Funny then, funny now

Funny then, funny now

Kannada magazine ‘Koravanji’, now ‘Aparanji’, has been dedicated to humour since 1942. What keeps it running and relevant


Let me make some snacks; the ‘Koravanji boys’ will come soon!” Nagamma would exclaim on the evening of third Sunday every month, way back in 1942. 

She referred to writers Na Kasturi and cartoonist R K Laxman, who would arrive to discuss content with her husband M Sivaram aka Ra.Shi, the founder of Koravanji magazine. 

This was a Kannada magazine dedicated to humour and began its journey on March 18, 1942, in Malleshwaram, Bengaluru.

The magazine provided much-needed relief with varied humour through articles, skits, limericks, satire, cartoons and poems.

And Ra.Shi, a writer of light humour himself and a doctor, nourished it for 25 years.

It was modelled after the famed English satire zine Punch, and was synonymous with wit and lapped up by the masses. 

There were many literary giants associated with the magazine, apart from said names — Beeranna (B R Narayana Iyengar), Shivaram Karanth, Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar, Dasharathi Dikshit, Sriranga, A V Keshava Murthy (Kefa), A R Sethurama Rao (A Ra Se), G S Shivarudrappa, G P Rajaratnam, H R Shankaranarayana, A K Ramanujan, A R Mitra (Akroora) were associated closely with the magazine.

It groomed scores of writers and many went on to become household names associated with humour — like Sunandamma and A S Ramakrishna.

People bid adieu to it with a heavy heart in April 1967, when it stopped publication due to shortage of funds.

Chapter two

But in 1983, A R Sethurama Rao, a regular contributor to Koravanji, wanted to revive the magazine. He sought approval from Ra.Shi, who suggested a new version under the name Aparanji (pure gold), and the first issue was published from Chitradurga, under the stewardship of writers Sheshagiri Rao and A R Sethurama. 

In 1984, Shivakumar, the son of Ra.Shi, took over as the editor and a new chapter started in the history of humour. An engineer by profession and an entrepreneur,  Shivakumar or Aparanji Shivu, brought an update. 

Now, crisp humour, stories on issues from the world of social media, digitisation, science, environmental issues, themes based on red-lettered days, ‘What-if’ scenarios like ‘what if the world didn’t have sunsets’ are features of Aparanji .

Writers like Leela Mirle, Bhuvaneshwari Hegde, Kumuda Purushotham, Nandini Kapadi et al have been encouraged to write, thus bringing new dimensions to the traditional writing on the subject.

Legacy now

Like his father, Shivakumar has built a team of writers. He is known for his dedication to the magazine. He dons many hats apart from editing the magazine. He has crafted a fictional character, Sharalekha, like Sherlock Holmes, and published a book on his adventures.

Aparanji is a legacy to be carried forward. We focus not just on wit, but also on issues like environment, human values, family issues, without compromising on quality,” he says.

In 1996, the Aparanji team conducted the first Hasyostsava, an annual Christmas-day jest fest that features humorists, poets and writers.

Many stand-up comedians have been launched from this platform and it did have an uninterrupted run for 18 years. A trust, established in 1999, oversees the working of the magazine. The trust rewards humorists, conducting conclaves to encourage Kannada literature and arts.

Along with the print version, the magazine has an internet avatar.

“There is no doubt that Aparanji is a platform for budding writers or about its clean humour. It has promoted the language and added to its rich content,” says writer Bhuvaneshwari Hegde.

Leela Mirle, daughter of Ra.Shi and a prolific writer herself, has been associated with the magazine from its Koravanji days. “Shivakumar has always been methodical in everything.”

In addition, his compassion has helped in bringing a large community of writers together.

C R Satya, a long-term associate and scientist, concurs with her. The Sahitya Akademi Award-winner, who has penned the famous Ache mane Subbamma (Neighbour Subbamma), a satirical poem on the character, says he is proud to contribute to Aparanji.

Sustaining a humour magazine isn’t easy, but for Shivakumar, the challenge is exhilarating.

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