Nikita Deshpande, a Mumbai-based writer, has emerged as the winner of the 15th Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize. She has been selected from a pool of about 120 entries for this year’s prize by a jury consisting of poet Sridala Swami and two faculty members of the Department of English, University of Hyderabad. The Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust also announced the name of Shalim Hussain of Assam as being on the prize shortlist this year.
With a B.A. in English Literature from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Nikita Deshpande writes poetry, fiction and screenplays. She is the author of the novel, It Must’ve Been Something He Wrote (Hachette, 2016), has short stories in the anthologies, A Case of Indian Marvels (Aleph, 2022), and Magical Women (Hachette, 2019), and included in the poetry anthology, The World That Belongs to Us (Harper Collins, 2020). Her writing has also been published in The Deadlands, The Rumpus, Grazia, Scroll, Buzzfeed, and Firstpost, among others. She was awarded a 2015 Vermont Studio Center fellowship to work on her fiction. Nikita assisted directors on feature films like Fukrey and Mirzya before going on to write for Chai Chai, an animated series streaming on Amazon Prime in the US. She was also a writer on The Big Day, a documentary series on Netflix. She says she ‘devours romance novels and stone fruit, and has rarely met a Jane Hirshfield poem she did not instantly fall in love with’.
Recognised as a significant award for creative writing in India, the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize was instituted by the Hyderabad-based Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust to recognize excellence in poetry written in English by poets in the age group of 20-40 years. The Prize is jointly administered by the Department of English, University of Hyderabad.
The inaugural prize was awarded in 2009 to Aditi Machado and, subsequently, to Hemant Mohapatra (2010), Aditi Rao (2011), Tushar Jain (2012), Mihir Vatsa (2013), and Ranjani Murali (2014), Aishwarya Iyer (2015), Goirick Brahmachari (2016), Debarshi Mitra (2017), Poorna Swami (2018), Prashant Parvataneni (2019), Satya Dash (2020), Pervin Saket (2021), and Syam Sudhakar (2022). Eminent poets like Jeet Thayil, Sudeep Sen, Keki Daruwalla, Arundhati Subramanian, Manohar Shetty, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Ranjit Hoskote, E.V. Ramakrishnan, Gieve Patel, Mamang Dai, Vinay Dharwadker, and Mani Rao have previously been associated with the prize as jury members. The award, consisting of a citation and cash prize of Rs. 15,000 will be presented to the winner at a literary event to be held soon.