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Mainstream, VOL LV No 35 August 19, 2017

Tribute: N.V.K. Murthy

Sunday 20 August 2017


N.V.K. Murthy was born on August 16, 1925 in Hyderabad. He received a baccalaureate degree in English literature from Maharaja’s College in Mysore. In August 1942, while a still a student at Maharaja’s College, he joined the ‘Quit India’ Movement for freedom against British colonial rule, and was imprisoned. Later, he received a Master’s degree in Journalism from the Indiana University in Bloomington, USA.

During his illustrious career in India he was the Head of the Department of Journalism at Osmania University in Hyderabad; producer of newsreels at the Films Division in Mumbai; Registrar of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi; Chief Executive of the Film Finance Corporation (FFC) of India in Mumbai; Director of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune; and Director of the Nehru Centre in Mumbai. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1985 by the Government of India for his contribution to films and television.

Throughout his professional and personal life his main objective was to raise a generation of rational and thinking human beings. Students and their interests came above all else, and investing in their future was of paramount importance to him. He had a strong moral compass and highest personal and professional integrity. Notwithstanding the consequences to himself or to his immediate family, he did not stray from his well-trod path of honesty. His winning trait was his ready wit which endeared him to his friends and colleagues and helped him to negotiate his way through any difficult situation.

WHILE he was a producer of newsreels at the Films Division in Mumbai, the documentary films he made on the occasion of the Gandhi centenary celebrations stand out. Through those films he questioned how much India had changed as a society over the lifetime of Gandhiji. How did the freedom from colonial rule, something that he and his peers fought hard to obtain, manifest itself in the life of the common person on the street? Had the Indian Government in general, and the Indian people in particular, adopted Gandhiji’s teachings of “abolishment of untouchability”? What about the role of women in post-independence India? What about national integration and communal harmony?

N.V.K. Murthy was a quiet force in changing lives for the better. He believed that learning, whether formal or informal, was the way to celebrate the human spirit, and he dedicated himself to being a lifelong learner. That was his legacy. Along the way he passed on his knowledge and wisdom to others through his profession as a teacher, documentary film-maker, and adminis-trator, and also through his unforgettable conversations, discussions and speeches.

He was a firm believer in the upliftment of the forgotten and the downtrodden in any society. He felt strongly that literate women, especially in countries like India, would lead to a literate populace, and worked hard to spread that word. He was also a firm believer in the freedom of speech, as well as in social and economic justice for all. These were his guiding principles and he lived by them.

He continued to remain active till the end and departed on August 2, 2017, with the same grace and courage by which he lived.

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