Marathi writer Madgulkar’s Panchavati still a draw

The two-storey bungalow Panchavati at Wakdewadi, home of the legendary Marathi lyricist and playwright Ga Di Madgulkar, is now occupied by the fourth generation.

The bungalow is synonymous with Madgulkar's work and continues to attract celebrities and curious citizens. Maharashtra Director-General of Police (DGP) Ajit Parasnis, visits the Madgulkars whenever he is in the city. Last week, he released Mantarlelya Aathvani, a book by Shreedhar Madgulkar, on Ga Di Ma and Panchavati. Parasnis, has been in touch with the family ever since he was Shreedhar Madgulkar's classmate in Fergusson College. Parasnis visited Panchvati on Wednesday and shared memories of the house with Newsline, sitting in the hall where Madgulkar wrote and where his Padma Shri Award is placed.

"It was in 1968 when Shreedhar and I were graduating from Fergusson. We were scared of 'Anna' (as Ga Di Ma was fondly addressed by them) and tried to escape scaling the wall. But Anna, perched on a blue sofa in the courtyard, used to spot us and call us inside," Parasnis said. There used to be 30-40 persons for lunch on any given day in the Madgulkar household.

Shreedhar and Parasnis started a magazine, Gypsy, taking up roles of editor and joint editor respectively. Ga Di Ma was on the advisory board. "We had many a discussion here with Anna," Parasnis recalls, adding that Panchavati used to be frequented by many Marathi artistes and litterateurs. "The surroundings were much greener then, but the home has not changed much. Ga Di Ma's blue sofa is still at the same place and one can feel his presence here," he said.

Geet Ramayan's first public performance was in the bungalow on May 28, 1958, 53 years ago. Shreedhar reminisces it was during the thread ceremony of Anand and I. There were many guests and Ga Di Ma thought of having a cultural programme on the occasion. Since Babuji (Sudhir Phadke) was present, they decided to recite the newly composed Geet Ramayan with Ga Di Ma as compere. Within minutes, people gathered outside the house and listened to the recital.

Even today, the house has random visitors with requests to see the place where Geet Ramayan was written. Shreedhar, wife Maya, son Sumitr and his wife Prajakta keep the bungalow intact and gladly welcome visitors. There's a wedding hall opposite the house. "Many who come to attend weddings drop in. We show them Ga Di Ma's awards, the sofa and the Tulashi Vrundavan where he wrote the song about Lord Ramas' birth," said Shridhar.

The bungalow constructed in 1925 belonged to Belgaum's Santshree Pant Maharaj Balekundri who gifted it to his disciple Annasaheb Patihal. It was called Shreepant Niwas. In 1953, Ga Di Ma bought it for Rs 60,000. "He borrowed Rs 5,000 from a friend and more from others to buy the house," said Shridhar. It was renamed Panchavati for it had five kinds of important trees. Spread over 17 gunthas, the bungalow had six bedrooms, two halls, verandah, backyard, a dining hall and open space. Around 2000 sq ft was lost during road-widening.

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