some time.
The legendary film-maker Satyajit Ray thought to make a film on it but it wasn't possible for various reasons. The central character of 'Atmoprakash' is a young man of core-calcutta'- sunil, who leads a bohemian life-style. The novel had inspiration from ' On the road' by Jack Kerouac, the beat generation writer.
However, later Ray filmed “Pratidwandi”, (English title: The Adversary) and the all time favorite of mine – “ Aranyer Din-Raatri” (The Days and Nights of the Forest, also filmed by Satyajit Ray),
"Ekaa ebong Koyekjon" is also his very well known work of fiction.
His historical fiction “Sei Somoy” (translated into English by Aruna Chakravorty as Those Days) received the Bankim Puraskar in 1983 and then the Indian Sahitya Akademi award in 1985. “Sei Somoy” however continues to be a best seller now for many more decades after its first publication. The same is true for “Pratham Alo” (also translated recently by Aruna Chakravorty as “First Light”), and my hot favorite which is yet another best selling historical fiction called “ Purbo-Paschim”, based on Partition issues, a raw depiction of the partition and its aftermath seen through the eyes of three generations of Bengalis in West Bengal, Bangladesh and elsewhere. Sunil da however had received the Ananda Puraskar for General Work in 1972.
He has written in many other genres, which includes travelogues, children's fiction, short stories, features, and essays. Among his other pseudo -names are: Nilloheet, Sanatan Pathak, and Nil Upadhyay.
Though he has written all types of children's fiction, one character created by him that stands out above the rest, is Kakababu, the crippled adventurist, accompanied by his young adult nephew Santu, aming which “Sabuj Dwiper Raja” became very famous in the late seventies when it was made into a film by the master director Tapan Sinha. Since 1974, Sunil Gangopadhyay has written over 35 novels of this popular Kakababu series, most of which appeared in Anandamela magazine. One of Sunil Gangopadhyay's cult poems, Smritir Shohor has been turned into a song for the film Iti Mrinalini (2011) directed by Aparna Sen.Novels
His first novel was Atmoprakash, and Some of his other novels include:
Bandhubandhab - an unusual work on friendship
Purba-Paschim(in two parts) - an epic novel on east and west Bengal
Jeeban Je Rakam
Eka Ebong Koyekjon - Bengal & India during early 20th century up to Independence
Pratham Alo (in two parts) - an epic novel on Bengal Renaissance where Tagore & Swami Vivekananda are two of the few main protagonists. Their journey through life as teenagers to grow up being the man they eventually did marks this epic as a literary masterpiece. His "3Somudro 27 Nodi" is one of his major work with a travelogue flavor. Also includes:.
Nih-sanga Samrat (The Lonely Emperor)
Ranu O Bhanu (Novel on Rabindranath and Ranu Mukherjee)
Moner Manush-made into a motion film by Goutam Ghose,based on Lalon Fakir, a famous and iconic baul poet of early 18th-19th Century BengalKakababu series
Sabuj Dwiper Raja
Kakababu O Sindukrahasya
Kakababu O Bajralama
Santu Kothay,Kakababu Kothay
Jangaler Modhe Ek Hotel
Santu O Ak Tukro Chand
Kakababu Herey Gelen?
Pahar Churae Atanka
Khali Jahajer Rohosyo
Agun Pakhir Rohoshyo
Kakababu Bonam Chorashikari
"Sadhubabar haat(Short Story)"
"Kakababu O Ek Chhodmobeshi"
"Ebar Kakababur Protishodh"
"Mishor Rohoshsho(Mystery in Egypt)"
"Kakababu O Ashchorjo Dweep"
"Agneyogirir peter madhye"
Kakababu O Jaladashu
Poetry Collection: (some of them)
Hathat Nirar Janya (my all time favorite)
Sada Prishtha tomar sange (another mind blowing work of his...)
Sei Muhurte Nira
Kaydata Shikhe Nebe