Articles and Reviews

Friday, December 31, 2010

Kannada Poetry Today: Themes and Concerns -Part 2

C)  Transcending Ideological Frames:  The poets in this group (such as Aravinda Malagatti, L. Hanumanthaiah, S. G. Siddaramaiah, Savita Nagabhushana, H. L. Pushpa, Pratibha Nandakumar, and others) are those that were active in 80’s and 90’s of the earlier century as the angry poets of ‘Dalit-Bandaya Movement.’    However, most of them now have given up the single agenda of Dalit experience and /or women-subordination and have extended their fields of concern to include either the effects of the recent phenomena of Free Market economy and Globalisation or mystic experience in general.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kannada Poetry Today: Themes and Concerns -Part 1

First, let me set out the broad contours of my paper.  Though I am aware that the history of Kannada poetry –of any poetry for that matter – has scant respect for the artificial periodisation of time in the form of decades and centuries, only for the sake of convenience, by ‘today’  I mean Kannada poetry in the last decade –ie. the first decade of the 21st century.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kannada Drama with Particular reference to Chandrashekhar Kambar -Part 2

II  Dr. Chandrashekhara Kambar

a)    Biographical:

Padmashree Dr. Chandrashekhara Kambar, playwright-poet-novelist-critic, holds a unique place in the field of post-independence Kannada literature; he fuses modern sensibility with traditional forms of performance and expression.  With 21 plays, eight poetry collections, three novels, and 12 collections of research articles on theatre and literature, Kambar is one of the most significant writers in Kannada, today.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kannada Drama with Particular reference to Chandrashekhar Kambar -Part 1

     The history of modern Kannada drama can be divided, roughly, into four periods: a) Professional-popular theatre,   b) Elite Theatre of Realism,  c)  Navya or Modernist Theatre, and d) Navyottara or Post-modernist Theatre.

a)     Professional-popular Theatre:
     Although Kannada poetry has a rich history of more than a millennium, drama entered Kannada literature only at the end of the 17th century; and the first Kannada play to be staged was Singaraarya’s Mitravinda Govinda (1700), a free adaptation of Sri Harsha’s Ratnavali in Sanskrit.  However, popular local forms of theatrical entertainment – called ‘Pagarana,’ ‘Yakshagana,’ ‘Bahurupi,’ etc.  – existed since a long time.  Mummadi Krishnaraja Odeyar, the king of Mysore  (1811-1860), was himself a great writer; and he patronized Yakshagana, a popular dance-music-drama, and wrote many plays in that form.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Parasangada Gende Thimma -Part 2

     The Kannada film based on the novel (with the same title) was produced in 1978.  It was directed by Maruti Shivaram and the roles of Gendethimma and Maranki were played by Lokesh and Rita Anchan, respectively.  The artist behind the camera was the man known for his imaginative handling of the camera, Ramachandra; and the lyrics were penned by the famous poet Doddarange Gowda.  As a bridge-film, it was a big hit with both the masses and the critics. 

Friday, December 03, 2010

Parasangada Gende Thimma -Part 1

                          ‘Avva’ and ‘My Dear Lady’:   The Varied Avatars of a Text

     This paper, a comparative study of a Kannada text, its English translation, and the film based on the text, from the point of view of “ rhetoricity”  has three small sections: while the first section  analyses,  briefly, the Kannada novel Parasangada Gende Thimma  by Shrikrishna Alanahalli, the second section analyses the major features of the translated version  by P. P. Giridhar, and the final section its film version, and then it concludes with a few general comments on the act of translation.   

