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Mamta G Sagar

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Kannada Literature: Mamta Sagar

Leather puppet of Karnataka showing Indrajit at war. Courtesy-

When the existing trends start changing and new trends emerge, one can see a mixed reaction that brings in a doubt, a strong resistance, announcing that there has been a void and 'today's' writings has no strength to represent the linguistic and cultural experience. Thus, everyone gets nostalgic and this happens at every new juncture. Writers and the literary aura in Kannada essentially depended on the Governmental institutions like Sahithya Academies, Kannada Sahithya Parishad etc for their platforms. Though an institution like Sahithya Parishad has decentralized to extend its activity, not much of a difference is seen in their functioning and the way they deal with the notions of representations in literatures. Thus, the mainstream establishments and institutions that promote literature discursively monitor definite kinds of writings. Karnataka Lekhakiyara Sangha, with its decentralized structure that has geared up its mode of functioning in the last decade seems to be an exception. With this as a background, when we look at the emerging new literary trends in Kannada, the last one decade has been very interesting. Thanks to the fresh air that brought awareness of polylithic reality by highlighting the necessity of inclusiveness to being exclusive. New forms and new writing have started emerging in Kannada like in other Indian languages. There seem to be more space for the new experimentations in the Kannada culture.

With the demise of U.R.Ananthamurthy and Yashawantha Chittala, Kannada minds that reiterate Lankesh and Poornachandra Tejaswi, lost two more of its mentors. While Vaidehi and Devanooru Mahadeva take the lead as senior writers with their productive contribution to the time, others add flair to the diversity of Kannada contemporary writing. Banu Mushtaq, Bolwar Mahammad Kunhi (Swatantrada Oota), Gopalakrishna Pai (Swapna Saaraswata), Thumbadi Ramaiah (Manegaara), and Srinivasa Vaidya are important writers who have nurtured the beginning of last decade with their prolific and exceptional creative talent. This is followed by a whole lot of writing flooding into Kannada from two more generations down the line. Sunanda Kadame, Du. Saraswathi, Tarini Shubadayini, Pratibha, Uma Rao (Cylone Susheel and other stories), B.T.Jahnavi, Mamta Sagar, Vivek Shanbhag, M.S.Sriram, Jogi, Nagaraj Vastare, Vikram Hatwar, Chinnaswamy, Arathi, Subbu Holeyar, Vikaram Visaji, Sreedevi Kalasada, Arif Raja, Badal Nanjundaswamy and the list grows.

Poornachandra Tejaswi and Devannoru Mahadeva seem to be the icons of contemporary Kannada scenario. Last decade notes the possibility of a multidimensional approach to a given understanding. Hegemonic representations are put to query. The next generation of writers; women, dalits and other marginal communities extend their horizons by adding diversity prevalent within the community experience.


nurtured her husband like a fetus.
spent quarter of a century
on the spinning wheel.

for my ammi
namaaz is jummah
id is dudhkurma

endless spinning of the wheel
tires her elbows
satisfying hunger of her six children
for ammi
these tender saplings, eyes to her dreams
like a patch of green in the desert

While the new generation of dalit poets address issues associated with dalit and sensibilities, they are no more loud or sloganistic like the poems of the poets involved with the early phase of the dalit movement.
N.K. Hanumanthaiah emerged as one such voices representing a new wave of writing afresh.

I become a tree once againii

Your memories
they always fly towards me
as fire birds.
transform into a tree.
they nest in me
I burn into ashes.

your memories
they always float towards me
as clouds.
they rain
I shoot up once again
as tree.

Women's poetry is more inclusive accommodating sexually and socially marginalised voices.

What should I document?iii

that which I saw
that which I heard
that I had experienced
all that is yours!
is for you
recorded in the pages of history.
Then what did I see?
What did I experience?
What should I document....?


soft breasts, a pair.
Also the enigmatic
inaccessible dark
between a thigh-pair.

yesterday night she returned to the sky
her earrings jingling an invite to my anklets
toward the terrace I followed
standing over the parapet wall, stretching my hands I asked
'what should we call the love we share?'
She stretched her hands and said,
'yes, let's call our love Kanagale the flower'.
little by little I started melting in her embrace
next morning people swarmed in front of the house
'that foolish girl jumped down the terrace and committed suicide
girl-girl affair it seems...!v

Both dalit and women poets address the later phase of the socio-literary movements and talk of associated issues, thus; spreading horizons of dalit and women's poetry.

