Archive for September, 2011

Everybody loves his own Jnanpith winner

28 September 2011

The heat and dust over the selection of the poet, playwright and writer Chandrasekhar Kambar for the Jnanpith Award has subsided, but the self-inflicted sense of injury about S.L. Bhyrappa being ignored for the honour won’t go away so easily, now that the debate has been framed in ideology with motives being attributed to the jury.

Left versus right, secular versus communal, and so on.

Tough, says the wellknown theatreperson Prakash Belawadi in reaction to two pieces published on churumuri.

Bhyrappa, he contends, is less deserving of the privately awarded honour than U.R. Anantha Murthy, Girish Karnad or Kambar. And those who don’t like how the Jnanpith is being awarded can well get together for an Award that they can hand out to their ilk.



In the opening lines of Woody Allen‘s Annie Hall, the principal character Alvy Singer (Allen himself) says: “There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, ‘Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.’

The other one says, ‘Yeah, I know; and such small portions.'”

I think that sort of applies to the attitude of disgruntled Kannadigas about the Jnanpith Award. They want it for their favourite guy because it is such a good award to get, but when denied, they denigrate it as a lobby-picked sour grape.

Let’s take the piece which opens with the grand insult: ‘There are mole hills and snake pits and then there are “literary circles”.’ This observer declares that writers are “peevishly insecure,” “loudly backslapping their peers in public and quietly backstabbing them in private.”

This follows beneath a Girish Karnad letter to the editor, so one presumes that this is a snide address to Karnad. There’s something about “incestuous” too, which is positioned against “true intellectualism”, whatever that is.

There is a self reference to “ordinary mortal” – though ironically, I fear – and a claim to “observe the small minds, the giant egos, the juvenile jealousies, and the awfully sour grapes on display.”

Who has the smaller mind and the bigger ego, I wonder.

And then there is the post by the Editor who says a series of contradictory things:

He quotes a Patil Puttappa comment on Chandrasekhar Kambar and calls it an “extreme remark” and follows it up in the very next sentence with “I totally agree with Puttappa”.

Does he mean both “extreme” and “remark” when he says “totally”?

Then comes this bashful confession, “I may not be a Kannada professor or even one who has delved deep into the wonderful world of Kannada literature,” followed by a swanking: “But then I am no nincompoop either as I regularly read reviews and comments on importantl Kannada books and even read some of the books.”

And armed with the confidence of regular reading of “important Kannada books,” he declares: “Howsoever proper Kambar’s selection might be, he could not have taken precedence over S.L. Bhyrappa.”

Says who? The Jnanpith Selection Board may well ask. He then thunders on,”…In fact, out of the seven Jnanpith awardees so in Kannada, all were giants except the last two – U.R. Anantha Murthy and Girish Karnad.”

I too, like the Editor have “even read some of the books” and I disagree. But that’s not so relevant, because I am not on the selection board of the Jnanpith and not likely to be ever, given my ignorance and insignificance.

For the record, the Jnanpith Award is instituted by the Bharatiya Jnanpith Trust founded by the Jain family that publishes The Times of India.

The Editor now moves into weird zone: “It is now perceived that though the Jnanpith selection panel for some years in the beginning was free from political, caste, religious or any kind of bias or prejudice that influenced its selection, in later years it is seen as being subtly influenced by so-called secularists with leftist leanings.”

The Times of India is Leftist? And what about Kambar? If the ‘secularists’ are “backstabbing,” why would they choose Kambar? Make up your mind, dude.

Who are the “secularists”, for instance, that will “subtly influence” the following, all members of the present selection board? Dr Sitakant Mahapatra (Chairman), Dr. K. Satchidanandan, Gurdial Singh, Keshubhai Desai, Manager Pandey, Dr. Gopi Chand Narang, Dinesh Misra (Ex-officio) and Ravindra Kalia (Ex-officio).

Sitakant Mahapatra is a retired IAS officer, Oriya poet and critic (Jnanpith Award, 1993); Satchidanandan is a highly respected poet, playwright and critic in Malayalam; Gurdial Singh is a Punjabi novelist, the son of a carpenter and blacksmith who went on to win the Jnanpith Award in 1999; Keshubhai Desai is a medical doctor by profession and a highly acclaimed Gujarati writer, Manager Pandey is an eminent writer (who, alongside Satchidanandan, will perhaps fit the “leftist” label) and Gopi Chand Narang is an Urdu scholar and writer who was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2004.

Does the Editor seriously believe he knows better or, as he imputes, is more honest and independent than the above, all victims of “that venomous spider’s web?”

And if indeed the Jnanpith selection panel is yet to be “liberated from these shackles,” how is the award also the “the ultimate stamp of recognition?” Incidentally again, among the trustees of Bharatiya Jnanpith, the only non-Jain members are Sitakant Mahapatra and former bureaucrat T.N. Chaturvedi, who is now with the BJP.

He asks us, “could any reader of Kannada literature deny that S.L. Bhyrappa is less deserving or not at all deserving?”

Eh! Come again. OK, let’s allow that the slip is in subbing and not Freudian, but I, for one – though not a serious “reader of Kannada literature” – will offer that Bhyrappa is indeed less deserving than Anantha Murthy, Karnad and Kambar. (But nobody cares, dude).

And, finally, his disclaimer that he has “absolutely no intention to diminish the literary capabilities of either Chandrashekar Kambar, U.R. Anantha Murthy or Girish Karnad” seems ridiculous.

There are, I am inclined to wish and believe, many deserving writers in Kannada who must be recognized by awards of prestige, such as the Jnanpith, But the rules of the award stipulate that any language that gets the award must be out of the reckoning for the next three years.

I wonder what the mysterious ‘Lobby’ will do in the sit-out period.

Meanwhile, like the old women of Catskill mentioned in Woody Allen’s crack, disgruntled Kannadigas should stop looking for awards from places that offer lobby takeaways. Besides, it is a private award that is widely respected in India and nobody cares what you think, really.

Why should they?

What you could do, however, is get together in a group that is close to Bhyrappa and far from the “secularists” and hand out your own award.

I mean, you know best, don’t you?

Also read: Does Kambar deserve Jnanpith ahead of Bhyrappa?

Kambar and Karnad, Bhyrappa and Puttappa & Co

Naada habba with an eye on the North and West

28 September 2011

The 401st Dasara is upon us. On the first day of the nine nights, U.B.Vasudev in Tampa, Florida, forwards a panoramic picture of the main Amba Vilas palace in Mysore, the cynosure of all eyes, all lit up.

This picture, as viewed from the Jayamarthanda gate, overlooking the Doddakere maidan and Chamundi Hills, has been stitched together using four different frames captured by Vasudev in March 2010.

This is how it looks during the day, without lights.

Especially for some of us who grew up in the erstwhile Royal Mysore, this time of the year is very nostalgic. It would have been nice if Mysore Dasara was what it used to be,” writes Vasudev.

The palace, which turns 100 in 2012, is also the star of Karnataka tourism’s print advertising campaign this year, hammering home the point that the Mysore palace attracts more visitors than Buckingham Palace.

A few years ago, the palace attracted more visitors than the Taj Mahal.


Vasudev also forwards a YouTube video of the anthem of Mysore composed by the late Basappa Shastry.


Also read: Dasara in punya bhoomi vs Dasara in karma bhoomi

On the morning of the first day of the nine nights

What is so famous about “world-famous” Mysore Dasara?

All that glitters is gold for the next ten days

My daddy, His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore

Once upon a time, this day, another age

In the nervous 90s, stitching up some old memories

Do we have a right to know Sonia’s condition?

28 September 2011

The veteran editor, writer and columnist T.J.S. GEORGE weighs in on the secrecy surrounding the health of the Congress president Sonia Gandhi:

“Speculation and all kinds of gossip flourish around Sonia Gandhi thanks to her own addiction to secrecy. The contrived drama about her surgery in America could not have happened in any other democracy.

