Netaji in Marathi Literature

Author: SB Joshi

SB Joshi received the Sahitya Academy award in 1970

Bengal and Maharashtra, as we are all aware, are two States in this country with close emotional and cultural bonds. Through the thick and thin of our freedom struggle, we came closer still and several luminaries of Bengal came to be household names in Maharashtra. Similarly names of Chhatrapati Shivaji and Lokamanya Tilak became inspiring symbols of Swarajya here in Bengal. Of all the illustrious sons of Bengal, two have appealed to the Maharashtrian imagination, far more intensely than several others. I refer of course to Swamiji and Netaji. Swami Vivekananda and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose have inspired and aroused thousands of Maratha youth to action in the past decades of this century and their legendary lives would no doubt stand as beacons of light for years to come. Innumerable cultural and educational institutions and academies named alter them have sprung up all over Maharashtra and are doing excellent work in their chosen spheres. A number of marble statues of these two men dot the public Squares in many a Maharashtra town and suitable other memorials also adorn the rural and urban face of Maharashtra.

Maharashtra's veneration for these two great men primarily springs from their being men of action, Karmayogins, rather than tub-thumping orators. In a Shivaji-oriented society, men of deeds are naturally more respected than mere men of words. They also serve who hear the words of God and act upon it. This latter part is often ignored and we are faced with a plethora of preachers and pedagogues, to whose platter and platitudes there is no end. But nations are built on the solid foundations of sacrifice and action and those who practice what they preach alone have claims to undying gratitude of their countrymen. As our Sadhu Tukaram said : "Who does what he says is rare. Touch his feet." Swamiji's clarion call: 'Awake Arise' or Netaji's slogan : 'Chalo Delhi' became watch words for the struggling patriots because these were not empty precepts, but mantra's sanctified by two dedicated souls who ceaselessly worked for the liberation of our motherland.

With this brief background of Maharashtra's 'love-affair' with Netaji, I turn now to the literature that has grown round his name and fame. Marathi literature abounds in biographies. As a professional bibliographer, I can say it with some knowledge and emphasis that statistically speaking the number of biographies published in Marathi exceeds that in any other Indian language. Biographies writer for children and younger age-group are, of course, the number-booster. Netaji's biographies written for the juvenile readers number about 16. Besides these some good full-length biographies have also been published. Of these B. K. Kelkar's Subhas, first published in 1946 holds the palm. Acharya P. K. Atre's Subhas-Katha and V. S. Valimbe's Garudjhemp are also good reliable and eminently readabale lives. Two other biographies that merit mention are R. P. Kanitkar's Swatantrya-Simha Subhas Chandra and Amarendra Gadgil's Vangaveer Subhas Chandra.

One of the earliest pen-portraits of Subhas Chandra was published in Tilak's Kesari in early thirties. It is a lively sketch written in a style reminiscent of A.G. Garniner's memorable masterpieces. The author, D. V. Divekar was an assistant editor of Kesari and had known Subhas Babu in connection with the youth movement in Maharashtra.

Several books are there recounting his secret flight from India. Uttamchand Malhotra's account was rendered into Marathi in 1945 — Netajinche Seemollanghan, by S. M. Joshi the veteran Socialist leader and the present Chairman of Janata Party in Maharashtra. G. K. Paikar's Ziauddin is a smaller book on the same episode. The thrill and the romance involved in this 'escape' and the echoes down the memory lane to Shivaji's historic flight from Aurangzeb's Agra it inspires, have invested this chapter of Netaji's life with a charm that appeals most to Marathi readers.

Netaji's heroic struggle in Europe and South-East Asia for the liberation of India have inspired several writers, a few of them even associated with their hero. P. N. Oak's Hindusthanee dusre Swatantryayuddha (1947) is an exhaustive account of this saga. Oak, himself a war-prisoner of the Japanese had an opportunity to work at quarters close to Netaji from the early phases of the operation to the last. S. T. Bhalekar's Dusre Krantiyuddha and Balshastri Haradas's Sattavan to Subhas are two other historical volumes dealing with this phase.

Two autobiographies written by ex-l. N. A. men shed some light on the encounters and engagements of Netaji's national militia. N. R. Phule's Yachi dohi yachidola (1977) and Pandharinath Damre's Ek-Azad Hind Sainik (1947) are eye-witness accounts of the participants themselves. P. N. Oak's book Netajinchya Sahavasat (1947) recalls graphically the fateful days he spent in the company of Netaji. Several smaller books about the story of l.N.A. have been published eulogising the exploits of valiant captains like Sahagal and Shahnawaz and Lakshmi and Bhonsle and about the trials in the historic Red Fort.