Social media has opened up a large community engaged in creative writing and sharing interests around literature. Members of this community, at large, are not essentially trained with an academic background in literature studies but have proved themselves as poets, short story writers, translators, critics and bloggers engaged with various aspects of creative writing. Shammi Mahi, Chetana Tirthahalli, V.R.Carpenter, Chakravarthi Chandrachood, Rudreshwara Swamy, Rajendra Prasad, Pravara Kottur, are a few to name among many many writers active on the social media. Many established writers with a background of Kannada literature have also joined this bandwagon. In the context of contemporary Kannada literature, social media has been successful in bringing together the upcoming and the established writers liking and appreciating each other's work. These links and shares invite the familiar and the unfamiliar into ones realm of creativity. Venues for poetry events have extended to public spaces, among small groups, even graveyards and private outings etc.

Poetry, mostly enjoyed by closed literary groups has now moved beyond spaces confined to literature alone. Activism, protests, celebrations, centenaries, every possible mode of social expression now wants to incorporate poetry and poetry once again is becoming an important mode of social expression in the Kannada culture.

A victory with no sympathy over the loss is never a victory
While Godse seem to be hiding within a few commoners
'The human(e)' logically peeps from within every Mahatmavi

Music and poetry have walked hand in hand. In recent times, Kannada poetry seems to be finding new modes of expression through the vocal renditions of established young singers and their music bands. Along with the Vachanas popularly sung from Kannada literature, classical poetry by Pampa Kavi, Kumaravyasa, then the poems of Shishunaala Sharif, Kuvempu, Bendre, and poetry from the socio-political movements along with the poems by the contemporary poets are set to music and sung by individual singers and their bands. Sumathi Murthy, M.D.Pallavi, B.Jayashree, Sunitha Ananthaswamy, Raghu Dixit and the Vachana Band composed by Ramakrishna are a few to name who are experimenting with Kannada poetry and the new-music genres and compositions.

for him I sangvii

you listeners listened to me engrossed

heads nodded here and there
on the lap fingers played
tabala-pethi, a couple in love
there stood the mike a little lad

let me tell you
none of you were real audience

even before songs opened eyes within me
he looked intent at my tightly closed eye-lids
and nodded...

for him I sang
and you applauded

Editions of KAAVYA SANJE a community event curated by Mamta Sagar focuses on the intention of bringing poetry to people and engage 'people' with the addressing of social, cultural, linguistic, political, very personal, issues through poetry. Kaavya Sanje through poetry has dealt with issues associated with students, the weavers' community, city's auto rickshaw drivers, groups working in the understanding of gender across the race, religion, class and caste, the notion of freedom and democracy and collaborated with women's activist groups etc. This activity has created a forum for people who love poetry and have the interest and curiosity to listen to poetry from different language cultures within India and from parts of the world. Poetry translation has been a strong component of this activity as it provides the audience with the rendition of poems in their original languages and in Kannada and English translations.

The concept of literary festivals is not so new for Kannada literature and culture. It always annexed with cinema and/or theatre. The Film Appreciation Course at Heggodu, Shimoga district that used to introduce best of the cinema to the audience has now transformed into Samskruthi Shibhira the cultural course. Similar ventures are attempted in many smaller pockets of Karnataka. All these partially or wholly depend upon the Kannada Literature-cultural contexts. Educational institutions, private organizations, cultural groups host such activities in collaboration with the governmental bodies. All these attempts involve 'critics' and the 'cultural analysts' speaking in length about creative writings. Sammelanas or the seminars with paper presentations about creative writing take the main stage and the creative writing as such remain in the background. Authors and creative writers whose works were discussed and introduced by the critics now a days are brought to the lime light through the literature festivals. Poetry reading sessions have always been the most popular affair of the organizing of Kannada literary events. Sometimes the 'intellect' and the intellectual discussions are appreciated. Recent one that has emerged in the same pattern is 'Alvas Nudisiri'. 'Aamoda', is an interesting festival organised in Bangalore by a group of young people from different occupations, looking for an alternative space to showcase their talent. Aamoda invites young writers to share the stage with the established Kannada writers. The Bangalore Literature Festival and the Times Lit fest that have become the annual events hosted in Bangalore have started attracting writers to Bangalore. These festivals have sessions reserved for Kannada writing. Even here, panel discussions around creative writing take the larger space and an attempt to see creative writing is independent of criticism is yet to happen in Kannada.