“She controls the destiny of every Indian but no Indian has the right to know whether she is in a condition to do so. Citizens are only entitled to dry titbits dished out by Congress spokesmen trained not to speak a word beyond what they are told.

“They have not even told us what her ailment is. How then do we believe what they say?

“How do we know that she is really back in India? How do we know that she is cured when curing is rare in cancer cases? Photographs are strictly no-no, so how can we not believe that she has lost hair through chemotherapy?

“By hiding facts, they feed rumours. This is not privacy. This is secrecy. Evidently Congressmen think that there are things about their ruling dynasty that must remain shrouded in secrecy. That is why they panic at the merest sign of a crack in the wall of secrecy. Unfortunately history shows us that walls crumble some day, somehow.”

Read the full article: Real drama is in secrecy games

Also read: What Sonia Gandhi‘s illness reveals about media

Why foreign media broke news of Sonia illness


At 8th Cross, music that can move the mountains

25 September 2011

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: North-west of Mathrumandali Circle in Mysore, perhaps at a distance of less than three fourths-of a kilometre—beyond the hordes of bleating sheep and a bovine assortment of cows and buffaloes that lounge around along the Paduvarahalli main road in carefree abandon, past the ever anchored ‘Shah Pasand’ horse carriage with its black horse tied to a tree, munching a bale of hay—is 8th Cross, Vontikoppal, the headquarters of the Sri Prasanna Vidya Ganapathi Mahotsava Charitable Trust (SPVGMC).

And it is on this road that an annual ritual takes place. A ritual as much devoted to the veneration of the legendary elephant headed Lord Ganesha, he of the voluminous middle with a snake for a belt, the remover of obstacles and the giver of good fortune, as for the sheer joy and exhilaration of Carnatic music lovers.

For it is on this small stretch of dusty road that once every year, during the month of September, a lot many of India’s finest vocalists and instrumentalists perform on a makeshift stage under a large awning set up with serial bulbs and hired red plastic chairs, for rasikas to drink the nectar of a kind of music that is steeped in a tradition of great ancientness.

And it was on this very road that my own ignorance born of a certain prejudice and a lack of exposure to the larger nuances of Carnatic music was consigned, mercifully, to the dark alleys of no return, on a gently cool evening in the company of a few friends last night.

For it was an evening during which the ‘Padma Vibhushan’, the sangeetha kalanidhi Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, a man endowed with the arcane gift of making a drum encased in strips of wood and closed at the ends with a round casing of tanned leather with a black bull’s-eye mark to it—the mridanga—behave like a beautifully choreographed danseuse in the throes of passionate, obsessive, cataclysmic upheaval at times; a gentle, tender and delicate rosy cheeked baby suckling her loving mother in a state of inclusive calmness at other times; and a cooing damsel ensconced with the fresh whiff of romance at a few other times!

Accompanying the young and exciting Saket Raman, a Carnatic singer who has been blossoming under the tutelage of the legendary Lalgudi Jayaraman and who is surely but unobtrusively pressing the gas pedal on the highway to greatness, the 76-year-old Shivaraman was a virtual study in well rounded extraordinariness when it came to handling the mridanga.

Or was he toying with it?!

And to think that I for one, had for some reason concluded in my mind that the tabla with its almost smooth, honeyed throb and the cascade of a certain well proportioned dulcetness to it which went around in a rhythm of exquisite, well preserved depth as the singer sang his aalaps invariably in the grand Hindustani style with its endless possibilities of improvisation, was the percussion instrument to fall in love with.

The mridanga in comparison, I felt, was a little harsh and crude, not given to the possibility of acoustic refinement. Something that was put to better use during temple rituals amidst the throng of hundreds and thousands of fervent devotees as priests went about chanting mantras in praise of the deity.

But then, I hadn’t heard Umayalpuram Sivaraman, had I?

Seated in concert along with the singer Saket Raman and Sivaraman was Mysore M. Nagaraj, a violinist whose class can elevate you and deposit you on the clouds of intense musical enjoyment; in a state of meditative bliss; a child prodigy who was gifted by god, the fingers to plait a special magic out of the strings that constitute the instrument of his stupendous craft.

Even as Saket Raman began to journey through the various depths and troughs, the channels of his musical expressions, eyes closed and face contorted in a mood of intense expressiveness, it was Umayalpuram Sivaraman who, with his energy and high spiritedness, began to match the ensemble.

The music that he made from his mridanga was one that came forth with an amazing repertoire of a multitude of sounds ranging from the crisp, clear notes of methodical rhythmic repetitiveness to the deep, almost guttural, denseness of a certain set of beats to a virtual coaxing, cajoling, enticing and charming delicateness. Nagaraj on the other hand, with his curly-haired handsomeness and a stage presence that not many can come close to, created his own brand of never failing melody to match with his violin.

Shivaraman’s smile every now and then in the midst of it all; his delicate glances at his accompanying disciple, Krishna Prasad, urging him to play with confidence; the sheer speed of his wizened fingers as they went about in a frenzy of unfailing beats always perfectly in tune with the musical situation; the flourish with which he would close his rendition for either the violinist or the singer himself to take over; the infectiousness of his demeanour on stage at an age when most other regular men would prefer the comfort of their drawing room, a newspaper in hand and a cup of hot coffee by the side and the noise of the grand children’s playfulness around them!

Umayalpuram Sivaraman made my evening memorable. An evening that made me realise that in the phenomenally intricate and complex world of music, the great purveyor’s of which live in the rarefied realms of eternal bliss, I got to taste a tiny morsel.

I’m eternally grateful!

YouTube video: courtesy Nagarathna Sitaram



Photographs: Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman in concert with Saket Raman (vocal) and Mysore Nagaraj (violin) at 8th Cross, Vontikoppal in Mysore on Saturday, 24 September 2011 (top); after the concert, Sivaraman poses for pictures with rasikas and their grandchildren (below)


Also read: At 8th Cross, even Ganesha loves a good concert

At 8th Cross, a 24-day musical extravaganza

500 TV channels, and not one for classical music?

CHURUMURI IMPACT: A train for R.K. Narayan

24 September 2011 is delighted to record the renaming (and flagging off) of the daily Mysore-Yeshwanthpur Express between Karnataka’s two premier cities as Malgudi Express, to perpetuate the memory of India’s first globally renowned English writer, the Mysorean R.K. Narayan.

We are delighted for two reasons.

One, we believe that even as small a gesture as getting a train named after Narayan’s creation, although rather late in coming, is an important signal in giving our literary, social and cultural titans their due.

And two, the railway ministry’s decision is largely if not solely the outcome of the suggestions of churumuri readers across the world, who responded magnificently to our campaign which began over five years ago.

In many ways, therefore, this is a victory of online activism of a kind not generally known or seen in India.


On this happy occasion, please allow us a moment of self-congratulation.

We would like to thank the then governor of Karnataka, T.N. Chaturvedi, who took the churumuri campaign to the railway ministry in the centenary year of Narayan’s birth; the Union minister for external affairs S.M. Krishna who revived the campaign in the 10th year of RKN’s death; and the railway minister Dinesh Trivedi who gave the green signal.

Additionally,we are thankful to the late Mysorean icon, T.S. Satyan, the historian Ramachandra Guha, and the writer Sunaad Raghuram who took the churumuri campaign to the governor of Karnataka. Several writers have kept the campaign alive over the years by writing pieces on Narayan. S.M. Krishna’s advisor Raghavendra Shastry, played a key role in reactivating the campaign this year.

Above all, we are thankful to our readers. Without you, this small salute for a giant Mysorean would not have been possible.

Coming up next: A stamp for R.K. Narayan.



