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Still on top of the charts

The recent seminar on novelist S.L. Bhyrappa re-emphasised the fact that he remains one of the most popular Kannada fiction writers. B.S. VENKATALAKSHMI reports

Bhyrappa may be criticised but not ignored.

THE LARGE gathering which attended the recent seminar organised in Bangalore by Sundara Prakashana, the Bangalore-based publishing house, to discuss the works of the Kannada novelist Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa, was proof enough of his popularity.

He is a writer, whose voluminous works have been made into feature films and also translated into several languages, including Urdu and Sanskrit. He has always remained controversial in certain quarters because of his selection of themes and also because of his stands. But at the same time, he is the one "who could only be criticised and not ignored" as several speakers tried to point out during the seminar

Eminent speakers

The day-long event had several eminent litterateurs and writers presenting papers on his novels.

In a way, it was both an attempt to highlight the reasons for their acceptability and to remove the misgivings from the minds of a few who have always considered him a traditionalist running a Hindutva propaganda. Irrespective of these things, the craft he has mastered as a storyteller and his literary expertise have always been admired even by his critics and he is among the very few Kannada writers, for whose works (original and translation), the reading public eagerly await.

Prof. L.S. Seshagiri Rao, the well-known literary critic, in his introductory remarks gave a broad glimpse of Bhyrappa's novels. M.H. Krishniah, teacher and scholar, recalled the situation that existed before 1960s when only sentimental novels was a rage among reading public. It was later, during the Navya Movement, that enough attention was given to the technique.

Instead of paying attention only to the entertainment aspect, writers such as Bhyrappa, who were quite aware that society could not be reformed overnight through their works, tried to ponder over life's experiences with maturity and brought a new structure into them. According to Krishniah, the novelist stands out among other writers because his works were the result of his wide travelling around the world and his deep knowledge about music, fine arts, theology and philosophy. He also said that the titles of Bhyrappa's novels were themselves suggestive and acted as a key to the themes.

Lakshminarayana Bhatta, in his assessment of Bhyrappa, said that his novel Parva was perhaps the only work which was an example to show how a 20th Century intellectual could view the great epic Mahabharatha through metaphors. He came down heavily on those who criticised Bhyrappa as a "promoter of Brahminism".

Dr. Bhatta further justified his argument that Bhyrappa spared no effort to portray reality by discussing the character of the mean Brahmin, Venkataramana, in his novel Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane.

No sermons

Writer Sumatindra Nadig, while speaking on the craft of the novelist, said that the beauty of the novel Mandra was in its effort to awaken the morality of a person instead of sermonising.

Each speaker had a different perspective to Bhyrappa and the seminar left the audience fairly enlightened.

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