Rajkamal Prakashan Samooh: celebrating 70 years of excellence!
70 years of publishing, 7000 titles, 16 Sahitya Academy Awards, 26 Gnanpith Awards, 8 Nobel Prize winners — Rajkamal Prakashan Samooh is a Hindi publishing giant of India.
Daryaganj, an integral part of old Delhi, is famous for its mouth-watering cuisines, old musical instrument shops, the famous Sunday Book Bazar and being the hub of publishing houses in India. Among them is Rajkamal Prakashan Samooh, one of India’s biggest Hindi publication house. “You know this is the same building where 71 years from now, the foundation stone of Rajkamal Prakashan was laid by two book lovers,” shares Alind Maheshwari, Marketing and Copyright Director of Rajkamal Prakashan Group.
The pioneer in Hindi publishing industry, Rajkamal Prakashan has published more than 7000 titles, of which 16 notable works in 8 different languages were presented with Sahitya Academy Awards. They proudly badge the honour of publishing 26 Gnanpith awards and 8 Nobel Prize winners. Currently, the group is publishing in 45 subjects across 21 genres.
“Our reader is our strength,” says Ashok Maheshwari, Managing Director of the group. He adds, ‘’We are committed towards the conservation of the diverse heritage of written words and literary fabric of our country.’’
Journey down the lane…
This year, on February 28th, the Group celebrated the 70th Foundation Day of Rajkamal Prakashan, at India International Centre, Delhi. Uniquely, the event was called ‘Voice of Future’ and speakers from education, art and culture shared their views about future readers and challenges of writing.
The Group dates back to 1947, the historically significant year when India got its freedom from 200 years of British Raj. India walked the journey of becoming the largest democratic country, parallelly Rajkamal Prakashan Pvt Ltd walked the same path and published writers like Sumitranandan Pant, Rahul Sankrityayan, Ilachandra Joshi, Nagarjun, Rangey Raghav, Mohan Rakesh, Rajendra Yadav, Mahadevi Verma, Suryakant Tripathi Nirala and many more.
The group was started by brothers Om Prakash and Devraj, who dreamed of popularising the publication not only in India but internationally as well. They published their first title in Hindi and English both titled —‘Netaji aur Azaad Hind Fauj’ and ‘Netaji and INA.’
Soon the publication introduced Rajkamal Paperbacks for economically-priced reader-friendly books; probably the first experiment in Hindi publishing industry. They also started a literary magazine Aalochana. At that time, along with literature, they published history and social science books also. Academic Scholars like Romila Thapar, Radhakumud Mukherjee, J.S.Mechenjee, M.N.Sriniwas, P. Joshi were the few names whose books were translated and published in Hindi.
In 1965, a vibrant lady from a business family — Sheela Sandhu became the Managing Director of the publication. A woman with a strong vision and zeal towards her goals, she has added many feathers in the success journey of the publication.
Later, Ashok Maheshwari took over the reigns in the year 1994. Out of sheer love for literature and publication, he expanded the company and added Radhakrishna Prakashan and Lokbharti Prakashan under one roof. This year, the Group acquired four more reputed Hindi publishing house, out of which one belongs to the pre-independence era. Its literary legacy got further enhanced with the merger of 102-year-old Sahitya Bhawan Private Limited (Estd: 1917), Purvoday Prakashan (Estd: 1951), Saransh Prakashan (Estd: 1994); and Remadhav Prakashan (Estd: 2005).
Surely, it’s a step forward and the group is positive to preserve many rare books originally written in Hindi, along with the outstanding translated works of Indian languages in Hindi and hand it over to the next generation.
In the year 2018, Rajkamal Prakashan celebrated 50 years of publication of Raag Darbari. The famous Dastango – Mehmood Farooqui and Danish Hussain performed the dastan based on Raag Darbari. The book has sold lakhs of copies till now.
