12th June, 2020 by Kimya Gandhi
PuLa100 is our custom handwritten font celebrating the legendary Marathi writer Pu. La. Deshpande. You can download & use it for free now!
When you search for Purushottam Laxman Deshpande (popularly known by his initials Pu. La.) the main information you find says he was a writer and humorist from Maharashtra. However, this description largely fails to capture the phenomenon that was PuLa to Marathi literature.
I grew up in a house where my mother, a Hindi & Marathi teacher was an avid reader. She always encouraged me to read Marathi books and Vyakti and Valli by PuLa was the first Marathi book I ever read. I remember being so fascinated by his books and the detailed characters he brought to life through his writing—they were the perfect books for me start with, simple and entertaining. Over the years I have watched many of his performances & plays and his writing still remains relatable and contemporary.
Last year, Gandhar Sangoram from Be Birbal approached me with a project to create a typeface based on the handwriting of Pu. La. Deshpande and I didn’t even have to think twice. It was encouraging and inspiring to hear all the stories and the passion Be Birbal team shared for PuLa and the creation of this font.
The process was similar to previous handwritten fonts I have created before for Maku and Sharad76. I studied samples of PuLa’s handwriting, that were acquired by Be Birbal from procured from Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune. It was truly a fascinating and memorable experience to read his words in his own handwriting. I reviewed the texts to understand his letterform style in detail. Then selected individual characters were later traced and eventually converted into a digital font.
PuLa’s handwriting is very peculiar and one can really see the speed at which his thoughts were penned onto the paper. The pre-ruled lines on the page were used as his shirorekha, so he didn’t need to draw the top line on his letterforms — this is a distinct characteristic of this typeface.
PuLa created some very whimsical letter combinations that make me smile as a type designer—and to me, these are the soul of the font. They are unique to his handwriting and the way they are encoded in the typeface they will surprise you with their unexpected quirkiness from time to time.
This project got me to thinking about the power of words in a world where we are continually scrolling through fleeting thoughts on Instagram/Facebook stories and WhatsApp Status posts. With the convenience of a keyboard and social media at our fingertips, it is easy to just say anything without fully thinking about its consequence or understanding if we truly believe in something or if it is even necessary.
This project made me pause and reflect about language and literature—how I have read so few books in Marathi over the past few years and perhaps I should start doing that again. PuLa may not talk about profound and complex philosophical thoughts, but his choice of words paint stories of countless characters; they are so simple and poignant and bring joy to his every reader. This has inspired me to read more and maybe spend less time on my phone…
Lastly, it is a nice coincidence that today is my father’s 60th birthday and I would like to dedicate this post to him, who has always taught me the importance of honest words—and to my mother who was a great story teller and used her words to bring happiness to many. I wish my mother was around to see this project, she was a huge fan of PuLa and Sunitabai (his wife—who was herself a writer and a progressive inspiring woman).
I feel grateful for being given this unique opportunity to create this memorabilia typeface celebrating the legend that was PuLa. The PuLa100 font is free to download and to use for non-commercial work from Be Birbal.