Indications to alternative sexualities, religious and political references proposed in literature have continued to trigger off controversies and censorships within the Kannada spaces. Mohanaswamy by Vasudendra, Gandhibanda by Nagaveni, Dhundi by Yogesh Master and Anu Deva Horaganavanu by Banjagere Jayaprakash are a few to name.

Apart from big and established publishers who have occupied the market, publishing in small ventures parallel to this has mushroomed in Kannada. Vasudendra of Chanda Pustaka is encouraging many young writers wanting to publish for the first time. Sridhar and Geraldine of Kadalu, working from the UK are into promoting literature from Kannada and other Indian languages in translation at the international market. Publishers and booksellers are also engaged in organizing literary events and readings at the bookshops and otherwise. Yaji Prakashana, Abhinava, Aharnishi Prashantha Nilaya, Akruti Books, etc; have been successful in building a link between authors and the readers. Sahithya Academy both regional and State, Sahithya Parishat, National Book Trust and other governmental bodies too contribute to the Kannada canvas. KuVemPu Bhashabharati, the Translation Centre launched by the Karnataka government in 2009, has been active in conducting classes and workshops around technical and creative translations. Kanakadasa Study and Research Centre has now taken up the task of translating poems by the Kannada saint poet into languages like Beary, Konkani, Kodava, Tulu, Urdu, Hindi, English, and a few other major and minor India languages.

Every often we hear people complaining about how literary movements once active, have now diluted and fragmented. I would like to look at this as strength rather than weakness of the impending social expression. In the last one decade, social and literary sensibilities have become multidimensional with declarations showing up in more than one kind and attempts allowing for varied expressions. The current status of Kannada literature is making space for newer possibilities and exchanging new ideas with the Kannada and non-Kannada literary spaces.

i Arif Raja "Ammi". Tr. Mamta G. Sagar
ii Hanumanthaiah.N.K. "I become a tree once again" Chitrada Bennu. Tr. Mamta G. Sagar.
iii Saraswathi Du. "What should I document?" Henedare Jedanante. Tr. Chitra Panikkar and Mamta G. Sagar
iv Mamta Sagar. "Me" Hide & Seek. Tr. Chitra Panikkar.
v Sumathi Murthy. "Untitled" Presented at the Kaavya Sanje X , March 2004 @ Freedom Park. Tr. Mamta G. Sagar.
vi Carpenter.V.R. "Ombattu" Ashleela Kannadi. Tr. Mamta G. Sagar
vii Sridevi Kalasada. "Aalaapa" . Tr. Mamta G. Sagar


Focus Indian Literature Today

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  Hindi Literature: Sukrita Paul Kumar
  Indian English Writing: GJV Prasad
  Indian English Writing: Harish Trivedi
  Kannada Literature: Mamta Sagar
  Kashmiri Literature: Mohammad Zahid
  Maithili Literature: Vidyanand Jha
  Malayalam Literature: T P Rajeevan
  Marathi Literature: Sachin Ketkar
  Odia Literature: Lipipuspa Nayak
  Punjabi Literature: Tejwant Singh Gill
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  Telugu Literature in Andhra: U Atreya Sarma & K Ravindra Trivikram
  Telugu Literature in Telangana: Itha Chandraiah & U Atreya Sarma
  Urdu Literature: Sukrita Paul Kumar

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