Eminent Telugu novelist, short story writer, poet and critic Ravuri Bharadwaja was selected on Wednesday for the prestigious Jnanpith award for the year 2012 for his contribution to Telugu literature.

Mr. Bharadwaja was chosen by a selection board chaired by noted poet Sitakant Mahapatra, a statement of the Jnanpith Award Committee, said in New Delhi. “Bharadwaja passed through all sorts of vicissitudes of life but continued his service to Telugu literature with perseverance. His greatest attribute is his flair for story-telling. His works proved that a writer has social awareness and his work a human purpose,” a statement of the committee said.

Odiya novelist Pratibha Ray was also selected for the same award.

Mr. Bharadwaja is the third Telugu to be chosen for the honour, after the late Viswanatha Satyanarayana for ‘Ramayana Kalpavruksham’ (1970) and C. Narayana Reddy for ‘Viswambara’ (1988). The 86-year-old writer has to his credit 37 collections of short stories, 17 novels, six short novels for children and eight plays.

Topping the galaxy of writers of post-Gopichand era, he was first reckoned as a successor to Chalam. But Bharadwaja made a mark of his own by embellishing his writings with distinct characteristics in his inimitable style, diction, portrayal and narration. If “Paakuduraallu” is a masterpiece that presents a graphic account of life behind the screen in the film industry and came to be known for its originality and craftsmanship, another novel, “Kadambari”, is equally acclaimed as an outstanding work. His other notable works are “Jeevana Samaram”, “Inupu Tera Venuka” and “Koumudi”.

Born to Ravuri Mallikamba and Kotaiah on July 5, 1927 in Moguluru village of Paritala Jagir under the former Hyderabad State, Mr. Bharadwaja later moved to Tadikonda village in Guntur district. His formal education lasted only till Class VIII, but his literary prowess got him honorary doctorates from Andhra, Nagarjuna and the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University.

He started work as technician during World War II, doing odd jobs as a field worker in factories before joining the editorial staff of ‘Zamin Rytu’, in 1946 and then ‘Deena Bandhu’, in 1948. Later, he worked in several publications including in ‘Jyothi’, ‘Samiksha’, ‘Abhisarika’, ‘Chitraseema’, ‘Cinema’ and ‘Yuva’ till 1959, when he joined the All India Radio, Hyderabad as a Junior Script Writer.

Starting his writing career at the age of 17, he has the distinction of receiving the State Sahitya Academy Award for Literature twice in 1968 and 1983 and Central Sahitya Academy Award in 1983. He was the first recipient of the Gopichand Literary Award in 1968 and Rajalakshmi Award for Literature in 1987.

Ravuri household beehive of activity

Soon after the news of the announcement of the Jnanpith Award for Ravuri Bharadwaja came in from New Delhi, there was a steady stream of visitors, comprising friends and relatives, apart from a heavy media contingent.

The small flat in the first floor of his residence in Vijayanagar Colony was overflowing with well-wishers, even as reporters, photographers and videographers taking up every available space. Flashbulbs continued popping and it was the unobtrusive octogenarian’s enthusiasm and happiness that seemed to give him the energy to talk to dozens of scribes.

Humility to the fore

The litterateur’s first reaction was; “I am not the only one responsible for getting this award. Social circumstances that made me do, write what I did and all the people whose experiences I penned, contributed to it, apart from several politicians too.” Interestingly, when asked about his favourite work, he quipped, ‘Jeevana Samaram’ (Struggle for existence).

His sons, daughters-in-laws and grandchildren were busy receiving visitors, answering phones that rang non-stop and generally organising things. Asked about his experiences penning ‘Paakudu Raallu’, he said it was one into which he put everything he had, to make it a showcase of the lives of those in the film industry.