Archives of Contemporary India

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Suresh Kohli Papers

Suresh Kohli Papers

"Khwaja Ahmad Abbas is an island whose shores and earth have been touched and used and defiled by numerous people at some stage of their lives and careers or the other ..."

Suresh Kohli (b.1947-d.2016) was a noted poet, writer, translator, editor, literary critic, documentary film maker and film historian. Specializing in literature, arts and culture as a film maker, Kohli’s work has been screened and discussed in various forums across the globe.

He started as a poet in English and published his first volume of poems Death’s Epicure in 1970, followed by Target for a Kiss (1972), Since Decay Impairs: Love Poem (1978) and Alone in the Multitude (1979), Tangled Wires (1991), and Closure: Some Poems and a Conversation (2009).

Besides publishing books of poems Kohli avidly contributed to mainstream newspapers and specialized journals, magazines on themes of literature and cinemas, and their social context. Kohli was a regular columnist at the Illustrated Weekly of India, Hindu, Deccan Herald, Tribune, Hindustan Times, Mid Day, Debonair, Swagat and many more. During the late 1960s, he worked for a magazine called Congress for Cultural Freedom and later set up his own publishing house called Chetana Publications (1976-1980), where he published several titles including the Indian Literary Review Journal. He also served as the Editor at National Book Trust, the Chief Editor at Arnold Heinemann and Sterling Publishers, and Editor-in-Chief at Om Books International (2007-2010).

Kohli produced and directed over 100 films between 1992 and 2016, which included biopics on writers, poets, artists, and literary personalities. Some of his most notable works include a 13-episode television serial Rishte Naate aired by Doordarshan in early 1980s and films on powerful subjects such as: Many Freedoms (Doordarshan, 1993); Kashmir in Kashmiri Literature (Doordarshan, 2000);  A Writer & His Times: Mulk Raj Anand (Sahitya Akademi, 2000); History Live: Dr. Karan Singh (Ministry of External Affairs, 2010); The World of Jatin Das (Films Division, I&B, 2012); An Island by Himself: Film on Khwaja Ahmed Abbas (2014, Sahitya Akademi, 2014); and Legends of Urdu Literature (Doordarshan, 2014).

Kohli had the privilege to conduct several interviews for the print and electronic media with national and international writers, poets, playwrights, dancers, musicians, painters, film actors and film makers. Some of them are: Madame Nathalie Saurrate, John Arden, R.K. Narayan, Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, Amrita Pritam, Khushwant Singh, K A Abbas, Satyajit Ray, Basu Bhattacharya, Kapila Vatsyayan, Amitav Ghosh, Shashi Tharoor, A. K. Ramanujan, Nissim Ezekiel, Nayantara Sahgal, Shashi Deshpande, Kamala Das, Ali Sardar Jafri, Vijay Anand, Dev Anand, Rishi Kapoor, Jatin Das and the renowned photographer, Raghu Rai.

A prolific writer, Kohli has published more than thirty-five books, including translations. His writings have ranged from the life of upper middle class communities in Delhi to showcasing the making of mainstream Hindi feature films. He has edited stories by Indian women writers, and introduced uncollected writings of Kamala Das. He has also edited and re-issued the autobiography of Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and published several edited volumes of his short stories.

Some of the books authored by Kohli include: Compromises (1982), Savvy: Stories by Indian Women Writers (1992), Taj Mahal: Making of a Motion Picture (2006), and Wages of Love: The Uncollected Writings of Kamala Das (2013).

Among his edited works are: Sex and Violence in Literature and Arts (1973), Modern Indian Short Stories (1974), I am Not an Island: Autobiography of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas (2010), Mera Naam Joker: The Complete Story (2014), An Evening in Calcutta (2015), and The Naxalites (2015). Translations include: The Verdict (Lalit Sehgal, 1970), Mr. Abhimanyu (Lakshmi Narain Lal, 1973), and The Dark River and Other Short Stories (Krishan Chandar, 2014).

About the Collection: The papers of Suresh Kohli comprising archival documents and audio-visual material tell us his life story as a poet, publisher, film-maker and critic. The documents include correspondence with his contemporaries like Ruskin Bond, Krishan Chandar, Kailash Vajpeyi, Nayantara Sahgal and Jatin Das, and also Doordarshan, Sahitya Akademi, Films Division, and Ministry of External Affairs. Besides unpublished material in the form of film and TV scripts, poems, essays and articles, his papers contain very interesting archival material on Kamala Das, K.A. Abbas and Mulk Raj Anand.  Exclusive interviews of literary persons, artists and film personalities such as Amrita Pritam, R.K. Narayan, Shovana Narayan, Kapila Vatsyayan, Javed Akhtar and Dev Anand also form a part of the collection. Various essays, reviews, articles by him and other critics on cinema, literature, and poetry make this collection very significant for contemporary literature and film studies. There are some photographs of literary savants and film celebrities such as Amrita Pritam, Kamala Das, Rajendra Yadav, Mulk Raj Anand, Syeda Hameed, K.A. Abbas, Dev Anand and others in the collection. Audio/video cassettes, and raw footage of short films and documentaries are part of the collection. (Catalogue available)

Donor: Chetana Kohli
Acquisition: 2021