Adrish Bardhan, the forerunner of a sci-fi renaissance in Bangla literature, breathed his last at the age of 86 on May 20, 2019 in Kolkata.
From translating a plethora of western science fiction to creating iconic fictional characters like Professor Nut-boltu and detective Indranath Rudra, Adrish Bardhan mainstreamed the imaginative world of speculative fiction in Bengal. He was in fact credited for having coined the term kalpabigyan, the Bangla word for science fiction.
Bardhan’s tales of mystery and crime stand as a testament to his progressive worldview beyond the boundaries of gender stereotypes. On the one hand, he created a mad scientist called Nut-boltu blending humor and science, and on the other, he introduced Narayani, a shining star among a handful of a female detectives in Bangla crime fiction.
However, his illustrious career did not start off as an author to begin with. After graduation from the University of Calcutta, Bardhan joined a private company as a purchase manager. But his heart genuinely lay in adventures which spurred him on to change his profession frequently. Soon he gave up on traditional jobs and invested his sole concentration on writing detective and science fiction stories.
Bardhan explored the world of fiction, especially sci-fi, with a kind of versatility that remains unmatched to this day. He organized sci-fi radio dramas back in those days. In his capable hands, the first Indian science fiction magazine Ashcharja began its successful journey spanning for about eight years since 1963. After the magazine was discontinued, he became the editor of another sci-fi magazine called Fantastic. According to an Indian Express report, the veteran author, moreover, founded India’s first ever sci-fi cine club, having Satyajit Ray as its president. The club required a yearly fee of Rs. 6 from its members.
In his masterful translations, Bardhan laid open the macabre world of Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft for the Bangla readership. He translated the works of notable authors, such as Jules Verne and Isaac Asimov, among many others. In 1971, the death of his wife had left him in utter torment. The trauma resulted in an irregular sleep pattern that disrupted his sleep every night at 2:30 am. So, he began translating Jules Verne as a coping mechanism in a moment of a great personal loss. His translations of Jules Verne were later published in nine volumes. “I think his biggest impact was as a translator. His Jules Verne and Asimov translations are seminal,” Kalpabiswa member Sandipan Ganguly was quoted as saying in the Indian Express report.
While Adrish Bardhan’s prolific career allowed him to author bestsellers like Goyenda Indranath Rudra Shamagro (13 volumes), Professor Nut-boltu Chakra Shamagro, Superman Vikramjit, Megh Dwip Atongko, Makorsha Atongko, among many others, he was in fact a proud successor of a number of eminent Bengali science fiction writers from as early as the19th century.
Bardhan suffered from hearing and memory loss in his twilight years. He passed away due to old age complications.