Former ‘Science Today’ editor Mukul Sharma, the prose and puzzle whiz who found Satyajit Ray’s kisses “unconvincing” and counted the golden flecks in Rakhee’s eyes, is no more.

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Indian Journalism Review records with regret the passing of Mukul Sharma, the former editor of Science Today magazine (and its later version 2001), who wrote the scintillating “Mind Sport” column in now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India.

He was 69.

Mukul Sharma, who lived in Gurgaon, near Delhi, was previously married to the film maker Aparna Sen. The actress Konkona Sensharma is their daughter.

Pritish Nandy, the former Weekly editor, tweeted the news of the demise.

And the journalist turned academic Amitabh Mattoo confirmed it.

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A 2017 article in The Indian Express recorded Mukul Sharma’s early life:

“The son of an army man, Sharma passed through six schools across the country before graduating in English literature from Ashutosh College in Kolkata. His interest in science was fuelled by curiosity after he had quit studies.

“There was a family business of pest control. My brother was looking after the Delhi division and I had to look after the Kolkata branch. How long can you kill cockroaches? After six or seven years, I decided I can’t do this,” he says.

“He began to write more prolifically for Kolkata-based newspapers and journals, from films to science.

When The Telegraph was launched in 1982, Mukul Sharma and Pritish Nandy did pocket cartoons for its front page, alternately drawing the cartoon and writing the caption.

Often they wrote short stories, again alternating with the beginning and the climax.

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Sharma moved to Bombay in 1986 to edit Science Today when Pritish Nandy took over as publishing director of the Times Group, although he had no science degree in an organisation that had “three PhDs and one postdoc DSc”.

It was through a single-column column called ‘Mind Sport’ in the Weekly that he truly found his metier, with his sparkling prose adorning science and math puzzles.

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Sachin Kalbag, the executive editor of Hindustan Times, Bombay, spoke for a whole generation of magazine readers, when he tweeted:

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Mukul Sharma was reputedly one of the first reviewers of Satyajit Ray‘s film Ghare Baire, which was based on a Rabindranath Tagore story. He gave the film a good review but added that “the kisses were not convincing”.

Sharma acted opposite Rakhee Gulzar in Paroma, made by Aparna Sen.

In her book Behind the Times, Bachi Karkaria writes:

“Some-time Science Today editor Mukul Sharma had acted in Paroma, an edgy film made by his ex-wife, the well-known actresses-turned-director Aparna Sen. He played the foreign-returned photographer who had an affair with his subject, a traditional Bengali house.

“The beauteous Rakhee essayed the title role. Mukul boasted to his friend Pritish that when he lay atop her for a bedroom shot, he counted 29 golden flecks in her amber eyes. Nandy smirked and said, “36”.”

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In later years, Mukul Sharma, churned out science fiction stories, some of which were compiled into the anthology Dream Sequence. Three of them were picked up by the movie maker Vishal Bharadwaj.

Photograph: courtesy The Indian Express

 

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