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Through the NRI eye

Some interesting reads in Kannada…

Kannadadamara Chetana
Essays on Maasti Venkatesha Iyengar edited by Ahitanala,
Sahityanjali California & Abhinava, Bangalore,
Rs. 175.

Maasti Venkatesha Iyengar was an institution by himself in Kannada’s cultural context. A Jnanapeetha awardee for his achievements in Kannada literature, he belongs to the Navodaya movement.

Though he excelled in exploring all categories of literature, including novels, poetry, literary criticism, dramas, essays, etc., he is best known for creating the tradition of short stories in Kannada. He also edited a culture magazine “Jeevana” and contributed to the creation of a new generation of writers in Karnataka.

It is but natural that such a stalwart shouldcreate a deep impression in the minds of people who come close to them or who read their books. The book “Kannadadamara Chetana” edited by Ahitanala (Naga Ithal) is an example of such an influence of a great personality.

The book is a collection of essays on Masti written by Kannadigas living in America. None of them are students of literature;. in fact many are doctors and engineers. But, the philosophy of life they imbibed from the reading or acquaintance of Masti made them respond genuinely in their writings. A gratefulness to the spirit of Masti for guiding them to the core value of life is seen in both the pen pictures and the critical essays on his literature. Their creative use of the language should be an eye opener to those who use clichés and follow outdated styles in Kannada criticism these days.

There are two extraordinary pieces of writing in the book in the form of profiles by Vimala Rajagopal and Alamelu Iyengar, with ample insight into the life of Masti and the Kannada culture of yesteryears. Incidentally, Vimala Rajagopal is the daughter of noted Kannada writer L. Gundappa and Alamelu Iyengar, the daughter of Pu.Ti.Na, the well-known Kannada poet.

Vimala Rajagopal’s essay “Maley bittaroo marada hani bidadu” places Masti beyond time and space. The essay begins on a personal note with memories of Maasti helping her as a child to care for a wounded parrot that entered her house accidentally. She then walks down memory lane recording the Bangalore’s lifestyle in the late 1950s, and positions the importance of music in Maasti’s poetry. A passionate recollection of those days and the influence of Masti at personal and intellectual levels make the essay one of the finest, based on anecdotal information. Even Alamelu Iyengar’s writing brings that personal touch with reverence.

An innocent appreciation of the goodness in life was Maasti’s strength. It doesn’t mean that he was not aware of evil. But, his faith in God and in value systems made him believe that one has to face evil by becoming magnanimous in condoning evil acts and intentions.

Ten other critical essays in the book by NRIs give us an idea as to how good literature could create lasting impressions on sensitive minds. The collection is definitely a welcome addition to the study of Maasti.


Belliterey Belagidavaru, A. N. Prahlada Rao, Cinema Sahitya Prakashana, Rs. 100

From the pen of A. N. Prahlada Rao, the crossword-smith whose puzzles reach readers of nearly every Kannada daily or magazine, comes “Belliterey Belagidavaru” — nuggets profiling 115 filmstars who twinkled on the Kannada silver scre en.

Prahlada Rao, whose first book “Bangaarada Manushya”, a biography of the late Rajkumar has been an avid collector of trivia on Kannada cinema, which he innovatively uses to compose crosswords. The book features everyone from patriarch Gubbi Veeranna to the golden oldies of the black-and-white era who reinvented the stage on celluloid, making the new medium a craze for first generation film-goers.

Subbaiah Naidu, Kannada cinema’s first hero in the first feature film “Sati Sulochana”, doyen director G. V. Iyer, legends such as Master Hirannayya, B. R. Panthulu and R. Nagendra Rao who donned the hats of director, producer or actor with ease and élan, the first superhero of Kannada cinema Rajkumar feature in this book.

Beauties who lent sparkle to the screen — B. Saroja Devi, Jayanti, Kalpana, Manjula and Bharati and latter-day heroes and actors including Srinath, Vishnuvardhan, Anant Nag, directors Hunsur Krishnamurthy and Puttanna Kanagal, and Girish Karnad who even shone briefly in Hindi films are celebrated in well-written, compact pieces that nudge the curiosity of the reader for more. Ravichandran, Malashree, Tara and other stars of the ‘90s also figure in the collection.

These short sketches of the folk of Kannada filmdom, are an easy, engaging read, and can be read in any order. The longest article is on Rajkumar, at three-and-a-half pages, but then this could be the shortest piece that captures the essence of the artiste as completely as possible.

With a foreword by director Girish Kasaravalli, who is also profiled, “Belliterey Belagidavaru” offers a pleasant ride through Kannada cinema and the famous names that people it.


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