Train No. 17304: Leaves Yeshwanthpur daily at 11.35 am, reaches Mysore at 3 pm

Train No. 17303: Leaves Mysore daily at 12.10 pm, reaches Yeshwanthpur at 3.30pm


Photograph: courtesy Simon Winchester/ The Guardian

Read: All the stories in R.K. Narayan campaign


Also read: ‘Where is Malgudi? Where we all wish we lived’

R.K. Narayan on Mysore

Ved Mehta on a day in the life of R.K. Narayan

T.S. NAGARAJAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

T.S. SATYAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

R.S. KRISHNASWAMY: A day in the life of R.K. Narayan

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY: As Mysorean as Mysore pak, Mysore mallige

Four reasons why ‘Tiger’ will never go extinct

23 September 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Mansur Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi, was catapulted to the captaincy of the Indian cricket team at the age of 21 when his captain, Nari Contractor, lay hovering between life and death in a hospital in the West Indies after being felled by a beamer from Charlie Griffith.

Thrust into the hotseat, the young captain faced the fearsome West Indies bowlers Wesley Hall and Griffith without any of the accessories that are part of  batsman’s armour today.

But fate had earlier thrown its dice against him, when in a car accident in England he nearly lost his life that left him with a loss of one eye which effectively crippled a career that had just taken off.

It was therefore astonishing to the crowd at Chepauk that M.A.K. Pataudi, the name scorers would enter in scorecard, only with one eye could get his focus and sense of line and length  and score a century and field like a tiger.

Hence his name ‘Tiger Pataudi’.

Reason #2: In the short time that he led the team, he earned the affection and loyalty of his team members like no other captain before and very few after.

The prince showed it was in him to be an earnest commoner like  others and for the first time in Indian cricket he built a team that was devoid of regional and fissiparous tendencies which was the negative hallmark of Indian teams till then.

It was Pataudi who brought in a sense of purpose and direction instilling in his colleagues the spirit that they were playing for India and not representing Bombay or Delhi, a feeling that was widely prevalent and practiced till then.

Pataudi made sure the team plays as a single unit.

It again fell to regional nautanki ways for a while till Sourav Ganguly brought in a no-nonsense approach that has stayed till today.

Reason #3: Pataudi saw the potential of B.S Chandrashekar as a match winner against England’s Mike Smith and had a new ball rubbed on the grass to take the shine off.

E.A.S. Prasanna, Bishen Bedi and Chandrashekar, his leading spinners at that time, spun  out most teams because of the daring decisions he took and attacked the weaknesses of visiting teams by having  fielders like Eknath Solkar at  close-in positions.

Reason #4: It was his keen eye that saw the genius in the little master G.R. Vishwanth for whose inclusion he even fought with the chairman of selectors, Vijay Merchant.

GRV out for a duck in his debut Test at Kanpur and scored a century in the second innings.

Most batsmen never scored another century if they had scored a century on debut. Vishwanath rewrote history when he went on to score many more. But it was Pataudi who made sure he would play for India.

Under him India recorded the first ever overseas victory in New Zealand.

Pataudi lost his captaincy in a rather queer and old-fashioned movie kind of vendetta.

In 1946, due to the differences in selection committee, Vijay Merchant had lost captaincy to the Nawab of Pataudi Sr.

After a quarter of a century, in 1971, when there was a deadlock  as to who should be the captain of the Indian team, Merchant, now as chairman of selectors, put his casting vote in favour of Ajit Wadekar instead of the reigning captain MansurAli Khan still only 29!

It is still a topic for hot discussion in cricketing circles.

The Nawab married the Bengal beauty Sharmila Tagore who forsook Bengali films and became a star in her own right in Hindi films.

Pataudi will be best remembered for unorthodox batting  before which blocking the ball the whole day was considered a virtue, freshness of ideas as captain and above all raising above regional mindset that still haunts Indian cricket every now and then.

And for the thought once more and for the last time of what he could have been had fate not played a cruel trick on him.

It isn’t so easy to woo an iPhone4 user, Sister

22 September 2011

Nokia is not in very good shape as fitter, sleeker whippersnappers surge ahead in the smartphone market. So, it’s pulling out all stops, like pitting Mandira Bedi versus, ahem, Steve Jobs. Here, the bit actress and two-bit cricket expert interacts with students of Mahaveer Jain College, in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

CHURUMURI POLL: Mandira Bedi or Mayanti Langer?


Also view: One more example of commodification of women

Another example of commodification of women

Another example of commodification of examinations

Like, bombers get scared looking at bombshells?

Now, what will those fools do with these kids?

Surely all that glitters is more than just gold

The best ice-candy melts before nice eye-candy

What it takes to smoothen some rough blades of grass

Denims, diamonds, Miss India and the Mahatma

See, a brand ambassador always gets good press

Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear

You are almost tempted to say ‘Intel Inside’

Don’t ask us what it is, but it sure costs a bomb

What Sonia Gandhi’s illness reveals about media

22 September 2011

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, scooped by Indian Express photographer Anil Sharma, as she leaves her daughter’s residence in New Delhi on 14 September 2011.

Nothing has exposed the hollowness of so-called “political reporting” in New Delhi, and the fragilility of editorial spines of newspapers and TV stations across the country, than the Congress president Sonia Gandhi‘s illness.

Hundreds of correspondents cover the grand old party; tens of editors claim to be on on first-name terms with its who’s who; and at least a handful of them brag and boast of unbridled “access” to 10 Janpath.

Yet none had an inkling that she was unwell.

Or, worse, the courage to report it, if they did.

Indeed, when the news was first broken by the official party spokesman in August, he chose the BBC and the French news agency AFP as the media vehicles instead of the media scrum that assembles for the daily briefing.

Sonia Gandhi has since returned home but even today the inability of the media—print, electronic or digital—to throw light on just what is wrong with the leader of India’s largest political party or to editorially question the secrecy surounding it, is palpable.

Given the hospital she is reported to have checked into, the bazaar gossip on Sonia has ranged from cervical cancer to breast cancer to pancreatic cancer but no “political editor” is willing to put his/her name to it, taking cover under her right to privacy.

About the only insight of Sonia’s present shape has come from an exclusive photograph shot by Anil Sharma of The Indian Express last week.

In a counter-intuitive sort of way, Nirupama Subramanian takes up the silence of the media in The Hindu:

“That the Congress should be secretive about Ms Gandhi’s health is not surprising. What is surprising, though, is the omertà being observed by the news media, usually described by international writers as feisty and raucous.

“On this particular issue, reverential is the more fitting description. Barring editorials in the Business Standard and Mail Today, no other media organisation has thought it fit to question the secrecy surrounding the health of the government’s de facto Number One.

“A similar deference was on display a few years ago in reporting Atal Bihari Vajpayee‘s uneven health while he was the Prime Minister. For at least some months before he underwent a knee-replacement surgery in 2001, it was clear he was in a bad way, but no news organisation touched the subject. Eventually, the government disclosed that he was to undergo the procedure, and it was covered by the media in breathless detail.

“Both before and after the surgery, there was an unwritten understanding that photographers and cameramen would not depict Vajpayee’s difficulties while walking or standing. Post-surgery, a British journalist who broke ranks to question if the Prime Minister was fit enough for his job (“Asleep at The Wheel?” Time, June 10, 2002) was vindictively hounded by the government.

“Almost a decade later, much has changed about the Indian media, which now likes to compare itself with the best in the world. But it lets itself down again and again. The media silence on Ms Gandhi is all the more glaring compared with the amount of news time that was recently devoted to Omar Abdullah‘s marital troubles. The Jammu & Kashmir chief minister’s personal life has zero public importance. Yet a television channel went so far as to station an OB van outside his Delhi home, and even questioned the maid….

“Meanwhile, the media are clearly not in the mood to extend their kid-glove treatment of Ms Gandhi’s illness to some other politicians: it has been open season with BJP president Nitin Gadkari‘s health problems arising from his weight. Clearly, it’s different strokes for different folks.”

Read the full article: The omerta on Sonia‘s illness

Also read: Why foreign media broke news of Sonia illness

How come no one spotted Satyam fraud?

