Famous 20th Century Indian Writers

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Rabindranath Tagore
108
Birthdate: May 7, 1861
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: August 7, 1941

Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian polymath who contributed greatly to the fields of literature, art, and philosophy. Referred to as the Bard of Bengal, Tagore is credited with reshaping Bengali literature and music. The first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tagore is also credited with composing the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.

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Sarojini Naidu
(Poet and Freedom Fighter)
Sarojini Naidu
18
Birthdate: February 13, 1879
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hyderabad, India
Died: March 2, 1949

Sarojini Naidu was an Indian poet and political activist. An important figure in the Indian Independence Movement, she was a proponent of anti-imperialistic ideas, women's rights, and civil rights. Her illustrious career as a poet earned her the nickname Nightingale of India. After India became independent, she became the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Dominion of India.

 3 
Mammootty
(actor, film producer, screenwriter, film actor)
Mammootty
6
Birthdate: September 7, 1951
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chempu

National Film Award- and Padma Shri-winning Indian Malyali actor Muhammad Kutty Panaparambil Ismail, or Mammootty, is a superstar in Southern India. Initially a lawyer, he later soared to fame with films such as Vidheyan and Mathilukal. He also chairs Malayalam Communications and is devoted to medical and other charitable causes.

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 4 
Padma Lakshmi
(Indian-American Author, Model and Host of the Cooking Competition Show ‘Top Chef’)
Padma Lakshmi
5
Birthdate: September 1, 1970
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Madras, Tamil Nadu, India

Padma Lakshmi is a model, television host and author. She has hosted cooking competition program Top Chef and has published cookbooks. She has acted in films and television too and is also an activist working for immigration and women’s rights and is a critic of skin-lightening creams. She was married to novelist Salman Rushdie for a little over three years.

 5 
Shreya Ghoshal
(Singer, Writer, Actor, Composer)
Shreya Ghoshal
7
Birthdate: March 12, 1984
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Durgapur

National Award-winning singer Shreya Ghoshal grew up in Rajasthan and later moved to Mumbai, where her electrical engineer father was posted. After gaining attention with the talent show Sa Re Ga Ma, the classically trained artist was catapulted to fame with her playback singing in Devdas, and never looked back.

 6 
Ruskin Bond
(Writer)
Ruskin Bond
16
Birthdate: May 19, 1934
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kasauli
Sahitya Akademi Award-winning children’s author Ruskin Bond is best known for creating the protagonist Rusty, modeled on his childhood in Dehradun and found in his books such as The Room on the Roof. Many of his books, such as The Blue Umbrella have been made into films. 
 7 
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
(Independence Activist, Reformer)
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
10
Birthdate: May 28, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bhagur
Died: February 26, 1966

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.

 8 
M. Karunanidhi
(2nd Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu)
M. Karunanidhi
4
Birthdate: June 3, 1924
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Thirukkuvalai, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: August 7, 2018

The patriarch of the Karunanidhi political family of India, M. Karunanidhi had been the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for almost 20 years. The DMK leader was also a noted scriptwriter and author, having written films such as Parasakthi. His son, M. K. Stalin is the current Tamil Nadu chief minister.

 9 
Chetan Bhagat
8
Birthdate: April 22, 1974
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New Delhi, India
Indian investment banker-turned-writer Chetan Bhagat is known for his bestselling novels such as Five Point Someone and One Night @ the Call Center. Many Bollywood movies, such as Kai Po Che! and 3 Idiots, have been adapted from his novels, with the former winning him a Filmfare Award.
 10 
Arundhati Roy
(Novelist, Writer, Screenwriter, Essayist)
Arundhati Roy
15
Birthdate: November 24, 1961
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Assam

Apart from her bestselling books such as The God of Small Things, Man Booker Prize-winning Indian author Arundhati Roy is also known for her left-wing political activism. Born to a Syrian Christian mother and an Indian Hindu father, Roy had initially studied architecture and worked as a script writer.

 11 
R. K. Narayan
17
Birthdate: October 10, 1906
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: May 13, 2001

Remembered as one of the greatest authors of Indian literature in English, R. K. Narayan created the iconic character Swami and related his experiences set in the fictional town of Malgudi. The Sahitya Akademi and Padma Vibhushan winner was also the brother of cartoonist R.K. Laxman.

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Deepak Chopra
(Indian-American Author and Alternative Medicine Advocate Known for His Book: ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success’)
Deepak Chopra
4
Birthdate: October 22, 1946
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Delhi, India

Deepak Chopra is an Indian-American alternative-medicine advocate and author. After emigrating to the United States in 1970, Chopra went on to become an important figure in the New Age movement. Credited with co-founding the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, Chopra is one of the wealthiest personalities in alternative medicine. He has also drawn criticisms, thanks to his tall and ridiculous claims.