Although several Marathi poets have paid their tributes to Netaji at one time or other these have not been as yet compiled in a single book. Two poets however have published books of verses devoted entirely to Subhas. Gumbharaj Prabhu's Krantiparag and Praphulla Datta's Subhasini are the anthologies of their own lyrical homage to Netaji.

About seven novels have been written in Marathi on the background of Nertaji's life. Prabhakar Medpilwar's Jai Hind, S. G. Gupte's Jai Hind, D. C. Despande's Pratibimba and poet Manmohan's Tipri padghamwar padli are based on Netaji's daring deeds in the cause of freedom. N. S. Phadke, the doyen of Marathi novelists who dominated an era of literary history, has penned an engaging trilogy. Shonan, Asman and Tuphan tracing the fluctuating fortunes of the freedom fighters in South-East Asia. Phadke not only assiduously studied the wealth of printed materials avilable but also interviewed many veterans associated with the struggle and visited the far-flung theatres of war, to infuse authoritative touch to his fictional endeavours.

Quite a few plays and playlets have been written dramastising.the high points of Netaji's life. G. K. Bodas's Veer Netaji is a musical play worth the mention.

'Powadas' or ballads are a form of folk songs peculiar to Maharashtra. Those who compose and sing them are known as 'Shaahir's' and they are akin to 'Charankavi's and 'Kobiyal's of Bengal. Valour and heroism are always the dominating themes of those ballads and Netaji's life, naturally lends itself easily to fulfil the requiremenes of this form. There has been a time-honoured tradition of ballad-singing dating back to Shivaji's days,when he used to listen and reward these extempore effusions. Several Lokashaheers have published their Netaji ballads and among them must be mentioned Govindswami Aphale, Khadikar, Sharad Joshi, H. N. H. Joshi and G. D. Dikshit. We should, however bear in mind that essentially being a folk-composition numerous other creations must have been lost due to the neglect of anthologists or apathy of publishers.

Another folk-form to utilise Netaji legend is 'Kirtan': Somewhat similar to Kathakata' in Bengal, 'Harikatha' or 'Kirtan' is an amalgam of singing preaching story-telling acting and mimicry evloved down the centuries into a performing art of fine dimension. What was once a purely devotional and religious instrument soon became a potent medium for the propagation of nationalist ideals. Several masters of this art weaved the inspiring episodes from past history and contemporary happenings to preach the tenets of Swarajya. Some of the texts using the life of Subhas Babu have seen the light of the day and Kirtanalankar Kolhatkar's Samrat Subhas is one of them. "Rashtriya Kirtan' as this latter-day innovation is known, is still popular and so is the Netaji legend.

Translations of important publications in other languages are also available. Vittalbhai Javeri's Jai Hind, Satyadev Vidalankar's Jai Hind, Jag Pravesh Chandra's Meet the Heroes, Tatsuo Hayashida's Netaji Subhas Bose: His struggle and Martyrdom (tr. by Gautam Pandi), S.A. Ayer's The story of I. N. A., Sailesh Dey's Ami Subhas Balchhi and Ashasan's Diary (tr. by Ashok Kamat) are thus known to Marathi readers.

Unfortunately not many books are there expressing the thoughts of Netaji in his own words. There is only one book Lai Killa (tr. by C. V. Baudekar) which contains translations of his speeches and writings. Although his ideas and ideals have been cursorily discussed in very many books, no concerted debate or a sizabale corpus of literature has as yet shaped. Only one book Subhasvad is there. Written by late G. T. Madkolkar, the veteran literateur and editor of Nagpur, it consists of a series of leading articles the author wrote in his own daily Tarun Bharat for over a week, after receiving the shocking tidings of Netaji's death in a plane crash. It is a small book with a large message, in that it succinctly brings out the salient principles of Netaji's politics.

This is in a nutshell the span and the compass of Netaji literature in Marathi. Besides these books there is a whole lot of matter not yet collected within the two covers of a book. Every years, Maharashtra dutifully observed the 23rd January as a day of remembrance and rededication. Writers, orators and editors debate and discuss his deeds and words and recharge their intellectual batteries. All this topical contribution lies entomed in the archives and the libraries awaiting the spade of a future historian. Let us hope that he would do full justice to the wealth some day.

Based on a lecture given in 1979 at the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Calcutta. Source: Subhas Chandra Bose birth centennary issue of Jayasree magazine.