How come no one saw the IPL cookie crumbling?

How come no one in the media saw the worm turn?

Aakar PatelIndian journalism is regularly second-rate

Does Kambar deserve Jnanpith before Bhyrappa?

21 September 2011

The selection of the poet, playwright and novelist Dr Chandrasekhar Kambar for the Jnanpith Award threatens to go the way of the previous two winners from Kannada, U.R. Anantha Murthy and Girish Karnad, who although deserving in their own ways were seen to have upstaged more deserving candidates.

While URA’s and Karnad’s choice was discussed sotto voce, in this media-saturated age, in the BJP’s “Gateway to the South”, Kambar’s choice ahead of S.L. Bhyrappa (in picture), has attained the loud edge of ideology with the growing feeling that Bhyrappa is being sidelined for his right-wing views.

K.B. Ganapathy, the founder-editor of India’s most successful evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, joins the debate and asks if the Jnanpith Award selection panel, like the Nobel Prize panel, might one day rue its choice, privileging ideology over literature.



Mahatma Gandhi was the strongest symbol of peace and non-violence in the 20th century. He was acknowledged then and even now as the greatest apostle of peace in a world split asunder by war and violence.

Such a man should have been the natural choice for the Nobel Peace Prize. But he never got it.

What happened? Why?

This disturbing thought crossed my mind as I read a news headline in The New Indian Express this morning that screamed “Kambar Doesn’t Deserve Jnanpith, says Papu.”

The report said that the veteran journalist Patil Puttappa, a former Rajya Sabha member and a sort of political catalyst acting like an oracle from his native Hubli, had taken serious exception over the selection of the folk writer Dr Chandrashekar Kambar for the prestigious award which is considered to be the Indian equivalent of the Nobel Prize for literature.

Puttappa is reported to have even made the extreme remark of calling Kambar as “someone with no ability”, and that he was pained over Kambar’s selection as there were several other more eminent litterateurs in Kannada than Kambar.

I totally agree with Puttappa, though I may not be a Kannada professor or even one who has delved deep into the wonderful world of Kannada literature. But then I am no nincompoop either as I regularly read reviews and comments on important Kannada books and even read some of the books.

Patil Puttappa has also openly said that when the renowned Kannada writer S.L. Bhyrappa should have been given this honour, it had been given instead to Kambar.

I agree with a caveat.

Howsoever proper Kambar’s selection might be, he could not have taken precedence over S.L. Bhyrappa.

In fact, out of the seven Jnanpith awardees so far in Kannada, all were giants except the last two — U.R. Anantha Murthy and Girish Karnad. And it is significant to note that of all the winners of Jnanpith award in Kannada, it was these two awards that drew flak from some quarters. But then in these days of sycophancy, winner is soon turned into a God and worshipped!

It is now perceived that though the Jnanpith selection panel for some years in the beginning was free from political, caste, religious or any kind of bias or prejudice that influenced its selection, in later years it is seen as being subtly influenced by so-called secularists with leftist leanings.

And it is here that our S.L. Bhyrappa got stuck — in that venomous spider’s web.

I am sure once the Jnanpith selection panel is liberated from these shackles, S.L. Bhyrappa too will be honoured with this prestigious literary award.

It is for this reason I mentioned in the beginning about Mahatma Gandhi not getting the Nobel Prize for peace even though he was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and finally a few days before he was assassinated in 1948.

Nominated. Never awarded.

Strange. A paradox.

If Dalai Lama could be awarded Nobel Prize for peace, was Mahatma Gandhi less deserving? On the same line of thinking, if Kambar, U.R. Anantha Murthy and Girish Karnad could be found deserving, could any reader of Kannada literature deny that S.L. Bhyrappa is less deserving or not at all deserving?

The lobby of the secularists, here in Bangalore and there in Delhi, apparently has worked overtime to deprive a deserving candidate, S.L. Bhyrappa, a rightful place in the world of Kannada literature adorned with the ultimate stamp of recognition — a Jnanpith award.

It is indeed sad.

It is believed that S.L. Bhyrappa is branded as one with rightist orientation or as being a pro-Hindu in his writings. If this is so, one can also brand U.R. Anantha Murthy, Girish Karnad and Kambar as those with leftist orientation and as being anti-Hindu.

Does it mean that being a rightist and pro-Hindu is a disqualification to deserve a Jananpith award while being a leftist and anti-Hindu is a qualification to deserve it?

No literature of creative kind should be evaluated on the basis of its ideology. It happens only in a totalitarian or a communist country. It should be evaluated on its pure literary quality — style, technic, use of language, rhetoric and above all, artistic merit.

Ulysses of James Joyce is considered literature for the same reason.

Further more, even if one takes into account the volume of works turned out by the last three winners of Jnanpith award, it is not comparable to other earlier winners and of S.L. Bhyrappa.

Having said this, I should hasten to add that I have absolutely no intention to diminish the literary capabilities of either Chandrashekar Kambar, U.R. Anantha Murthy or Girish Karnad. The last mentioned two are indeed intellectuals in their own right while Kambar has earned a niche for himself as a folk writer par-excellence.

Their contributions to enrich Kannada literature is no less significant but at the same time S.L. Bhyrappa’s contribution too is no less significant. In fact S.L. Bhyrappa’s is much more significant both for reasons of artistic merit and scholarship and therefore must be recognised.

I only hope that the Jnanpith award panel need not be apologetic one day in future for not giving its award to S.L. Bhyrappa, like the Nobel Prize committee which regretted its omission in not giving the award to Mahamta Gandhi at the time it gave the award to Dalai Lama saying that this award was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.”

And as for Kannada readers, even if S.L. Bhyrappa, a resident of Mysore, does not get the Jnanpith award, it does not matter. Has not Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of France, said the last word on such unrealistic decisions?

France was not recognised by some of the European countries following Napolean’s victorious wars.

And Napoleon said: The Sun need not be recognised.


Also read: U.R. Anantha Murthy,our greatest living writer?

Did Adolf Hitler fetch S.L. Bhyrappa‘s freedom?

The mahaan elastic buddhijeevi of the year is…

CHURUMURI EXCLUSIVE: S.L. Bhyrappa on Avarana

WHODUNIT?: URA, Kambar, HSS, Mystery woman?

Kambar and Karnad, Bhyrappa and Puttappa & Co

21 September 2011

There are mole hills and snake pits and then there are “literary circles”.

For all their bonhomie and camaraderie, for all their high ideals and even higher aspirations from humankind, poets, novelists, writers and playwrights are a peevishly insecure lot, loudly backslapping their peers in public and quietly backstabbing them in private.

Maybe, this is as it should be given the small, lonely, insular and egotistical world that true intellectualism is (when it is not incestuous, that is). For, what good is a wise thinker or wordsmith who doesn’t think he and he alone (or she and she alone) is the almighty’s gift to the world to crack all its problems?

The occasion of Chandrasekhar Kambar becoming the eighth Kannada writer to bag the Jnanpith Award provides a small window for ordinary mortals to observe the small minds, the giant egos, the juvenile jealousies, and the awfully sour grapes on display.

Make no mistake. On the whole, there is great cheer and jubilation at a non-polarising figure like Kambar bagging the honour. But scratch the surface and the cracks are all too visible.

There are the professional flame-throwers like Patil Puttappa. On Monday, he was welcoming the honour and on Tuesday he was openly saying that Kambar didn’t deserve it and that he won it only due to hectic lobbying. And that—no surprise, no surprise—S.L. Bhyrappa deserved it more than Kambar.

Then there are the wise sages like M. Chidananda Murthy who suspect a vast secular, liberal conspiracy behind every tree and lamp post to deny Bhyrappa his due.

And then there are the sophisticates like Girish Karnad, who, in simultaneous letters to the editors of Deccan Herald (above) and Praja Vani, manages to turn Kambar’s moment of glory into his, and artfully manages to sneak in an advertisement for himself a la Norman Mailer.