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Shashi Tharoor
(Writer, Politician, Diplomat)
Shashi Tharoor
7
Birthdate: March 9, 1956
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London

Born in London, to an Indian couple, Shashi Tharoor is known for his award-winning books such as the The Great Indian Novel and his over-the-top English vocabulary. Tharoor is also a Congress MP. He made headlines when his wife Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in a luxury hotel.

 14 
Javed Akhtar
(Screenwriter, poet, and lyricist known for his contributions to Indian music and Bollywood films)
Javed Akhtar
6
Birthdate: January 17, 1945
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India

Born into a family of Urdu poets from Gwalior, renowned Indian lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar had initially been a screenwriter, along with Salim Khan, for films such as Sholay and Deewaar. The Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan winner has also been a Rajya Sabha MP.

 15 
Harivansh Rai Bachchan
(Indian Poet and Writer of the 'Nayi Kavita Literary Movement' Best Known for His Early Work 'Madhushala')
Harivansh Rai Bachchan
8
Birthdate: November 27, 1907
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: January 18, 2003

A pioneer of Hindi romantic poetry and the Chhayavaad movement, Harivanshrai Bachchan is best remembered for his book of 135 quatrains, Madhushala. He was the first Indian to earn a PhD in English literature from Cambridge University. He was also the father of legendary Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan.

 16 
Sudha Murty
(Author)
Sudha Murty
3
Birthdate: August 19, 1950
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Shiggaon, Haveri, Karnataka, India

Known for her humility and simplicity, Indian philanthropist and author Sudha Murty had humble beginnings as a TELCO engineer. She is married to Infosys co-founder Narayan Murty and heads the Infosys Foundation. The Padma Shri winner has penned over 200 titles, such as Dollar Bahu, in both Kannada and English.

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Gulzar
(Lyricist)
Gulzar
4
Birthdate: August 18, 1934
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dina, Punjab

Famed Indian lyricist, poet, author, screenwriter, and film director Gulzar has been a major figure in Bollywood for over six decades. He started doing odd jobs as a teenager and eventually entered films, where he made a name for himself as a lyricist and screenwriter. He soon started directing films as well. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards.

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Atlee Kumar
(Director)
Atlee Kumar
7
Birthdate: September 21, 1986
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India
 19 
Khushwant Singh
(Novelist, Lawyer, Journalist & Politician)
Khushwant Singh
5
Birthdate: February 2, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hadali, British India (now in Khushab District, Punjab, Pakistan)
Died: March 20, 1999

Known for his bestselling book Train to Pakistan, Khushwant Singh was a reputed lawyer, politician, and journalist. He was also known for his widely popular column With Malice towards One and All, which was featured in many Indian newspapers. His post-colonial writings mirrored his wit and sarcasm.

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Kuvempu
(Novelist)
Kuvempu
3
Birthdate: December 29, 1904
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chikkamagaluru district
Died: November 11, 1994

One of the greatest Kannada literary figures to have ever lived, Jnanpith Award- and Padma Vibhushan-winning author Kuvempu had written the state anthem of Karnataka, Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate. He was also an academic who had served as the Mysore University vice-chancellor and often voiced his concerns on social issues.

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Romila Thapar
(Historian known for Authoring books about Indian history)
Romila Thapar
3
Birthdate: November 30, 1931
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Renowned history scholar and JNU professor Romila Thapar has also taught at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. She has previously been in the news for rejecting the Padma Bhushan twice, stating she didn’t accept state awards. She has also often opposed Hindutva and the “saffronization” of education.

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Palak Muchhal
5
Birthdate: March 30, 1992
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Indore
 23 
Kumar Vishwas
4
Birthdate: February 10, 1970
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pilkhuwa, Uttar Pradesh, India

Kumar Vishwas is a Hindi poet, politician and lecturer. He was an active member of the anti-corruption movement, Indian Against Corruption, and was also one of the founder members of Aam Aadmi Party. Kumar Vishwas is known for his comments on topical issues relating to India.

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Kazi Nazrul Islam
(One of the Greatest Poets in Bengali Literature)
Kazi Nazrul Islam
4
Birthdate: May 24, 1899
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Churulia, India
Died: August 29, 1976

The Rebel Poet of Bengal Kazi Nazrul Islam is remembered for his vast body of literary work, including poems and songs written during the British Raj, mostly laced with socio-political overtones. His songs, known as Nazrul Geeti, are the staple for any Bengali household. He is also Bangladesh’s national poet.

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Zakir Naik
(Physician, Writer, Intellectual, Preacher)
Zakir Naik
7
Birthdate: October 18, 1965
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mumbai

Islamic preacher Zakir Naik is also the founder of the Islamic Research Foundation and his own broadcast network, Peace TV. Though a qualified surgeon, he later gained fame as a public speaker. His channel is banned in multiple countries, such as India, Bangladesh, and the UK, for its extremist nature.

