Born On: September 17, 1938
Born In: Baroda, Gujarat
Died On: December 10, 2009
Career: Poet, Painter & Filmmaker
Dilip Purushottam Chitre is often described in epitaphs with titles such as 'legendary', "the rarest of rare" and "all rounder", which had sat lightly on the unfazed shoulders of the man. And when one reads the ideas and thoughts described in words that had flown out of his pen, the experience can only be described as nothing short being impeccable. As an artist there are perhaps very few who can equal him and it is hard to find someone with such an enormous body and diversity of work. From filmmaking to painting to poetry in which he had been considered as a master, Dilip Chitre had made enormous contributions. When most writers found it tough to master even one language, Dilip Chitre had honed his art in both English and Marathi and emerged as the titan in both of these languages. It can safely be said that he had the Midas touch, no matter what he did whether writing, translating, composing, or making movies; he managed to wow critics and win awards. A multi-faceted personality, Dilip Chitre had left a mark as an artist and critic. He is considered to be one of the foremost writers to have emerged after independence.
Childhood & Early Life
Dilip Chitre was born to Purushottam Chitre, in the year 1938 in Gujarat. His father was the publisher of a critically-acclaimed periodical called Abhiruchi. In 1951, at the age of 12, his family moved to Mumbai. Initially he studied at an English-medium school, but after three years he shifted to a Marathi-medium school. While in school, junior Chitre became fluent in Gujarati, Hindi and English and obviously Marathi which was his mother tongue. He then learned Bengali and Urdu as well. From the age of sixteen, Chitre began to seriously write poetry. His literary career took a definite shape when he started writing for the Marathi magazine, Satyakatha, while as a student in Mumbai. In Mumbai, Chitre graduated in English honors and then worked as a journalist and a college tutor.
He was the most important influences in the 'little magazine movement' of the sixties in Marathi. Together with Ramesh Samarth and Arun Kolatkar, he started the magazine 'Shabda' devoted exclusively to poetry in 1954. In the year 1959, Dilip Chitre published his first book of poems in Marathi titled Kavita. A year later, in 1960, he bagged a contract to teach English in government high schools in Ethiopia for 3 years. There he even learned the language Amharic. At the age of 25 with the expiration of the contract, Chitre returned to Mumbai and lived here till the age of 37. During this time, he dabbled at various jobs ranging from stints at an advertizing agency, a pharmaceutical company, a civil rights NGO to freelancing as a film scriptwriter, translator and journalist. At the age of 37, the Indian Express group hired Dilip Chitre as a Creative Executive. During the emergency era of 1975 to 1977, he accepted an invitation from the University of Iowa to join their International Writing Program as a Fellow. He stayed on in the US even after his fellowship tenure ended and returned only at the end of 1977. In US, Chitre conducted creative writing workshops for school kids at Cedar Rapids.
Interests & Influences
Since the age of 10, Dilip Chitre had a passionate interest in drawing, painting, music and photography. During his student years in Mumbai, he had the opportunity to meet and mingle with artists, musicians and photographers. At the age of 16, he met the vocalist Pandit Sharadchandra Arolkar, to whose house he would visit frequently. The maestro had a huge influence on young Chitre's ideas in life and art. The city of Mumbai also had a deep influence on his early work, both in his Marathi and English poetry. Apart from these, Chitre was also deeply influenced by his maternal grandfather, as it was his grandfather who introduced him to the 17th century saint-poet Tukaram.
In the year 1985, Dilip Chitre was the convener of the Valmiki World Poetry Festival held at New Delhi. He was also the director of Vagrant World Poetry Festival, held at Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal. From 1991 to 1992, he was the D.A.A.D (German Academic Exchange) Fellow and Writer-in-Residence at the Universities of Heidelberg and Bamberg in Germany. He was also a member of the International Jury at the literature festival in Berlin. Throughout his later career, Chitre traveled widely giving lectures, readings, participating in talks and seminars and conducting creative writing workshops in both India and abroad.
Dilip Chitre has published poetry collections in both Marathi and English. His early poems have been described as stylish, metrical, and spontaneous as well as erotic and sensuous. In his later works, various other big cities of the world figure prominently as he considered these cities to "connect with all the major themes of life and death". Though proficient in English, Chitre's first collection of poems in this language was published only in 1980, about 20 years after the publication of his Marathi collection. His most notable works include the 'Travelling in the Cage', a collection of English poems and 'Ekun Kavita', the three volumes of collected poems in Marathi. One of his collections of poems even won the Sahitya Academy Award, India's highest literary award, in 1994.
Dilip Chitre was also recognized as an accomplished translator as he had translated both prose and poetry. His best known work was the English translation of the devotional poems of the 17th century bhakti poet, Tukaram published as 'Says Tuka'. This translation received the Sahitya Academy Award in the same year as when he won for a collection of poems. He had also translated Anubhavamrut by the twelfth century bhakti poet, Dnyaneshwar.
In 1969, Dilip Chitre started his professional film career with documentaries and short films. He had made only a single movie called 'Godan', in 1984 which was in Hindi and won several awards including the Prix Special du Jury in France in 1984. However, apart from that one movie, Chitre made about twenty video documentary features, a dozen documentary films, and a few short films. He also wrote the scripts and sometimes, scored the music as well. With Henning Stegmuller, Chitre produced the film Bombay: Geliebter Moloch for a German TV channel.
Personal Life And Death
Dilip Chitre married his wife Viju when he was only 22 years old. Their only son was a victim of the Bhopal Gas Tradegy. He was suffering from cancer for five years and after a prolonged illness, succumbed to the disease on 10th December, 2009 at his home in Pune.
Awards & Honors