Purushottam Laxman Deshpande, or Pu La Deshpande, was born in Mumbai on 8 November 1919. His family had an illustrious literary legacy: Pu La’s grandfather had translated Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali into Marathi.
The 101st birth anniversary of Purushottam Laxman Deshpande — better known as Pu La Deshpande — has been marked with a Google Doodle designed by the noted Mumbai-based artist Sameer Kulavoor.
The doodle depicts the writer, playwright, musician, composer, actor, director, and philanthropist at his harmonium, raising his free hand to underscore a note.
“Being born and brought up in Mumbai/Maharashtra, one comes across Pu La Deshpande’s name and works constantly in popular culture — music, writing, films, theatre, literature, and more. He was known to be a sharp observer of life, and one can see that in his literary work. There is a wildly popular Marathi song we were exposed to as kids in school called ‘Naach re mora‘ (Dance peacock, dance) — I learnt much later (to my surprise) that he composed the song!” Kulavoor was quoted as saying, about his inspiration for the Google Doodle.
The reference to the song is woven into Kulavoor’s illustration, and the artist said he also attempted to incorporate Pu La’s colourful personality into the Doodle. “Pu La’s life and work is the message [I hope people take from the Google Doodle],” the artist added. “I hope to highlight the fact that one can have several different outlets and forms to creativity.”
Pu La Deshpande was born in Mumbai on 8 November 1919. His family had an illustrious literary legacy: Pu La’s grandfather had translated Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali into Marathi.
The biography accompanying Pu La’s Google Doodle traces his time from earning a Masters’ degree, to working as a college lecturer before switching to a career in music. “A master of the harmonium, he played as an accompanist for acclaimed vocal artists of the day and released his own hit recordings as well. But music was far from Deshpande’s only creative talent, and in the late 1940s, his writing premiered in Bombay magazine,” the biography notes.
Pu La’s writing spanned various formats — from novels and essays to plays and one-man stage shows. He also acted in, and directed, several films. In 2018, the National Film Archive of India organised an exhibition of his Hindi and Marathi film posters in the run-up to the centenary of his birth. The exhibition also included the original, handwritten copy of the script for Pu La’s cult classic Gulacha Ganpati, provided to NFAI in 2015 by the family members of Rajguru, the film’s producer.
The statement accompanying Kulavoor’s Google Doodle observes: “Renowned for his signature style of joyful humor and satire, Deshpande brought smiles to the faces of countless readers and audiences with his multifaceted contributions to Marathi literature and the performing arts… Happy birthday, PL Deshpande, and thank you for sharing your humor and harmony with the people of Maharashtra and beyond.”
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