Farrukh Dhondy (born Poona, India, in 1944) is an Indian-born British writer, playwright, screenwriter and left-wing activist of Parsi descent, who resides in the United Kingdom. He is well known not only for his writing, but also for his film and TV work.
Dhondy did his schooling at The Bishop's School, Pune (Poona), and obtained a BSc degree from the University of Pune in India. He won a scholarship to Pembroke College, Cambridge where he read Natural Sciences before switching to English, earning a BA degree in 1967. After graduating he studied for a master's degree at Leicester University and was later a lecturer at Leicester College of Further Education and Archbishop Temple School in Lambeth in London.
In Leicester, Dhondy became involved with the Indian Workers' Association and later, in London, with the British Black Panthers, joining the publication Race Today in 1970, along with his close friend Darcus Howe, and former partner Mala Sen, and discovering his calling as a writer. In his role as a race activist and academic, he came to be associated with black and left-wing intellectuals and activists such as Stuart Hall and Trevor Phillips. Uncharacteristically, it is also from this period that his close friendship with the conservative author and Nobel Laureate Sir V. S. Naipaul dates.
Dhondy lives in a village in Oxfordshire with his Irish-English wife and has five children.
Dhondy's literary output is vast, including books for children, textbooks and biographies, as well as plays for theatre and scripts film and television. He is also a columnist, a biographer (of C. L. R. James; 2001), and media executive, having been Commissioning Editor at Channel Four from 1984 to 1997. During his time with Channel Four, he wrote the comedy series Tandoori Nights (1985–87) for the channel, which concerned the rivalry of two curry house owners.
His children's stories include KBW (Keep Britain White), a study of a young white boy's response to anti-Bengali racism. In 2011 Dhondy published his translation of selections from the Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi, Rumi: a New Translation. He also wrote the screenplay for the Bollywood historical blockbuster Mangal Pandey, starring Aamir Khan and Toby Stephens. In 2012, he scripted a short film called The K File. This film dealt with a fictional take on the judgement of Ajmal Kasab and was directed by Oorvazi Irani. In 2013 his critically acclaimed play Devdas was premiered in London and was subsequently replayed globally. 2013 also saw the publication of the novel Prophet Of Love (HarperCollins). His collection of Rumi translations was published in 2014 and received a 4.5-star rating on Goodreads.
Dhondy was lauded in the respected political magazine New Internationalist, in its prestigious "final page", which led to the resurgence of his lifelong campaign to recruit more BME talent at the BBC, with an article subsequently printed in the New Statesman (covered in The Voice newspaper), which was later taken over by actor and comedian Lenny Henry.
In 2015 Dhondy interviewed his close friend V. S. Naipaul in India and in London as part of the Jaipur Literature Festival and his publishers produced a collection of his greatest works in an anthology.
Honours and awards
- Children's Rights Workshop Other award: 1977, for East End at Your Feet, and 1979, for Come to Mecca, and Other Stories;
- Collins/Fontana Award for Come to Mecca, and Other Stories;
- Received the Samuel Beckett Award for the television play Romance, Romance.
- Works represented in Children's Fiction in Britain, 1900-1990 exhibition, British Council's Literature Department, 1990;
- Whitbread Award for first novel, 1990, for Bombay Duck.
- East End at Your Feet (short stories), Macmillan Publishers (London, England), 1976.
- Come to Mecca, and Other Stories, Collins (London, England), 1978.
- The Siege of Babylon (novel), Macmillan (London, England), 1978.
- Poona Company (short stories), Gollancz (London, England), 1980.
- Trip Trap (short stories), Faber and Faber (London, England), 1985.
- Vigilantes (Hobo Press), 1988
- Bombay Duck (adult novel), Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1990.
- Black Swan, Gollancz (London, England), 1992, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Boston, MA), 1993.
- Janacky and the Giant, and Other Stories, HarperCollins (London, England), 1993.
- C. L. R. James: Cricket, The Caribbean and World Revolution, 205pp, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001.
- The Bikini Murders, based on the life of Charles Shobhraj (also known as The Bikini Killer), 2008. Currently in production as a feature film.
- Rumi: A New Translation, (trans. & ed.) Harper Perennial, 2011
- Prophet Of Love, HarperCollins 2013
- Mama Dragon, produced in London, England, 1980.
- Trojans (adaptation of a play by Euripides), produced in London, England, 1982.
- Kipling Sahib, produced in London, England, 1982.
- Vigilantes (produced in 1985), Hobo Press, 1988.
- King of the Ghetto (television series), British Broadcasting Company (BBC1), 1986.
- Split Wide Open (screenplay; based on the story by Dev Benegal), Adlabs/BMG Crescendo, 1999.
- Devdas, premiered in London, 2013.
- Bandit Queen, 1994 film based on late wife Mala Sen's book India's Bandit Queen: The True Story of Phoolan Devi (1993)
- Red Mercury (2005)
- "Farrukh Dhondy (1944-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights". jrank.org.
- Pat Triggs, "Authorgraph No.4 - Farrukh Dhondy", Books for Keeps, September 1980.
- Ash Kotak,"Mala Sen obituary", The Guardian, 13 June 2011.
- Alison Donnell (2002). Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture. Taylor & Francis. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-415-16989-9. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- "Farrukh Dhondy". IMDb.
- Deccan Chronicle, 27 November 2010.
- "Our Islamic Fifth Column". City Journal. 23 December 2015.
- "Kenan Malik's review of CLR James by Farrukh Dhondy". New Statesman. 30 July 2001.
- "Rumi: A New Translation" at Goodreads.
- Farrukh Dhondy, "Is the BBC still 'hideously white'?", New Statesman, 18 March 2014.
- Subi Shah, "'Multiculturalism On TV Has Been Hijacked'", The Voice, 22 March 2014.
- Farrukh Dhondy on IMDb
- Biography of Dhondy on Answers.com, from Gale Biographies of Children's Authors
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