Image: courtesy Deccan Herald

Also read: Chandrasekhar Kambar on our sense of history

500 TV channels, and not one for classical music?

20 September 2011

There are few locations in the world where a Grammy-winning musician descends to entertain a couple of hundred people on a tiny cross road that is a couple of hundred feet long, for a couple of hours.

But then “8th Cross, Vontikoppal” in Mysore is no ordinary spot on the map of classical music.

Before he commenced his jugalbandi with the violinist Mysore Manjunath on Monday, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt made an impassioned plea before the assembled cognoscenti.

“We have over 500 television channels across the country, many of them showing what is completely antithetical to our culture.

“We have dozens of music channels, which fill the air with film and pop and rock and bhangra and god knows what else.

“Just why is it so difficult in a land of so many rich patrons and sponsors that we cannot have a TV channel purely dedicated to classical music?”

Why, indeed?

Also read‘If it sounds good to your year, it’s Carnatic”

Can Carnatic music change the cheri pasangal?

Masth maja maadi, for I’m a WorldSpace widow

How did Dharwad become ground zero of music?

A one-fingered salute to our ossified philistines

Namma Metro as the metaphor of ‘Avara’ Avarice

20 September 2011

Illegal mining scams, denotification scams, land grabbing scams, site allotment scams….

For a State that makes much of its nela (land) and jala (water), it is no surprise that all the rapacious rats who have been caught with their half-pants down—B.S. Yediyurappa, H.D. Kumaraswamy, Katta Subramanya Naidu et al and, horror, the man who was supposed to read the rulebook to them, Justice Shivraj Patil—were literally living up to their “sons of the soil” appendage.

No surprise, then, that the temple of “god’s work”, the Vidhana Soudha, too should look shaken, ravaged and teetering on the brink, like any real estate project in town, as work proceeds apace on the Namma Metro project on Ambedkar Veedhi, in Bangalore on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also view: The complete Namma Metro photo portfolio

Chandrasekhar Kambar on our sense of history

19 September 2011

The Kannada poet, playwright and novelist Dr Chandrasekhar Kambar has bagged the nation’s most coveted literary honour, the Jnanpith Award, for 2009, becoming the eighth Kannadiga, the most for any Indian language, to be so decorated.

The former UN diplomat turned politician, Shashi Tharoor, wrote about meeting Kambar at a kavi sammelan in New York in 2003:

“One intervention that I found particularly striking was that of the Kannada poet, playwright and film-maker Kambar, who argued that the Indian cultural sensibility was marked by its non-linear notion of time: ‘Time is not a controlled sequence of events in our minds, but an amalgamation of all events, past to present’.

“Against the Western notion of “history”, Kambar posited a view of “many ages and many worlds”, including the mythic, constituting the Indian sense of present reality. Krishna’s lesson to Arjuna on the Kurukshetra battlefield, Kambar argued, is not remote for us; that is why the frenzied mobs in Ayodhya cannot be persuaded by those (like me) who want them to leave the past alone. (The intellectual who says to the Bajrang Dal thug, “leave the past where it is”, is confronted by the Hindu sage who replies, “the past is here”.)

“Kambar went on to challenge the notion that the ‘lack of historical consciousness is a shortcoming’, and declared that it was only an intellectual surrender to the British that led Indians to ‘consider living outside history an insult’.

“We imitated the West in creating museums to house the relics of our past, whereas traditionally we had lived with our past in our daily present. This British notion of history forced us, Kambar said, to see our own literature through a distorted perspective.

“We are obsessed with the ‘original’ nature of historic texts and with the need to separate them from later interpolations. Instead of swallowing the Western notion of the integrity of a text and its sole author, we ought to celebrate the way in which Indians continually told and retold the Mahabharata, adding to it and modifying it. It is a matter of pride, Kambar declared, ‘that an entire country has collectively created the epic over a period of 10,000 years’.

The other seven literary heavyweights who have bagged the Jnanpith are Kuvempu, K. Shivarama Karanth, Da Ra Bendre, Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, V.K. Gokak, Girish Karnad and U.R. Anantha Murthy .

Photograph: Playwright Dr Chandrashekara Kambara, who has bagged the Jnanpith Award, being greeted by his wife Satyabhama at their residence in Bangalore on Monday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Da Ra Bendre on why nitrogen is nonsense

A desi colossus on a par with Yeats and Shakespeare

Karanth, Kuvempu & Gokak, and the one-by-three car

One for the album: a picture worth 7,000 words

Will Kannada literature climb Nobel peak again?

When Kuvempu didn’t want to write in Kannada

Is UPA hitting back at media for Anna coverage?

19 September 2011

There has been plenty of buzz in recent days that the Congress-led UPA government has quietly begun hitting back at the media for the manner in which it has exposed the scams and scandals, and for the proactive manner in which it backed the middle-class led “Arnab Spring” under Anna Hazare.

There have been rumours, for instance, of the Union information and broadcasting ministry actually proposing a ceiling on the number of minutes a news channel can show a specific news event and so on. Now, as if to show that the messenger is indeed being wilfully targetted, these two stories have emerged in the last two days.

Exhibit A: Nora Chopra‘s item in The Sunday Guardian (above), which talks of the government making things difficult for cross-media groups like The Times of India and India Today.

Exhibit B: DNA editor Aditya Sinha‘s column, in which he links a 10-day stoppage of government advertisements to his “mass-circulating” paper to the paper’s stand in the Anna Hazare episode.

“We advised ad-sales to seek an appointment with I&B minister Ambika Soni. It was a pleasant surprise when the ad-sales executives immediately got a slot to meet the minister.

“Soni was pleasant enough. She told our guys she was unaware of any DAVP action; but in any case the government was rationalizing the flow of ads to English and language newspapers.

“Her body language, according to the ad-sales team, suggested otherwise. And then, during a general chat about the newspaper, she came to the point: she said that DNA ought to look at its coverage over the past few weeks and introspect….

Soni’s statement led us to infer that our Anna Hazare coverage was being punished by a suspension of government ads, and that Soni met our ad executives just to ensure the point was driven home.”

For the record, a point Sinha artfully sidesteps, DNA has been in the government’s crosshairs for an incendiary and imbecilic column written by the Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy after the July 13 bomb blasts in Bombay.

For the record, DNA is part-owned by Subhash Chandra‘s Zee group, some of whose journalists (present and past) played a key role in the media management of Hazare’s fast.

And, also for the record, Ambika Soni traces her Congress origins to Sanjay Gandhi, whose role in ushering in press censorship during the Emergency in 1975, has been long documented.

Image: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Read the full piece: Ambika Soni‘s arm-twisting

Also read: How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

Is the Indian Express now a pro-establishment newspaper?

The ex-Zee News journalist behind Anna Hazare show

Ex-Star News, ToI journos behind ‘Arnab Spring’

Is the media manufacturing middle-class dissent?

Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

So, who is the chief minister of Karnataka?

17 September 2011

Every now and then, typically on a slow news day, a news story emerges, usually filed by the agencies, of a village in the back of beyond, generally in the cow belt, which still thinks Indira Gandhi is still the prime minister of India.

You could put that down to all the stereotypes: lack of literacy, lack of reading culture, etc.

You could even say it would not happen in the parts of India.

Well, think again. In this YouTube video, a Suvarna News reporter does a Jay Leno, going around asking a very dumb question: Who is the chief minister of Karnataka? The vox-pop produces results that should leave us wondering about the “wisdom of the voter.”

Of course, in half-serious shows like these, the correct answers are edited out to accentuate the effect, but even so you are left wondering if more is really merrier; in the sense just because there is a lot of media creating a lot of noise, does it leave us all wiser?

Once upon a time, ‘society’ shopping on Sunday

16 September 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Today, shopping on a Sunday is synonymous with going to a slick mall or a supermarket where you can buy anything from shampoos to cellphones, from laptops to mobile phones, and any brand you want, all under one roof by flashing your card.

