One writer, many books

Hottu Hoguva Munna, Naatakagalu, Akkadi Saalu, Santeyalli Ninta Kabeera mattu Doctor Tippeshi

Bhadra Haveli

To cinema lovers, he is the versatile actor who donned the role of a don, with elan; to theatre-buffs, he is the one who brought alive on the stage the last Moghul emperor; to students, he is the committed professor of English; but to the lovers of poetry, he was almost unknown. However, recently, Lohitashwa took the Kannada readers by surprise, releasing simultaneously three of his works in Kannada, in three different genres.

First the plays. “Santeyalli Ninta Kabira” is the adaptation of a Hindi play by Bhisham Sahani (known for his novel, Tamas) . True to Sahani's Marxist orientation, the play dramatises the way a movement begins very unobtrusively, and the threats such a movement initially faces. Shorn of miracles and divine intervention, Sahani's play shows a poor and honest reformer-poet in Kabir, who builds up a group of like-minded people and mounts a critique of both orthodox Islam and Hinduism. Lohitashwa has adapted the play successfully; and one of the plus points of the play (as in the original) is the use of Kabir's dohas, very appealing even in translation . It is no wonder that the play has seen more than 40 performances (as the author records) though the use of a dialectical form of Kannada in the play is debatable. The second play is a free adaptation of a farce by Moliere. Since Moliere's comedies and farces are situation-based, they can appeal to any audience at any time. Lohitashwa's use of dialect is functional in this farce and even today the play can entertain audiences.

“Akkadi Saalu” (which means ‘sowing seeds in lines'), is a delightful collection of column-writings on varied subjects. There are touching portraits of the people the author admires and diverse articles on the writer's experiences – funny as well as sad. As one can expect, many articles pertain to the Kannada film-world and personalities like Rajkumar. In a simple and straightforward style, the author recounts the incidents in the early stages of his acting-career which challenged his self-respect. Also, there are many unusual happenings, like Champa delivering a ‘mobile-valedictory address' sitting in his bedroom, to an audience in Dharwad!

“Hottu Hoguva Munna” is a collection of 67 poems, mini-poems, and limericks, written over a period of two to three decades. The chiseled images, disregard for lyricism, use of comic-ironic tone, and dislike of cerebral outlook on life – all these qualities register the fact that his inspiration lies in the Navya poetry of Adiga and Sharma.

The concerns of the poems are varied: satires on contemporary craze for glorification (“Nangondu Photo Bekitta” ), hypocritical spiritual leaders (“Ondu Binnaha” ), lustful officers (“Eeta Vipareeta” ), and such; witty limericks ( “Trikaala”, “Vedike-vedane” , etc.; however, such jokes like “Sanje-seminaaru” , and “Kusu-kaasu” could have been omitted) ; and mini-verses (“Amrita Galighe” …). The most meaningful poems in this collection are those that gravely reflect on love, nature, and society. For instance, “Jalaantargaami Jahaju” compares the secluded and secure life we yearn for to a submarine and urges man to come out and face the real world. “Amma Saayuvudilla”, a major poem, convinces us that ‘Mother-principle' is deathless, and ends with these memorable lines: “ nishsheshadalu miguva shesha/ ee jivakosha” (‘what remains after everything ends is this life-giving source'). Another major poem is “Gandhi” which analyses Gandhi's complex personality and points out the paradoxes inherent in his life and works. Of course, the short verses on Badami and Aihole are exquisite for their fresh images and have a haunting quality.

C.N. RAMACHANDRAN