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oral Mahabharatas and Varnashrama Discourse -Part 5

On the basis of the analysis attempted till now of the Bharatha-narratives, both written and oral, the following  conclusions could be hazarded:

(1)     Of the three categories of Bharatha-narratives, those in the second category (the post-Vyasa Bharathas in different Indian languages) can surely be seen as ‘ alternative’ or ‘counter’ or ‘subversive’ narratives.  For, consciously, either owing to the poet’s different religion or regionality, the post-Vyasa Bharathas oppose and reject / qualify the ‘varnashrama ideology’ of the Vyasa Bharatha.  Their opposition to that ideology may take any number of forms: rejection of Draupadi’s polyandry, portrayal of Karna as a noble but ill-fated tragic character, humanization of Duryodhana, rejection of miraculous incidents (divine origin of the birth of Pandavas), etc.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Oral Mahabharatas and Varnashrama Discourse -Part 4

 ( 4 )  Differences in Characterisation

(a)     Draupadi:  Whereas in literary-written Bharathas Draupadi belongs to a prestigeous Kshatriya clan, the oral narratives depict her as either an incarnation of Shakti or as a spirit / demon born to destroy the warring classes.

Birth: In all the three oral Bharatha-narratives, Draupadi is of unknown parentage; she is found wandering in a jungle by the Pandavas and then she is brought home, with the promise that they will marry her.  But in the literary Bharathas, she comes out of fire when the king Drupada conducts a yagnya; and she is brought up as a proud Kshatriya woman.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Oral Mahabharatas and Varnashrama Discourse -Part 3

(3)  Janapada Mahabharatha: 6

     This narrative, as long as 36,000 lines, is  popular among the agricultural communities of Karnataka and chosen parts of it are performed during festivals and on special occasions.      Since the singer has been exposed to the traditional  Mahabharatha- story through films, plays, and Television, his narrative, consisting of both prose and poetry,  closely follows  the literary Bharatha-versions.  However, there are many significant variations and I give below only the variations.

(1)  Inset stories:  The independent stories of ‘Brahma Kapaal,’ ‘Bhimesh linga,’ ‘Gaya,’ ‘ Markandeya,’ and such are added to the main narrative.

(2)Regional / local details:  Festivals, rituals and practices such as ‘the Karaga ritual,’ ‘Konti worship,’ ‘ black-magic of Keralites, ‘the geneology of the Jogi community,’ and such, prevalent mostly in the southern part of Karnataka, find their place in the narrative.

(3)Characters: At the level of  characters, those of Draupadi, Krishna’s nephews, and Vichitravira stand out as totally different from those found in the literary versions of the Bharatha-story. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Oral Mahabharatas and Varnashrama Discourse -Part 2

(2)  Janapada Bharatha Kathegalu:  (Folk-tales of the Bharatha) 5

          The singers of these narrative songs belong to the Gauda, Jogi, and Kunabi communities, living in the northern part of Karnataka.  They sing these songs that narrate the various parts of the Bharatha-story independently during the harvest season and festivals.  The main function of these performances appears to be entertainment.

     The  27 parts,  sung by  different individuals,  are as follows:  
(1) Baava monk falls in love with a boatman’s daughter and she gives birth to  four children.  The first one flies to the sky as soon as he is born; the other three grow up as Aadashi, Gantashi, and Dantashi.  The latter two once suspect their own mother’s behaviour with Aadashi and in remorse commit self immolation; out of the  fire four people emerge: they are Pandoraja, Kailoraja, Kunti and Gandori.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oral Mahabharatas and Varnashrama Discourse -Part 1

                   “JHUG JAAYEN VAARTA AAGE HA” :1

     The hold the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha narratives have had on Indian imagination for at least two millennia is both fascinating  and intriguing.  Since the time Vyasa and Valmiki composed their epics in Sanskrit, those epics  have been re-told, re-interpreted, and revalued in every Indian language, in every mode and in every form of literature and arts.    What A. K. Ramanujan says of the Ramayana holds true of the Mahabharatha also:  both constitute as it were the ‘second language’ of India2.

     Such a phenomenon of telling and retelling the same narrative  through the ages raises many questions not easy to answer.  Does this phenomenon reflect a lack of  imagination and slavish reverence toward tradition in the Indian mind?  On a different level, how do we view these retellings of the classical epics?  Are they different versions of  ancient and hoary ‘original’ works, or, are they revisions, revaluations, and subversions of the ‘original’ works?   And, in this confluence of literary re-tellings, where do we place the oral versions? 

