Defying The Destiny
Often it is seen that when man failed to do what he sets out do and feels compelled to take up something else because of changing circumstances, he feels despondent. In the changed circumstances, he sometimes cannot achieve the desired success and consequently, begins to blame his destiny. Rare are those souls who while toiling away to achieve their ambitions accomplish their mission even to the utter surprise of their destiny, so to speak.
The founder and editor of Chitralekha and Jee was one such industrious person. Born in Rajkot and having spent much of his childhood in Bhavnagar, Vaju Kotak wanted to prove himself in the tinsel town when he came to Mumbai. He even got opportunities to work with stalwarts like N R Acharya, Maheboob Khan and Ramchandra Thakur. When he was apparently beginning to realize that he was on the threshold of realization of his ambition, the fate intervened.
Circumstances were so created that instead of working behind the camera as a director, he had to write keeping in mind the common reader. And Vajubhai took up the changed scenario as a challenge and proved himself even in the new genre that was kind of thrust on him.
Writing screenplays and learning film direction, Vajubhai's pen turned to other writing materials. He started doing journalism without any plan or design. Those days, the magazines were either out-and-out literary or film glossies. Bachubhai's Kumar, Champashibhai Uddeshi's Navchetan, Shayda's Be Ghadi Moj belonged to literary genre, whereas Chitrapat, Veni, Chhaya were all film magazines.
While starting a new magazine, Vajubhai's dream was to steer clear of the formulae used by these magazines and look beyond. He wanted to make it totally different from contemporary magazines right from choice of name to use of materials. And from this desire was born Chitralekha.
It may be said without any exaggeration that with Chitralekha a new era in Gujarati journalism dawned. The visionary Vajubhai had got the early hints of the new vistas opening up in the Post-Independence India in the fields of education, arts, social order and media. He developed the format of his magazine after much deliberation over what the Post India new generation would like to read, how their tastes can be cultivated and what kind of reading material would be allowed by the elders without screening. He focused on subjects like contemporary politics, topical articles, humour or satire piece, stories, cartoons and film reviews and especially informative articles that stood out from other weeklies. It was Vajubhai Kotak who pioneered in Gujarati journalism the concept of creating an informative piece on any subject under the sun and embellishing it with relevant pictures-sketches.
But this is just one side of the coin. The other side too is no less interesting.
He always insisted on ensuring that the articles published in Chitralekha should be lucid and simple even to those who could barely read and write. It is perhaps hard to write simple and in colloquial language. Vajubhai could do it. And this simplicity became the foundation stone of his success. Also, he made sure that the reading material reflected, not a negative but positive outlook. It was Vajubhai's policy to emphasize on any interviewee's positive sides rather his negative aspects. It was his firm belief that even if criticism is unavoidable, it has to be creative. In short, it was his viewpoint to present creative information in simple and unencumbered style with relevant pictures and sketches. And this vision has endured till today. There was hardly any subject of human interest that was not published in Chitralekha.
In other words, Chitralekha represented diversity of National Geographic, simplicity and appreciation of Readers' Digest and pictorial quality of Life. Today, there are numerous features and news magazines in various Indian languages, but its foundation was laid by Vjau Kotak.
As in journalism, in the field of novel too Vajubhai carried out a successful experiment. He took a revolutionary step in novel writing. When Vaju Kotak started writing novels, all those heavyweights like Zhaverchand Meghanee, Pannalal Patel, Ishwar Petalikar, Chunilal Madia, Gunavantrai Acharya and epoch-making writer Ramanlal Vasantlal Desai were shining on the literary firmament. Each of these writers had his own distinctive style and his own fan following. Nonetheless, when Vajubhai began writing novels, thousands of readers from India and abroad became his admirers.
It seems his popularity was because he developed his own original style in presentation as well as telling of his story. Most of his novels were based on films written earlier. He presented them in novel format based on the screenplays and dialogues he himself had written. As a result, while reading his novels, one could visualize the narrative. This combination of his visual writing style, simple language and effective dialogues made his novels very popular. Nothing could illustrate his popularity better than the fact that even several years and editions later, there is a sustained demand for his novels today. The point to note is that even in the style of writing novels, he has done some pioneering work.