Literary colossus

Literary colossus

Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy (1931-2014) was among the rare breed who influenced several generations of people and made their mark in various spheres of life.

A committed socialist, the literary giant was known for his short stories, novels, plays, collections of poems, literary criticism and essays.

He was not just that. The multi-faceted personality, he excelled as a teacher and administrator, igniting several young minds. Though he taught English literature, Ananthamurthy wrote in Kannada. That many of his works have been translated into several languages of the world is an indication of his standing in the world of literature. Only last year, he was nominated to the Man Booker award.

Films based on his novels – literary classics Samskara and Ghatashraddha – created ripples in not just new wave Kannada cinema but in other languages too. While Samskara brought the coveted top-most national award Swarn Kamal for the first time to Kannada filmdom, along with Ghatashraddha which also bagged the same award, it resulted in the rare event of a single author’s works winning the prestigious prize twice.

As they won national awards, the two books – which were also translated into several languages across many countries - also brought out the thinker in Ananthamurthy. For his works, the writer was to be showered with various awards over the years, prominent among them being Padma Bhushan and Jnanpeeth.

One of the tallest progressive thinkers the country has seen, Ananthamurthy was the centre of many controversies too. Never hesitating to express his views, he had his own sections of followers as well as opponents. Still, he mostly used to have good relations with even those with whom he had differences.

A staunch votary of secular ideals, he raised his voice on several social and political issues and remained unfazed and adamant on the controversies that his comments created till his very end. In the last two decades, especially in the last couple of years, the thinker’s open statements against the BJP and Hindutva had set both the party and the activists against him.

Though Ananthamurthy never took it personally, his Hindutva opponents did which amply came out when a section among them celebrated his death, which can only be condemned in strongest terms. So strongly he felt about Hindutva that even on his death bed, he was giving final touches to his last book on the subject. A writer lives even after his death. With his works. Ananthamurthy is one such rare personality.