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Bedas of Halagali


 Sad days  came upon them  – on those who wielded swords;
The angry fighters of Halagali – they were indeed doomed.   
 It was decreed from the foreign Company government:
‘The arms and weapons of all  have to be seized by force;
Swords and scimitars, knives and sickles of all sorts,
Axes and lances, bows and arrows, muskets and shotguns,
Blades, bullets, powder – everything has to be seized;
Those who hide anything should be jailed for three years,
And those who resist should  be put to sword.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Political Narrative

     In general, to the rural, illiterate and simple singers of oral narratives, political matters are too distant and too complex to talk about.  Hence it is that the bulk of oral literature tends to be a-political.  However, the policies and acts of the British colonial power in India were so heartless and exploitative that they affected the lives of even common people in this country.  

Monday, November 01, 2010

‘Riwayat’ : “Water for the Tank”

Riwayat’ : “Water for the Tank”    

 The term ‘Riwayat,’  as H. M. Bilagi, who has collected many such narratives and has made a study of them explains, is originally a Persian term meaning ‘ story’ or ‘an incident.’  Since they are to be sung during the Muslim Moharram festival, they are also called ‘Moharram songs.’  

The saint-poet, Shishunala Sharif of the 19th century, is supposed to have introduced this rare form to Kannada, with his more than a hundred riwayats on different subjects.  After he popularized this form, many others have written riwayats, especially in and around the district of Bagalkot in north Karnataka.  In form, they resemble ‘Lavani’ or ballad: the narratives begin with a refrain (‘chaala’) to be repeated after each stanza, and then in each stanza there are certain lines to be sung in a high pitch (‘eru’) and certain others in a low pitch (‘ilu’).  The last stanza of each narrative bears the name of the poet and, often, his teacher.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Story of Sankamma -Part 3

(Still not satisfied, Neelegowda sadistically spreads big thorns on the ground; and being a sorcerer, creates two magic figures.  He stations them to guard the door, with the orders to them that if anybody enters the hut or tries to go out, they should immediately kill such persons.  Then he goes out and joins his clan-men.

     Sankamma, moaning and writhing in pain, mentally prays to many gods and goddesses to come to her aid, but to no avail.  Finally, in desperation, she prays to Madeshwara.)


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Story of Sankamma -Part 2

Shiva, Shiva!  O Mother Earth!  O Sky above!
Master, what are you saying?
To go to the desolate place where three mountain peaks meet,
To the silent valley near it,
To build a lonely hut in a tiny tribal hamlet there,
And to live there, far away from everyone –

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Story of Sankamma -Part 1

                       ‘THE STORY OF SANKAMMA’   -Part 1



In the very beginning, I revere your feet;

O Madeva, grant me wisdom.
I am ignorant of metre, rhyme and rhythm;
O godly Guru, grant me salvation.

O you, who sport on the branches of fluttering mango leaves,
Who dance to the rhythm of cymbals and tamburi,
O Mother!  Mother Sharada!
Sing the words in apt measure,
O Mother!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kannada Oral Epics: Women And Society

     Women that inhabit the world of Kannada oral epics are at the very center of ambiguities and contrary pulls that give those epics their distinct form.  On the one hand, these women in these narratives are proud of their womanhood and are more assertive  than their counterparts in the written tradition; on the other hand, they also hold the classical Sita as their role-model.  Consequently, they constantly oscillate  between fierce assertion of their womanhood and pativratya, fidelity to their husbands in mind and body.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review of "Kannada Kadambari Lokadalli" by M.S.Nataraj

M. S. Nataraj, ed.  Kannada Kadambari Lokadalli
                 N. J., USA: Kannada Sahitya Ranga, 2009   pp. 400;  price: 250/-
                              “ Commendable Diasporic Writing”