 26 
Nasser Hussain
(Cricketer)
Nasser Hussain
3
Birthdate: March 28, 1968
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Madras, India

Born to an Indian Muslim father and a British mother in Madras, Nasser Hussain moved to England with his family, as a child. At 12, he was the youngest to join the Essex Under-15 cricket team. He grew up to become one of the best English Test cricket captains.

 27 
Vikram Seth
(Writer)
Vikram Seth
4
Birthdate: June 20, 1952
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kolkata

Vikram Seth is an Indian poet and novelist. He is credited with increasing the readership of the English language in India. A revered and celebrated writer, Vikram Seth has been honored with several prestigious awards, such as the Sahitya Academy Award, WH Smith Literary Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, Crossword Book Award, Padma Shri, Commonwealth Poetry Prize, and Commonwealth Writers Prize.

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Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi
(Islamic Scholar, Reformer)
Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi
3
Birthdate: June 14, 1856
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bareilly
Died: October 28, 1921

Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi, also known as Ala-Hazrat, was a renowned Islamic scholar and an Urdu poet. Born in Bareilly, British India, he belonged to a family of Rohilla Pushtuns who had migrated from Qandahar. He wrote about various subjects such as philosophy, science, and astronomy.

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Amrita Pritam
(Indian Author Who Wrote in Punjabi and Hindi and is Considered One of History's Foremost Female Punjabi Writers)
Amrita Pritam
6
Birthdate: August 31, 1919
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gujranwala, Pakistan
Died: October 31, 2005

Amrita Pritam was an Indian poet, essayist, and novelist who wrote in Hindi and Punjabi languages. She is widely regarded as the first major female Punjabi poet and the leading Punjabi-language poet of the 20th century. In 1956, she was honored with the Sahitya Akademi Award, becoming the first woman to receive the prestigious award.

 30 
Arun Shourie
(Politician, Journalist, Writer)
Arun Shourie
3
Birthdate: November 2, 1941
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Jalandhar

One of the most prominent political and current affairs commentators in India, Arun Shourie first gained fame with his anti-Emergency articles in the Indian Express in the 1970s. Once a World Bank economist, he has also won the Padma Bhushan and the Ramon Magsaysay Award, and been a Rajya Sabha MP.

 31 
Madhur Jaffrey
(Known for her award-winning role as Manjula in the 1965 movie Shakespeare Wallah)
Madhur Jaffrey
3
Birthdate: August 13, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Delhi, India
Koratalla Siva
3
Birthdate: June 15, 1975
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: India
 33 
Tanikella Bharani
(Indian Actor, Screenwriter, and Director Who has Worked in More than 750 Films)
Tanikella Bharani
5
Birthdate: July 14, 1954
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Telangana, Hyderabad, India
 34 
Vaikom Muhammad Basheer
(Novelist, Screenwriter, Essayist, Writer, Diarist, Songwriter)
Vaikom Muhammad Basheer
3
Birthdate: January 21, 1908
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Thalayolaparambu
Died: July 5, 1994

Vaikom Muhammad Basheer was an Indian independence activist, writer, novelist, and humanist. He is best remembered for his simple style of writing that impressed the critics and the common man alike. One of the most celebrated and renowned writers from India, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer was honored with prestigious awards, such as the Sahitya Academy Fellowship.

 35 
Girish Karnad
(Linguist, Author, Film director, Actor, Translator, Screenwriter)
Girish Karnad
5
Birthdate: May 19, 1938
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Matheran, Maharashtra, India

Actor, film director and playwright, Girish Karnad was also a Rhodes Scholar with a Masters degree in philosophy, political science and economics. A prolific writer, he authored scores of plays in Kannada, which were later translated into other languages. Also an eminent actor, film director and screenwriter, he was conferred with numerous awards including the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.

Mulk Raj Anand
3
Birthdate: December 12, 1905
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Peshawar, Pakistan
Died: September 28, 2004

Mulk Raj Anand was an Indian writer best remembered for his depiction of the people belonging to the backward class in traditional Indian society. Anand, who wrote in English, was one of the first Indian writers to achieve an International readership. In 1968, Mulk Raj Anand was honored with India's third-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan.

 37 
Rahat Indori
5
Birthdate: January 1, 1950
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India
Died: August 11, 2020

Urdu poet Rahat Indori had an illustrious and versatile career as a painter, a Bollywood lyricist, and a professor. A regular at poetry events such as Kavi Sammelan, he was known for his captivating couplets such as Kisi Ke Baap Ka Hindustan Thodi Hai. He died of COVID-19 in 2020.

