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An extraordinary life

EducationWorld May 2021 | Postscript

It’s a sign of the times. When a politician succumbs to the thousand unnatural shocks that flesh is heir to, the evil they have done is dressed up as good. But the good of the truly good is interred with their bones.

These musings came to mind upon hearing about the untimely demise of litterateur, editor, columnist and culture propagator Anil Dharker in Mumbai on March 26. During his eventful life, Dharker greatly influenced the literary and cultural awakening of the country in several spheres before the abhorred shears prematurely cut this thin spun life. Although he qualified as a mechanical engineer and started his career in an architectural firm back in the 1960s after he returned to India from London, he quickly established a reputation as an insightful film reviewer and critic and was appointed the first chairman of the Films Finance Corporation where he managed to squeeze funding from the Union government to finance British director Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, arguably the greatest biopic of all time.

Subsequently, Anil Dharker transformed into full-time journalist and edited Mid-day, Sunday Mid-Day, the path-breaking men’s monthly Debonair (where your editor succeeded him with less success) and the superior upscale daily, The Independent (alas no more). Yet perhaps his greatest achievement was conceptualising and organising the annual Times of India Mumbai International Literary Festival which attracted the choice and master spirits of English literature from around the world to India’s commercial capital.

Organising this annual literary extravaganza was an extraordinary feat requiring handling the egos of global literary legends, and raising resources to fund the litfest that catapulted crassly commercial Mumbai to the world’s literary stage. Typical appropriation of this litfest by the Bros Jain of the Times Group prompted Anil Dharker to promote the competitive Tata Literature Live fest which took its toll on this creative man of letters. Indeed the elements were so mixed in him that he will be impossible to replace.      

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