Years ago, of course, you could buy none of these as they were yet to be invented. And, in any case, there were no malls and supermarkets of the kind we see today.

Then, how did we shop and what did we shop anyway?

And where, please?

There were neighbourhood angadis of course, but the metaphorical mall of the time was the “Cooperative Society”, which sold anything from Ambal nashya (snuff powder) to “Passing Show” cigarettes, and where everything you bought was cheaper than the corner store but rationed, as life itself was run on a steady economy scale.

But choosing, buying or paying was not as easy as it is today.

First, you had to make an application which entitled you to become a member of a “Society”.  The head of the family had to fill out the details—number of dependents, salary etc—get it attested by a gazetted officer and give to the “Society” secretary, who after due verification would ask you to come the following week.

Meanwhile, you would visit Dodda Ganesha or Ishwara temple in the locality, give your name and gothra to the priest, have an archane done, and pray for the success of your application.

The following week the ration card would be collected by your father on his way back from office, and Amma would light up a lamp in pure ghee and make paayasa for dinner in celebration.

The newly secured “ration card” would then find pride of place in the pooja room.

From then on, at least one Sunday in a month would never be a holiday for anybody at home.

That Sunday, while still groggy, you would be dragged out of bed at dawn and sent off with your elder sister, who herself would be still in high school studying in Samaja (Mahila Seva Samaja) or Marathi school (Maharashtra Mahila Vidyalaya) or ‘Tinny’s’ school (also called Basavanagudi girls school), along with the ration card to buy the monthly ration.

After placing your card in the pile at the counter as others before you, your job was to keep a hawk eye on it so that there was no hanky-panky while the cards were piling up by the minute.

When the Society doors opened, the busy and gruff clerk, looking ever so important, would ask everybody to maintain silence. The entire heap of ration cards would be turned upside down under the watchful eyes of hundreds.

The whole place would suddenly come to life the with clerk writing the bill of fare and entering the price in rupee, anna and pie. After writing with one plus three carbons, he would quickly add up the amount on a rough paper using his fingers sometimes.

When your turn came, your elder sister would read from the list the rations needed for the month including soudhe (firewood) for cooking, since there was no LPG in those days. The list itself would be written on buff paper with a Perumal Chetty pencil as dictated by mother at home.

The clerk would then relay the items to the storekeeper within earshot of other consumers:

Bangarada Sanna – 5 seru
Ratna chudi – 3 seer
Groundnut oil- ½  seer
Kerosene oil – ½ seer
Cuticura powder -1 tin
Raja Snow – 1 bottle
Dharapurada thuppa – ¼ seer
Nanjanagud hallupudi – 1pkt
Coffee pudi – 1 paavu
Kattige – 3 Rs
Saasuve, daalchinni, jeerige – 1 chataku
Yaalakki, kesari – 1 tola

This would  be repeated aloud again by the  staff as each item was measured, poured into a buff paper that was folded into a cone and tied with a strand of gunny bag thread that hung from a hook attached to the roof of the “Society”.

The payment was in rupees, anna and pies. The clerk would have small steel cups for annas and pies, the notes going into the drawer of the table.

The firewood would be split into smaller pieces with an axe and put into a delivery cart and the youngest in the family would accompany the “Society” delivery boy to ensure there was no pilferage along the way.

Your brother or sister would accompany the store boy carrying the goods whose arrival was anxiously awaited by mother at the gate to the house.

Thus, one Sunday would go into the business of getting monthly rations.

The second Sunday would be for taking an oil bath. Castor oil applied liberally on the head and allowed to soak would cross the boundary of the eyebrows, and seep into your eyes, giving you a burning feeling.

When one of your elders poured boiling water on your head and applied shika kayi suds stored in an inverted coconut shell acting as a container on to your head, the froth from soap would freely mix with the oil, giving your eyes the equivalent of third-degree torture.

By the time you finished your oil bath you had a mop of freshly washed hair with sore red eyes and scalding all over your body!

The ladies on the other hand, fresh after an oil bath, dried their long tresses under a small fire sprinkled with sambhrani crystals under a cane basket, the aroma wafting from the basket to the entire house, holding everyone in a trance.

If you had your Ajji with you, she would use up your third Sunday to de-worm your entire digestive system.

She would wake you up early morning and make you gulp half a tumbler of  homemade castor oil in one go, holding the edges of your nose making sure not a drop spills. When you threatened to throw up and with that all her efforts into the drain, she would give you a piece of lemon pickle to thwart the vomiting.

If the worms stayed put, another of Ajji’s extra strong dose would go down your throat.

Only after you got rid of the worms by repeated visits to the toilet, you would get the first food of the day, some rice with saaru and sandige late in the afternoon.

The last Sunday , if nothing else came in between, was used sometimes to go to a morning show either in Minerva for Satyajit Ray’s Bengali movies or to Vijayalakshmi for English movies, after a brief stopover at Modern Hotel or Udupi Krishna Bhavan.

Once upon a time, everything was rationed in moderation—provisions, movies, fun—but we were quite happy and contented.

Also read: Namma Nafisa owes it all to Nanjangud hallupudi

To: Nikita Thukral. From: Kannada producers

15 September 2011

The withdrawal of the “ban” on the actress Nikita Thukral by the Karnataka film producers’ association may appear as if wisdom finally dawned on the moneybags of the Kannada tinsel world after all the scorching criticism that their sexist move attracted across the nation, from the media and from other actors.

Far from it.

Above is the letter from Muniratna Naidu, the producers association president, to the actress who was caught in the civil war in the home of the “Challenged Star”, Darshan. Each sentence drips with sarcasm, showing not the contrition of a group which has seen the light, but one which is convinced of its inherent right to pig-headed arrogance.

Among the other gems in the letter:

“It was our foolishness to impose a ban on such a good girl.”

“We have understood our mistake thanks to several intellectuals.”

“This is a free country, anybody can go anywhere. Who are we to stop them?”

“Henceforth, Nikita can go anywhere, act in any film. We have no objection.”

“The word ‘ban’ has been banned from the Kannada film industry.”

“If there is such a thing as reincarnation, we pray to be born as [Darshan‘s wife] Vijayalakshmi‘s younger sister.”

Also read: What Darshan’s brutality says about Scandalwood

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Darshan be banned?

Darshan scandal reveals Kannada bias, bigotry’

Why Nitish, not Modi, could emerge as NDA face

15 September 2011

Shortly after the Gujarat pogrom of 2002,  John Elliott, long-time foreign correpondent based in India, surprised and shocked many when he wrote in the Business Standard that Narendra Damodardas Modi had it in him to become a potential national leader, “a logical heir to L.K. Advani“.

Yet, in 2011, when Elliott’s prescience seems to be coming true for Modi’s drumbeaters after this week’s Supreme Court ruling, the veteran journalist writes in The Independent, London, that despite his leadership and record, Modi might not quite make the cut as the leader of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Indeed, writes Elliott, Modi might have to cede ground to a softer, less abrasive and more acceptable man, who in fact has tried his darnedest not to be seen with him—Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United):

“The BJP has little support in parts of India, particularly the South, where it has just squandered a chance to expand by running a spectacularly corrupt oligarchic state administration in Karnataka. It therefore always needs to attract coalition partners, which it finds difficult because of its Hindu-chauvinist policies.

“It did however manage to build a coalition for its 1998-2004 governments by agreeing a policy programme that avoided anti-Muslim and other hard-line measures. Indeed those were years of relative communal harmony – a record ruined by the Gujarat atrocities.

“The chances of it being able to rebuild that trust with Modi as leader has seemed remote ever since 2002. It remains so today, unless Modi is prepared to apologise for the riots. He is trying to move on by staging a three-day “social harmony” fast this weekend, but he still rejects all allegations against him, so seems unlikely to readying an apology.

