Subhash Mukhopadhyay (Shubhash Mukhopaddhae) was one of the foremost Bengali poets of the 20th century.
He was born in Krishnanagar, a town in Nadia district in the province of West Bengal. An excellent student, he studied philosophy at the Scottish Church College in Calcutta, graduating with honors in 1941. Subhash married Gita Bandyopadhyay, also a well-known writer, in 1951.
Like his contemporary Sukanta Bhattacharya, Mukhopadhyay developed strong political beliefs at an early age. He was deeply committed to the cause of social justice, and was active in left-wing student politics through his college years. Following graduation, he formally joined the Communist Party of India. He thus became one of a handful of literary practitioners with first-hand experience as a party worker and activist.
In 1940, while still a student, he published his first volume of poetry Padatik (The Foot-Soldier). Many critics regard this book as a milestone in the development of modern Bengali poetry. It represented a clear departure from the
earlier Kallol generation of poets; and Subhash”s distinctive, direct voice, allied with his technical skill and radical world-view, gained him great popularity. In his poetry, Subhash grappled with the massive upheavals of that era which ruptured Bengali society from top to bottom.
The 1940s were marked by world war, famine, partition, communal riots and mass emigration in Bengal. Subhash”s writings broke away from the traditional moorings of the establishment poets, and instead addressed the despair and disillusion felt by the common people. He remained throughout his life an advocate of the indivisibility of the Bengali people and Bengali culture. From the late 1950s onwards, Subhash”s poetry evolved into something more personal and introspective. The lyricism of Phul phutuk na phutuk, aaj Boshonto, one of his most famous poems, was a result of this period.
Later in the 1970s, Subhash”s poetry took a turn toward the narrative and the allegorical. But he never lost his technical facility nor his unique voice. Besides verse, Subhash also wrote works of prose including novels, essays and travelogues. He was active in journalism too, having served on the editorial staff of daily and weekly newspapers. He was an editor of the leading Bengali literary journal Parichay. He was also an accomplished and popular writer for children. He edited the Bengali children”s periodical Sandesh jointly with Satyajit Ray for a few years in the early sixties.
Awards and Honors
Mukhopadhyay received numerous awards and honors in his lifetime, including the two highest literary prizes in India: the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1964 (for Joto Dureii Jai), and the Jnanpith Award in 1991. Other awards are:
Afro-Asian Lotus Prize, 1977
Kumaran Asan Award, 1982
Mirzo Tursunzoda Prize (USSR), 1982
Ananda Puraskar, 1991
Soviet Land Nehru Award.
According to those close to him, Subhash Mukhopadhyay had become disillusioned with politics in his final years. He suffered from severe heart and kidney ailments, and died in Kolkata in July 2003. He was 84. He was then survived by his wife and their three adopted daughters.