Mouj's Sanjay Bhagwat is no more

Sanjay Bhagwat, publisher of Mouj, is no more. He passed away on 3 February at the age of 60, following a prolonged illness. Bhagwat was also a member of the Mumbai Mudrak Sangh and an important member of the publishing fraternity. He is survived by his wife, Bhagyashree, son Anirudh and daughter Manva.

04 Feb 2019 | By Ramu Ramanathan

Sanjay Bhagwat, publisher, Mouj Prakashan

Mouj Prakashan was formed in 1950 by two brothers, Vishnupant Bhagwat and Shri Pu Bhagwat. While the former oversaw the printing press with an iron hand, and the day-to-day admin stuff, Shri Pu Bhagwat honed the editorial vision at Mouj. And so, the Mouj stable of writers boasts of the best names in Marathi literature, including Vijay Tendulkar, Gauri Deshpande, Vinda Karandikar, PL Deshpande, Mahesh Elkunchwar, Durga Bhagwat and Kiran Nagarkar. All this translated into 20 Sahitya Akademi Awards.

Sanjay Bhagwat was the son of Vishnupant Bhagwat, a legend in Maharashtra and also the treasurer of the Mumbai Mudrak Sangh for two terms.

Uday Dhote of the Mumbai Mudrak Sangh said, “Sanjay Bhagwat was the honorary treasurer of Mumbai Mudrak Sangh when I became the president in 2007. He was also a qualified chartered accountant. I remember him always sitting beside me on the dais, a very silent person, but whenever he chose to speak, it would be selective and the utterances were wise. I remember he did not have a mobile for a long time and when he purchased one, Sanjay said, ‘I have entered the so-called civilised world’. ...I have lost a very dear friend and a genuine well-wisher."

The last time Sanjay Bhagwat “formally” spoke to PrintWeek India, he was worried about the fragmentation which he said was one of the major concerns in the publishing of books in Marathi language. Also a huge concern for Marathi publishers like Mouj was the distribution and reach of Marathi books to villages and mofussil towns. Bhagwat had said, “This can only be solved by putting up a united front. There has to be a co-operative movement for books in Maharashtra and it’s about time we put a united front to deal with the various issues affecting us."

While sales of kadambaris (novels) and katha sangrahas (short-story collections) have declined significantly, Marathi experienced a boom in 1994-95 going from 800 titles per year to about 1,900 titles per year, but plateaued to 1,200 titles per year after that. Bhagwat felt the only way books will be sold, is if books are read and for that, they need to be made available in every single nook and corner of the state. His vision was a book depot like a Sahakari Bhandar in every single taluka and zilla of Maharashtra.

Anand Limaye, past president of Mumbai Mudrak Sangh, and printer of many of Mouj titles, said, “Sanjay Bhagwat's father and my father were dear friends. Likewise, Sanjay and I were close friends. Since 1997, he handled publishing operations at Mouj. Like his father, he had the talent to spot writers like Meena Prabhu, Milu Damle, Lata Katdare, Milind Bokil, and many others. He was a simple and thorough gentleman. Although he was shy and soft-spoken, if the topic was his favourite authors or their writings, he could talk nonstop." 

The PrintWeek India team shall miss Sanjay Bhagwat for the thoughtful gifts which he sent to our office. This included Mauj’s Diwali Ank, which focused on science and scientists. This was part of Bhagwat’s dream of goading amateurs to write about science. "We believe in encouraging young people to write about science. We say Maharashtra is a progressive modern state but we do not have good, popular science magazines."

Another project which he had mentioned was compiling the best of Satyakatha by Mouj Prakashan’s Shri Pu Bhagwat and Ram Patwardhan. Satyakatha was last published in 1982 but the poets and short story writers whose work it published have become cult classics in Marathi literature.

RIP Sanjay Bhagwat.