Award Name : Sahitya Akademi Award
Year of Award : 1975
Award for : Literature
Location : Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan
Bhisham Sahni was a Hindi writer, playwright, and actor, most famous for his novel and television screenplay Tamas ("Darkness, Ignorance"), a powerful and passionate account of the Partition of India. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan for literature in 1998, and Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 2002. He was the younger brother of the noted Hindi film actor, Balraj Sahni. Bhisham Sahni was born on 8 August 1915 in Rawalpindi. He earned a master's degree in English Literature from Government College in Lahore, and a Ph.D from Punjab University, Chandigarh in 1958. He joined the struggle for Indian independence. At the time of Partition he was an active member of the Indian National Congress, and organized relief work for the refugees when riots broke out in Rawalpindi in March 1947. In 1948 Bhisham Sahni started working with the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), an organization with which his brother was already closely associated. He worked both as an actor and a director. As a result of his association with IPTA, he left the Congress and joined the Communist Party. Thereafter, he left Bombay for Punjab where he worked briefly as a lecturer, first in a college at Ambala and then at Khalsa College, Amritsar. At this time he was involved in organizing the Punjab College Teachers’ Union and also continued with IPTA work. In 1952 he moved to Delhi and was appointed Lecturer in English at Delhi College (now Zakir Husain College), University of Delhi.
From 1956 to 1963 he worked as a translator at the Foreign Languages Publishing House in Moscow, and translated some important works into Hindi, including Lev Tolstoy’s short stories and his novel Resurrection. On his return to India Bhisham Sahni resumed teaching at Delhi College, and also edited the reputed literary magazine Nai Kahaniyan from 1965 to 1967. He retired from service in 1980. Sahni was fluent in Punjabi, English, Urdu, Sanskrit and Hindi. Bhisham Sahni was associated with several literary and cultural organizations. He was General Secretary of the All India Progressive Writers Association (1975–85) and Acting General Secretary of the Afro-Asian Writer’ Association and was also associated with the editing of their journal Lotus. He was the founder and chairman of 'SAHMAT', an organisation promoting cross-cultural understanding, founded in memory of the murdered theatre artist and activist Safdar Hashmi. Late in life, he appeared in several films, including Saeed Mirza's Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho! (1984), Tamas (1986) which was based on his own novel, Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha (1993) and Aparna Sen's Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002).