     One of the major characteristics of Diasporic experience is biculturism, an attempt to retain cultural bonds with the homeland, which is both an emotional necessity and a means of distinct identity.  The Ameri-Kannadigas are a fine instance of this experience.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Review of "Odanata" by S.R. Vijayashankara

S. R. Vijayashankara, ODANATA
Anandakanda Granthamale, 2007                        pp. 224; price: 120/-

               “Warm Portraits of Great Men”

     ‘Odanata’ in Kannada means ‘companionship’; and Vijayashankara  has had the fortune of intimate companionship with many men of extra-ordinary talents.  The gallery he presents in this work contains the portraits of 27 men from different walks of life:  great writers, men of theatre, administrators, cartoonists, journalists, and rationalists.  

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Review of "Shatamanada Kavi Yeats" by Dr. U.R.Ananthamurthy

Bengaluru: Abhinava, 2008                                   pp. 128; price: 75/-
                   “A Valuable Contribution to Yeats-Studies”

William Butler Yeats (1845-1939) was an unbelievably complex person: he was a great poet-playwright, leader of the Celtic Renaaissance, and a believer in Spiritualism and Occultism.    His love for the fiery revolutionary, Maud Gonne, is legendary; though she consistently refused to marry him, he couldn’t forget her, and she figured in many of his famous poems.   

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review of "Kannadadol Bhavisada Janapadam" by M.V. Vasu

      M. V. Vasu, ed. Kannadadol Baavisida Janapadam
Bangalore: Chintana Pustaka, 2009               pp. 440/-; price: 375/-

                               A Mixed Bag of Scholarship

     This volume of research articles on the history and culture of Karnataka was released during the 20th Conference of Karnataka History Congress, held in Bangalore, last year.  Of the 30 articles in the volume, four are in English and the rest in Kannada.  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review of "Sahitya Sambandha" by T.P. Ashoka

                T. P. Ashoka,  Sahitya Sambandha
      Akshara Prakashana, 2008        pp. 361; price: 210/-
         “A Serious Contribution to Kannada Literary Criticism”

       Prof. T. P. Ashoka, a major Kannada critic and theatre activist, published his first critical work in 1979; and, till today, he has to his credit 12 critical works, three translations, and eight works edited by him. Interestingly, during the last decade and a half, he  gave up writing,  involving himself  in Literary and Theatre / Film appreciation workshops,  running to more than a  hundred. The present work heralds his return to literature and literary criticism. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review of Vaasane, Shabda, Banna, Ityadi by Ashok Hedgde

Ashok Hegde, Vaasane, Shabda, Banna, Ityadi
Heggodu: Akshara Prakashana, 2008                 pp. 136; price: Rs. 80
                  “Indomitable Will Against Odds”
     One major feature of Kannada literature since the last two decades has been the emergence of a group of young writers from Uttara Kannada district.  Besides senior writers like Chittal and Jayanth Kaikini, this group includes

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review of the book "Uttarayana Mattu..." by HSV

Dr. H. S. Venkatesha Murthy, Uttarayana Mattu …
Malladi Halli: Anandakanda Granthamale, 2008 pp. xx + 80; price: 100/-

Dr. H.S. Venkatesha Murthy (popularly known as HSV) is one of the most significant and versatile Kannada writers in the post-independence period. His first poetry- collection was published in 1968, and, during a span of four decades, HSV has to his credit 64 works including 16

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Article: "Many Voices, Many Notes"

(A Note on Post-independence Kannada Literature)

“ Unless you understand your earlier steps, you cannot take a step ahead,” observes the great mystic-poet Allama Prabhu. Supposing we look back at Kannada literature, standing on the threshold of ‘Suvarna Karnataka,’ the fiftieth year of the state of Karnataka, what do we see? What were the major concerns and preoccupations of Kannada literature in the last fifty years? This short article tries to answer some of these questions.