“When 2014 comes, Nitish Kumar, the development-oriented chief minister of Bihar and a BJP ally, could emerge as much more acceptable and moderate coalition candidate for prime minister. However, the BJP might be tempted to portray Modi as the sort of strong though divisive leader that India needs, especially if the Gandhis don’t smarten up the way that the current government operates and is run.”

Photograph: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar at an NDA rally in Punjab in 2009. Nitish Kumar was to later say that he had no option but to shake hands with Modi because he came and stood behind him.

Read the full article: Could Modi be the leader India needs?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Rahul Gandhi vs Narendra Modi?

CHURUMURI POLL: Rahul vs Modi in 2014 poll?

14 September 2011

Plenty of pre-electoral chickens are being counted after the Supreme Court directed the trial court to proceed in the Gulberg society carnage case in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. And leading the charge is Narendra Damodardas Modi and his drumbeaters in his party and the media, who interpret the SC ruling as a licence for the Gujarat chief minister to now conquer the Centre. (Mercifully, L.K. Advani had announced his anti-corruption yatra three days earlier, else Modi’s prime ministerial candidacy would have been signed, sealed and delivered by now.)

Nevertheless, there is no denying that depending on which way the trial court goes in the Ehsan Jafri case, how the corruption charges against Modi’s government stick, what happens in the Gujarat assembly elections due by December 2012, how the other aspirants in the BJP (including Advani) react to Modi’s ambitions, and how the allies in the NDA take to him, Narendra Modi is now well and truly eyeing a role in Delhi, a suspicion confirmed by a US thinktank report which sees him as a “likely candidate for prime ministership”.

Should that happen, it opens up a delicious prospect. That of a State satrap with a much-touted record of corruption-free governance against the Congress’ heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi, whose record both as parliamentarian and as a party general secretary has at best been patchy. With the Congress president Sonia Gandhi not in particularly great health and with Manmohan Singh‘s reputation in tatters after all the scams under his charge, it is daunting challenge ahead of Rahul Gandhi, should he lead the charge in 2014.

But what if the trial court does clear Modi? Will Modi be the BJP’s (an NDA’s) automatic choice? Is Modi’s boastful administrative record enough to win national approval despite his remorseless attitude to his “alleged complicity in lethal anti-Muslim rioting”? Could the benefits of Anna Hazare‘s anti-corruption movement accrue to a BJP led by Modi? Could the Congress spring a fresh surprise, like say a Priyanka Gandhi in the fray, to upset the applecart? Could Jayalalitha, Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, et al stich up a more potent Third or Fourth Front?

Also read: ‘Gujarat was vibrant long before Modi

Do only Gujaratis have asmita? Don’t Indians?

Why our silly middle-class loves Narendra Modi

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Sushma Swaraj right about Modi?

‘Bisexual’ Gandhi, bachelor Modi & author Moily

CHURUMURI POLL: Do we like our ‘icons’ single?

‘Darshan scandal reveals Kannada bias, bigotry’

14 September 2011

Although films and film stars, especially in the languages, have a huge impact over the masses, the mainstream English media treat it with contempt and disdain. The junior-most reporters are assigned to do reviews; interviews with film folk are fluffy and flippant; the film sections are titillatory, voyeuristic, paid-for.

Little wonder, therefore, most Bangalore newspapers have turned up their noses at the execrable shenanigans of Darshan vis-a-vis his wife. None of them have found it fit to editorially comment on or slam the C-grade antics of the “Challenged Star” or the prevailing male chauvinism in Scandalwood.

In an editorial, the Delhi-based Indian Express takes up cudgels on behalf of Nikita Thukral, “the other woman” in the pati, patni aur woh triangle, who has been banned by the Kannda film producers’ association for her alleged fling with “the towering piece of turd” who beat up his wife, stubbed a burning cigarette, tore her dress, bit her ear, threatened their son, and pulled out his revolver and now lies like a coward in hospital feigning asthma and jaudice:

“Who is the film chamber to judge and condemn for adultery? To dismiss an actress (while denying her the right to speak for herself) on these grounds is a singularly unprofessional and sexist act. Of course, the industry’s entrenched hostility to women is legend — it’s a men’s club, where women are represented by the wives of producers and actors.

“Recently, Kannada actress Ramya caused a furore when she took on the producers’ lobby for underpaying her and calling her temperamental and unprofessional. They tried banning her too, but Ramya relied on social media to put up a spirited defence of herself and upend power relations in the movie business. The ban was finally revoked, and Ramya was paid in full.

“Now, the Nikitha Thukral ban has rallied many in the film industry and outside to protest the patent unfairness of the film chamber’s ways. It has revealed the bias and bigotry of the Kannada film world — worse than many others — but more than that, it’s a reminder of the many ways in which equality at the workplace is whittled down, and the easy reflex of punishing a woman for her imagined transgressions, especially if they involve her sexuality.”

An editorial in the Madras-based New Indian Express:

“Such a blatant bias in favour of the male is astonishing except in the most backward of rural areas. But, when it is exhibited in a profession which is almost always in the limelight because of its quotients of glamour and money, it is suggestive of a mindset which has only limited contacts with the modern world.”

Read the Praja Vani editorial: Exhibition of Arrogance

Also read: What Darshan’s brutality says about Scandalwood

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Darshan be banned?

An insect from this end, a reptile from that…

13 September 2011

Is it a butterfly? Is it a snake? Is it a piece of tamarind? Is it all three?

A spectacular snake-shaped butterfly spotted in Karwar, on Monday.


Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Darshan be banned?

12 September 2011

The principles of natural justice in l’affaire Darshan Tugudeep have been turned on their head by the 42-member Karnataka film producers’ association which has unilaterally and unanimously “banned” the actress Nikita Thukral for allegedly having an affair with the “Challenged Star”, thus ruining the domestic bliss in his family, forcing him to get physical with his wife, Vijayalakshmi, and “distracting” him from his ventures.

On what basis the producers’ association came to this conclusion is unclear. Even in Vijayalakshmi’s five-page complaint documenting Darshan’s brutality (since withdrawn), there is only a passing mention of Nikita. Moreover, no opportunity seems to have been given to the multi-lingual actress to defend herself, before ostracising her from the Kannada film industry and thus depriving her of her right to livelihood.

However, the male-dominated Kannada film industry—the actors, the producers, the directors etc—is ducking the real issue, which is Darshan.

Here is a star who, through his actions, has brought disrepute to himself and the Kannada film industry. Here is a star who through his documented brutality on his wife has shown his criminal and violent side. Here is a star who has not hesitated to threaten his infant-son, instigate his fans, feign illness, and duck the long arm of the law.

So, here is a question the mainstream media cannot ask for obvious reasons: should Qaidi No. 9000 alias Darshan be banned from the Kannada film industry for the same three-year period that Nikita Thukral finds herself in the doghouse for his “domestic violence”? And if the film industry cannot muster the courage or the decency to do so, should the media announce a boycott of the star?

Also read: What Darshan’s brutality says about Scandalwood

What Darshan’s brutality says about Scandalwood

11 September 2011

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from San Francisco: There are plenty of things to infuriate a dispassionate news consumer watching India from a distance these days, but as a fully paid-up Kannadiga, nothing had the same effect on my blood pressure last week than a towering piece of turd called Darshan.

The “Challenging Star”, as the clearly challenged star is called by his fawning fans and factotums, was exposed to be a horrific wife-beater, who stubbed a burning cigarette into her throat, pulled her ear ring, showed her his revolver, assaulted her, threatened to kill their son—much of all this in a car moving around Bangalore.

While such testesterone-driven, alcohol-lubricated machismo is India’s most popular non-televised sport, it is the response to Darshan’s arrest following a police complaint filed by his wife, who was hospitalised, that says plenty about the sad direction in which Karnataka as a society and Kannada filmdom, as its most dysfunctional part, are headed.


First, you had Darshan’s fans, who obviously are blinded by their hero worship to not know the difference between the real and the make-believe.