 38 
Ramanand Sagar
(Film director, Screenwriter, Film producer, Writer)
Ramanand Sagar
3
Birthdate: December 29, 1917
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lahore
Died: December 12, 2005
 39 
Ahmed Deedat
(Writer)
Ahmed Deedat
3
Birthdate: July 1, 1918
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Surat
Died: August 8, 2005

Ahmed Deedat was a South African public speaker and writer of Indian descent. A popular Muslim missionary, Deedat is remembered for his inter-religious public debates with Christians. He is credited with establishing an Islamic missionary organization called IPCI. In 1986, he was honored for his missionary work with the prestigious King Faisal International Prize.  

 40 
Kalpana
(Actress)
Kalpana
3
Birthdate: October 5, 1965
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Thiruvananthapuram district Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Died: January 25, 2016
 41 
Mahasweta Devi
(Human rights activist, Writer, Poet, Novelist, Educator, Short story writer)
Mahasweta Devi
7
Birthdate: January 14, 1926
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dhaka
Died: July 28, 2016

Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning Indian author Mahasweta Devi is regarded as a gem of the Bengali literary world. She had also been a left-wing social activist, and her works such as Hajar Churashir Maa and Rudali have either tribals or people from the marginalized communities as their protagonists.

 42 
Sheela
(Actress)
Sheela
3
Birthdate: March 22, 1945
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Thrissur, India
 43 
Sagarika Ghose
(Author, Journalist)
Sagarika Ghose
3
Birthdate: November 8, 1964
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New Delhi

Renowned journalist Sagarika Ghose was an Oxford Rhodes scholar before she joined media giants such as The Times of India and CNN-IBN. Apart from being the daughter of Indian civil servant and theater personality Bhaskar Ghose, she is also the wife of popular journalist Rajdeep Sardesai.

 44 
Vairamuthu
(Author, Actor, Poet, Lyricist, Songwriter)
Vairamuthu
3
Birthdate: July 13, 1953
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Vadugapatti, Theni

Padma Shri- and Padma Bhushan-winning Indian lyricist, poet, and author Vairamuthu went from being a translator of law books to one of the most significants Tamil literary figures. The song Chinna Chinna Aasai from the film Roja was written by him and won him one of his seven National Awards.

 45 
Kamala Suraiyya
5
Birthdate: March 31, 1934
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Thrssur, Kerala, India
Died: May 31, 2009

Kamala Suraiyya, also known by her pen-name Madhavikutty and by her married name Kamala Das, was a Malayali poet who is remembered for her liberal treatment of female sexuality in her works. Her writings, such as Summer in Calcutta, form an integral part of Indian literature written in English.

 46 
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay
(Indian Novelist and Short Story Writer of the Early 20th Century)
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay
4
Birthdate: September 15, 1876
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Debanandapur, Bandel, India
Died: January 16, 1938

Iconic Bengali author Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay is best known for his works such as Devdas, Srikanta, and Parineeta, many of which have been made into films. Born into a poverty-stricken family, he found solace in literature and began writing in his teens. He was a prominent figure of the Bengali Renaissance.

 47 
Purushottam Laxman Deshpande
(Author, Film director, Actor, Composer, Poet, Screenwriter)
Purushottam Laxman Deshpande
3
Birthdate: November 8, 1919
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mumbai
Died: June 12, 2000

Purushottam Laxman Deshpande was an Indian writer, humorist, actor, scriptwriter, musician, composer, and orator. Over the course of his illustrious career, Deshpande won several prestigious awards, such as the Padma Bhushan, Sahitya Akademi Award, Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, and Kalidas Samman. He was also known for his social and philanthropic activities. His life inspired a couple of films and documentaries.      

Ramdhari Singh Dinkar
4
Birthdate: September 23, 1908
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Simaria
Died: April 24, 1974

Ramdhari Singh Dinkar was an Indian poet, academic, patriot, and essayist. Regarded as one of the most prominent modern Hindi poets, Dinkar played an important role during the Indian independence movement,; writing poems that sparked nationalism. In 1959, he was honored with the prestigious Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian award. The same year, he also received the Sahitya Akademi Award.

 49 
Kannadasan
(Poet, Lyricist, Songwriter)
Kannadasan
3
Birthdate: June 24, 1927
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sirukoodalpatti
Died: October 17, 1981

Kannadasan was an Indian poet, lyricist, philosopher, scriptwriter, and philanthropist. Widely regarded as one of the greatest Indian lyricists of all time, Kannadasan wrote about 6000 poems, 5000 film songs, and 232 books. Best known for his work in the Tamil film industry, Kannadasan became the first lyricist to win the National Film Award for Best Lyrics in 1969. 

 50 
Piyush Mishra
(Screenwriter, Music director, Actor, Singer, Lyricist, Songwriter)
Piyush Mishra
3
Birthdate: January 13, 1963
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: India