“In classics, we have Rashmirathi, Maila Anchal, Saye Mei Dhoop, Aadha Gaon, Sampurn Kahaniyan, Shivani, Tamas along with hundred different titles which are in their 30 to 40 reprints. These are our top seller books, the legacy moves from generation to generation,” tells Alind. The Group’s glorious wall of writers has many names like Phanishwarnath Renu, Mahashweta Devi, Mohan Rakesh, Krishna Sobti, Rahi Masoom Raza, Shrilal Shukla, Gunakar Muley, Yashpal, Bhishma Sahini, Rajendra Yadav, Mannu Bhandari, Harishankar Parsai, Agyay, Muktibodh, Ismat Chugtai, Sahadat Hassan Manto, Namvar Singh, Girish Karnad, Gulzar, Rahat Indori, Arundhati Roy, Tasleema Nasreen, Amarty Sen, Jean Drez, Ravish Kumar and so on.
There is an old story about legendary writer Phaniswar Nath Renu, that he self-published his novel Maila Anchal, but was disappointed with the fact that nobody read it. One of his friends, along with the representative from Rajkamal, met him at his residence and convinced him to give the rights to Rajkamal. “The book got published by Rajkamal, and the publisher left no stone unturned in the promotion of book. Very recently, its 53rd edition was published,” he adds.
“Nowadays, technology has made data availability easy and in the pressure of social media and the rush to declare the book bestsellers in the very first week of its publishing. But, we differ from this idea. We think, bestsellers are the one which sell over the longest periods…that’s why we call it Top Sellers,” said Suman Parmar, Publicist with Rajkamal Prakashan.
Ravish Kumar’s book Ishq Mein Shahar Hona, has sold 25,000 copies till now and gone out of print in just first two months of its publication. Recently, at India International Book Fair, Tasleema Nasreen’s autobiography Besharam was launched, translated by Utpal Banerjee. This has also gone out of print in the first month of its publication. In addition, Arundhati Roy’s long awaited novel Apaar Khushi Ka Gharana was translated in Hindi and Urdu simultaneously and loved by readers. The non-fiction Ek tha Doctor Ek tha Saint moved towards its second print, just in the span of 20 days.
“Now we are making our books available across all reading platforms. Our books are available in digital formats like Kindle and other e-book platforms. Audiobooks are also gaining pace gradually. Very soon, 80 percent of our titles will be available on the digital platform,”shares Alind.
Eye on future but feet on the ground
In this era of digitisation, hand written letters and phone calls are common for them. Readers write letters to share their views and sometimes to push their own book. “We connect to huge readers base with our social media, at the same time these letters remind us that somewhere our work is making changes in someone’s life. We love this,” says Alind.
Making a difference with translations…
Translation is the other segment where Rajkamal Prakashan is doing a great job. World classics series is one such section where they published Leo Tolstoy, James Hardy, John Stuart Mill, Umberto Eco and many more. Recently, Stephen Hawkins, Tasleema Nasreen, Arundhati Roy, Amartya Sen, Jean Dreze, Aseem Srivastava and Prafful Bidwai’s books were made available for Hindi readers.
Alind says, ‘We are working hard to enrich our translation section and one of JBM’s core is translation. We collaborated with JBM to reach out to larger audience, not only in India but abroad as well. This is the part of our year-round celebration of 70 years of publishing. We had a great experience and we will further strengthen the space for mutual learning.’
Rajkamal JBM Haveli has hosted a series of discussion on publishing, content consumption and translation.
Alind, along with the editorial director of the publication Satyanand Nirupam, was among the speakers. Nirupam says, “The real strength of Rajkamal is its readers. On the basis of their trust, we are not only doing risk generated experiments in publishing and bringing out new types of content but preserving rare documents and republishing will be our goal. This is the better time for Hindi publishing industry.”
The publication’s dreams are big and with more additions in the group in future, it’s surely going to add positive change not only in Hindi publication but also in the whole publishing Industry.