Far from mocking their “hero” for his seeming inability to deal with domestic strife without pulling out a metaphorical machchu or a laangu, the idiots (including many women) took out processions in support of Darshan in various cities, conducted homas, stoned buses, and demanded that the police release him from detention.


Then, you had the scum of the Kannada film industry, who, it seems, like to send a “social message” only through their movies, not in the way they conduct themselves in public—or private.

These angels and emissaries rushed in and rushed out of the hospital where Darshan’s wife was under sedation, holding “talks” and “negotiations”, which is shorthand for putting pressure on the wounded woman to kiss her self-respect goodbye and withdraw her brave five-page complaint which showed her abominable husband as a serial offender.

That the poor lady did, feigning a fall in the bathroom.

Obviously, as a big, bankable star, Darshan has a lot of money riding on him and the incident could affect his image, especially for an industry whose heroes and heroines have in recent months been under the scanner for all the wrong reasons. But surely Darshan also has a familial and social responsibility that goes beyond swinging the turnstiles?


Next, as if in salute to B.S. Yediyurappa who had convinced himself that the world revolved around Lingayat mutts, Bangalore Mirror and Praja Vani report that the Vokkaliga lobby in the film industry—and a Vokkaliga minister in the Sadananda Gowda team—put pressure on the police to water down the charges against Darshan.

And this, although Darshan is only a faux Vokkaliga, belonging originally to the Telugu speaking Balija community.

What does it say about a society that views every action and reaction through the prism of caste, and sees the arrest of a philandering wife-beater not as just desserts but as an attack on their community?


However, the cake and bakery in this disgraceful episode is taken by the Karnataka film producers’ association which has banned not the philandering wife-beater whose brutality the world has seen, but the “other woman”, who is supposed to have been the source of the strife between the drunken husband and the battered wife.

The male chauvinism of the Kannada film industry, where the casting couch is a permanent prop, has long been established. But whose cause is Scandalwood, as Sandalwood needs to be rechristened, espousing by ignoring a Poriki wife-beater and turning on his co-star Nikita Thukral with whom he was allegedly having an affair?


Like all modern-day thugs and criminals who discover parts of their bodies they didn’t know existed till they are caught with their pants down, Darshan the “fine actor” that he is, hopped from hospital to hospital before settling on the Rajiv Gandhi institute of chest diseases to treat his asthma-induced chest pain.

Considering his brutality, the film industry’s solidarity, the caste overtones, the film producers’ madness and his fans’ blindness, the challenged star should well and truly have been lodged in the first hospital he checked in: the national institute of mental health and neuro sciences, or NIMHANS as the world knows it.

It would been the perfect advertisement for the state of Kannada filmdom.

Photograph: Actor Darshan‘’s wife Vijayalakshmi leaves the Rajiv Gandhi insitute of chest diseases in Bangalore after visiting her husband, on Sunday (Karnataka Photo News)

Should Tirupati return only Reddy’s gold crown?

10 September 2011

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Hypocrisy is a trait that afflicts not just humans, but the gods who are at the mercy of humans, too. And Tirupati, which proudly flaunts the title of “World’s Richest Hindu Temple” in a country where three-quarters of its billion citizens are among the world’s poorest is proof.

News reports have it that the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) board, which runs the Venkateshwara temple atop the seven hills, has asked its officials to verify with tax authorities if the Rs 42 crore crown presented to the Lord by the disgraced Bellary mining don G. Janardhana Reddy in June 2009 was purchased using “ill-gotten money”.

“If the ornament was bought form his official earnings and it was shown in the income-tax documents, we will retain it. If it is not a legal offering, the TTD board will decide whether to return it to the actual donor or to hand it over to the IT department or to the CBI which is probing the mining scam,” board member R. Surya Prakash Rao was quoted as saying.

An earlier report said that devotees had taken out a rally in Tirumala to protest against the “tainted” crown being used to adorn the idol of the good Lord every second Friday. But in that report, the TTD executive officer L.V. Subramanyam was quoted as saying:

“We have no way to ascertain whether the gifts are from legally earned money or black money.”

To be sure, the 30 kg, 2.5 feet tall crown, which is studded with 800 diamonds and a green emerald, isn’t the only magnanimous offering made by Reddy and his family. A Deccan Herald report says he had donated nearly 32 gold crowns to nearly 29 dieties in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for various favours rendered.

(The controversial gold crown (in picture) was donated when the Andhra Pradesh government of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy allocated land for his Brahmani steels project, in which YSR was alleged to have had more than passing interest till his son Y. Jagan Mohan Reddy divested his stake.)

A report in Bangalore Mirror, that the TTD board is under pressure from ruling Congress party cadres in Andhra Pradesh, should surprise nobody. There is no love lost between the Congress and YSR’s son, especially after the recent CBI raids on Jagan Mohan Reddy’s premises and the allegations of his close ties with Janardhana Reddy.

As a churumuri poll remarked when the donation was made:

“For the son of a former police constable to make the second-highest offering to Lord Venkateshwara at Tirumala after the kings of Vijayanagar is quite an achievement indeed.”

But what should surprise devotees and non-devotees is that the highly political TTD should suddenly consider only Janardhana Reddy’s donations to be suspect and worthy of investigation. And that too only after Janardhana Reddy was arrested by the CBI.

Is it TTD’s case that all the other  donations that are made to the temple at Tirupati are squeaky clean?

More to the point, if Reddy’s donation turns out to be not so clean, will TTD reopen all the other donations made by shady individuals and institutions under the cloak of anonymity? And if all the tainted donations are returned will Tirupati still retain its reputation of being the “World’s Richest Hindu Temple”?

TTD board member L.V. Subramanyam has now clarified that there is no question of returning Reddy’s crown “under any circumstances”. In effect, it means there is no question of investigating or returning any other donation. Now, what does that say about Tirupati and the large-heartedness of Lord Balaji, corruption or no corruption?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Reddy brothers and Lord Balaji 


CHURUMURI POLL: L.K. Advani’s ‘Antim Yatra’?

9 September 2011

There is nothing more revealing in politics than a old, doddering politician who buries his head in the sand and tries to gauge the prevailing wind of public opinion. And so it is with the “former future prime minister of India“, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani who has announced what many are derisively calling his “Antim Yatra“.

At one level, Advani’s impromptu announcement of a nationwide tour at the age of 84 is proof that the flame of ambition has flickered feverishly despite the renunciation of key posts (like leader of opposition and party president) at the less-than-gentle nudging of the extra-constitutional knicker lobby that really wears the pants in the BJP.

At another level, the “Antim Yatra” is proof that the BJP is now officially bereft of both ideas and leadership. That it took the success of Anna Hazare‘s campaign for the lead opposition party to take up corruption as an issue reveals plenty about what it has been doing these past two and a half years since the 2009 electoral defeat.

And that the BJP leadership thinks that it has the credibility to talk about corruption, when its own governments and leaders in Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttaranchal and Chhatisgarh are battling (or stalling investigation of) serious charges of corruption shows the hypocrisy of it all.

Above all, Advani’s announcement of a yatra throws cold water on the aspirations of almost the entire second generation of leaders in the BJP, all of whom privately envision themselves as national leaders and almost all of whom entertain dreams of becoming prime minister.

Questions: Will Advani’s “Antim Yatra” evoke any response? Is Advani’s “Antim Yatra” merely to save his skin now that the reprehensible cash-for-votes scandal has landed squarely in his court? Notwithstanding the Congress’s plight, does the BJP have the credibility to talk of clean, corruption-free governance? Will Advani be acceptable as the face of the BJP in 2014, when he will be 86?

Also read: ‘The only person to blame for BJP defeat is Advani

‘The man who spread the dragon-seeds of hatred’

Advani offers nothing creative, only resentment

The Great Debator ducks out of a TV interview

A lifetime achievement award for L.K. Advani?