Karnad attacks URA's literary legacy

Karnad attacks URA's literary legacy

Noted Kannada playwright Girish Karnad on Friday questioned the late U R Ananthamurthy’s literary legacy by claiming that the litterateur wrote nothing that was significant after “Samskara”. 

“All his later works were actually second rate,” said Karnad, triggering a storm at the ongoing Bangalore Literature Festival here.

Karnad also slammed Ananthamurthy’s analysis of Hinduism in “Samskara,” dubbing it “very baseless” and “shallow”. The playwright and actor had donned the role of the main character, Praneshacharya, in the film adoption of the critically acclaimed work. Ananthamurthy, 82, passed away last month following multiple organ failure. 

The controversial remarks were made at a session organised to pay tribute to the late writer. Karnad was in conversation with artist S G Vasudev and Kannada poet, Mamta Sagar.

Two years ago, Karnad had stirred up a controversy by saying that Rabindranath Tagore wrote “mediocre” plays. His criticism of V S Naipaul’s writings on Indian society had also sparked a debate at the Mumbai Lit fest the same year.

Continuing his unusually harsh take on Ananthamurthy, Karnad claimed that “Bharathipura” was unreadable. “He (Ananthamurthy) knew that he had lost it,” Karnad quipped in an apparent reference to the late litterateur’s waning literary zeal. “Bharathipura” had delved into issues of caste sensibility and untouchability in the society. But Karnad acknowledged Ananthamurthy’s strength in penning powerful stories. 

“He should be judged on the basis of his brilliant short stories,” said Karnad, hastening to add that these literary works attracted global attention thanks to A K Ramanujan’s translations. 

Karnad was also quick to refute Mamta Sagar’s contention that Ananthmurthy had refused a Parliament seat. “He (Ananthmurthy) loved a seat but was not given. He pursued a (Rajya Sabha) seat like mad,” he said.

He justified his assertion by drawing the participants’ attention to a “famous photograph” that had Ananthmurthy serving lime juice to former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy.  

Seeking an objective analysis of the legacy of artists and litterateurs, Karnad emphasised the need not to “whitewash” them. “We must look at our artists with all their darker shades,” he said.

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