A true grass-roots level writer

Jnanpith award: Kambar realised the universal in indigenous, native culture in modern times

“I am happy and my readers too are happy. To be frank, I had anticipated the Jnanpith award. But I am unable to express the extent of my happiness, now that it has finally happened,” he said, while interacting with reporters at his house ‘Siri Sampige’ in Katriguppe on Monday evening.

Kambar also said that Kannada should get more Jnanpith awards. “There is no dearth of subject matter. This is the advantage of the language. Meaningful works, giving new dimensions to the literary field, are being published even today,” he said.

While talking about the challenges faced by new age writers, he said, “The new challenges we face should be reflected in our writings. I always keep thinking about the new challenges and youngsters. At the same time, I also think about the rural masses and their expectations”.

Kambar said that he could not rate any of his works as the best. “A writer will stop writing if he assumes that his work has achieved a level of satisfaction. You may call it selfishness, but none of my works have given me complete satisfaction. Hence, I continue to write.”

When asked where he gets his subjects for his works, despite writing for the last four decades, he said: “Writing is my mode of expression. Except writing, I do not know anything else.”

The news which instantly sparked off a celebration in the literary fraternity had colleagues, well-wishers, friends and family of Kambar drowning him with congratulatory messages.

Play on Veerappan
Kambar surprised everyone gathered by saying he wanted to write a play about forest brigand Veerappan next. When asked why, he said that the present circumstances make him wonder whether the “Veerappans” were in the forests or in the Vidhana Soudha. “Hence, I want to make him my next subject,” he jested.

Kambar said his desire was to see the day when the government provided Kannada medium education from standard I to X, and also established a university which gave education from anganwadi to post-graduation level in all the streams.

Humble beginning
The 74-year-old Kambar, born in Ghodageri village of Belgaum district, was keenly interested in folk arts, local culture and language as such from his early age. He is truly a knowledge seat of literature. His uniqueness is using north Karnataka dialect of Kannada in his works - both poems and plays. He is popularly known as ‘Shivapur Kambar Masther’ in his native district. Kambar had his schooling in Gokak and higher education at Lingaraj College, Belgaum. He did his post-graduation and PhD from Karnatak University, Dharwad. After a brief stint in teaching in University of Chicago, he taught in Bangalore University for two decades. He was a Fulbright scholar. The awards and honour he received include Padmashri in 2001, Sahitya Akademi award in 1991, Kalidas Samman, Kabir Samman and Pampa award.

Kambar was the chairman of National School of Drama from 1996 and 2000 and the president of Karnataka Nataka Academy from 1980 to 1983. The credit of becoming the first vice- chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi goes to him. He is not just a folklorist, but also a poet par excellence, novelist and researcher. He is described by critiques as a natural poet.

He has the credit of introducing Bailahongal’s famous ‘Sangya Balya’ (Bayalata) and ‘Jokumaraswamy’, a traditional ritual of his native taluk, to the literary world. He has to his credit 22 plays, eight anthologies of poems, three novels, 12 research works and several scholarly write-ups on folk theatre, literature and education.

Some of his major works include the recently released play ‘Shivaratri’. ‘Narcissus’, ‘Jokumaraswamy’, ‘Alibaba’, ‘G K Mastarara Pranaya Prasanga’, ‘Kasigondu Seru’, ‘Singarevva Mattu Aramane’, ‘Huliya Neralu’ and ‘Karimaayi’ (both made into movies) and ‘Siri Sampige’ are his other well-known works. Kambar has directed a number of movies based on the plays written by him. ‘Karimaayi’, ‘Sangeeta’ and ‘Kadu Kudure’ are some of his major films as director. He has also adopted his play ‘G K Mastara Pranaya Prasanga’ for television. Kambar has produced several documentaries for the State and Central governments.

 Writers shower praises on Kambar

Kambar should have got the recognition much earlier. I am glad that he has got it at least now. He is an unique writer, as he realises the ‘universal’ in the indigenous. He is also the creator of puranas among new writers.

Kambar has enriched the language of Kannada further, and this award is well-deserved.
U R Ananthamurthy

I am happy that a personality like Kambar from Belgaum has got Jnanpith. He has breathed and lived folklore through his career. By honouring him, folklore has got recognition at national level.
Basavaraj Jagajampi
Kannada Sahitya Parishat
 Belgaum district unit president

I am absolutely happy that this award, which has been long due, has finally come Kambar’s way. He is one of the highly qualified gifted writers we have today.
I have watched him from a close range, and after Bendre, he is the only writer who has come close to using the north Karnataka language so effectively in his works.
While his poetry is rich, his voice is richer. My first impression about him wasn’t a good one, because I based it on his looks. But when I heard him sing, my entire perception about him changed.
Prof G K Govind Rao
Noted artiste and writer

Kambar is a multi-faceted personality and he cannot be classified as just a writer or a poet or a playwright.

His uniqueness is his ability to interpret nativity in modern times by making it easy to understand. He also effortlessly brings to the fore the native sensibility, and the mythical, cultural, and community memories by making them relevant in the present context.
K V Narayana

This award is long-awaited. Kambar is a contemporary creative genius. He has successfully brought to the fore Karnataka’s cultural identities through his poetry, drama, novels and folklore.

He is one among the ‘tradition maker’ writers that Kannada has today. He has brought forward the legacy of Kannada literature by adding vibrancy, value and depth to his works. He is an optimist and a big dreamer. He creates a dream-like world, which is an inspirational resource. 
K Y Narayanaswamy

Kambar’s works surpass class-oriented dimensions of life and experience.
In fact his technique of merging experience and language, apart from giving him a larger canvas to work on, also provided more depth to his works. His usage of ‘desi bhasha’ has given Kannada literature vigour.
Dr M S Asha Devi
Professor of Kannada, Maharani College


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