Purushottam Lakshman Deshpande (November 8, 1919 - June 12, 2000), called Pu. La. or Bhai affectionately, was one of the most accomplished Marathi artists (and believe me when I say that there is quite a competition for top spots in that category). Apart from being a famous writer, he was an orator, actor, director and music director, not to mention a very talented musician and singer.
His writings span across various fields. He is most famous for his humorous portraits (of lives of mumbaikars and others), and other humorous writings, but he has also written plays, character portraits, travelogues, dramas, screenplays and dialogues for movies. He also translated "Pygmalion", "The Old Man and The Sea" and many other famous works into Marathi. He brought "One Man Act" to Marathi theatre, and many of his acts are still remembered.
He is often compared to George Bernard Shaw or P. G. Wodehouse, but his brand of humour (when he shifts the upper layer of comedy just a bit to show the tragedy it covers in many cases), in my opinion is almost unique. Avoiding temptation to write a long post on my favourite author, I guess it should be enough to say that he is one of the leading humour writers in Maharashtra, the state which has produced many famous writers in this field over the ages.
The "Pu. La. Deshpande Foundation" is a charitable foundation, which he started with his wife, Sunitabai Deshpande, herself a very good writer. From the royalties the couple got from their books, they used to keep just the money needed for their necessities, and pass on the rest of the amount to the foundation.
In the last century, at least three generations on maharashtrians have known PuLa's writing intimately. It is very hard to find a Marathi household which does not have at least one of his books (and it will be very hard to find a true Marathi student, who does not carry at least one of his books when he flies outside India). His writings and plays are so much part of Marathi people's psyche, that people can recite the whole dialogues by heart.
If you think I am exaggerating, my post on one of his famous books, "Vyakti ani Valli" is the most popular one on my book blog, and has more views than the second and third posts combined. And I am sure the same fate awaits my next post on that blog about "Asa Me Asami".
In short, though the term "Maharashtrache Ladke Vyaktimatva" (Maharashtra's Favourite Personality, is the closest translation) has now lost the meaning due to political overuse, this is one person who truly deserved the epithet.
- The Great Eagle Has Spoken
P.S. Maharashtra Times has a great collection of quotes, poems and incidents from PuLa's life. A must read for anyone who understands Marathi.
Quote of The Day:
There is an instrument called "divider" in pencilbox. It did nothing except dividing me and mathematics.
-P. L. Deshpande, Bigari te Matric