Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa is a major writer and after Shivaram Karanth. the foremost novelist writing in Kannada, one of the four major languages of South India. Through the translation of his novels into other Indian languages. he is recognized as one of the most distinguished and significant creative writers of modern India. He is the recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Bharatiya Bhasha Parishat Award.
His last novel, Mandra, was released in the month of June 2002. Barely within three weeks of its publication. 2000 copies of the hardbound edition of this novel. were sold out and the publishers had to go in for a reprint immediately. This is a Significant record particularly when there is a general grouse that books even novels do not sell. This speaks volumes of his tremendous popularity among the reading public in Kannada. Sri Purnachandra Tejasvi, another eminent writer in Kannada, went to the extent of declaring, in an interview, that it was Mr. Bhyrappa who had held the Kannada reading public in place. Within a few months of its publication, translators are busy to bring out its translation in languages like Hindi, Marathi and English. Mr. Bhyrappa is widely translated and is as popular in other Indian languages as in Kannada. Most of his novels are rendered into Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi and Telugu and some even into English, Sanskrit and Urdu. Special mention should be made of the two novels Grhabhanga and Datu which have been translated into all the Indian languages and published by NBT and Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi. Likewise under the scheme of rendering modern Indian Classics into other Indian languages and into English, his Parva, based on a new interpretation of the Mahabharata, has already been translated into Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and English and its Tamil. Telugu and Punjabi versions are on the way. Some of his outstanding novels like Parva, Vamsavrksa (two translations). Saksi, Sartha and Datu have been rendered into English. He is equally popular on the silver screen.
His novels Vamsavrksa, Tabbaliyu Ninade Magane (Godhuli in Hindi) and Matadana have adorned the silver screen in Hindi and Kannada. His Grhabhailga is now being serialised on the small screen in Kannada. All these account for his popularity among the reading public. Eminent directors like Girish Karnad, B.V. Karanth, Girish Kasaravalli and others have chosen his works for their media.
Almost all his novels have gone into several reprints, some to seven or eight. His autobiography, Bhitti, a recent publication has seen three editions. Popularity and eminence do not always go together. Bhyrappa is an exceptional writer who has achieved popularity and eminence at the same time.
Bhyrappa shot into fame with his Vamsavrksa (1965) which deals with the problem of a champion of traditional values whose faith is shattered by an accidental discovery. Since then. he has not turned back. His Grhabhanga (1970) presents succinctly the disintegration of a traditional rural household.
Parva (1979) gives a new and creative interpretation of the Mahabharata. in the light of his extensive studies and sociological research; Saksi (1986) is a psychological investigation into the ramifications of different modes of human relationships. Tantu (1993) is a reflection of our own times in terms of the educational. sociological and political implications, reminiscing the terrors of the 'Emergency Period' and the degeneration of our ethical and educational objectives; Sartha (1998) recreates one of the most crucial periods of our religious and social history with its time and clime. Mandra (2002) his latest, depicts the trials and tribulations of an eminent singer on a wide canvass involving the East and West, with all their cultural and sociological implications. All these have captured the imagination of the readers in an unprecedented manner.
What is the secret of his popularity and eminence? His philosophical background (a subject he taught in his professional career), his literary pursuit (a keen student and analyst of our ancient, medieval and modern literatures in the various languages, including English and Sanskrit), his sociological and cultural studies (of the various tribes dwelling in the nooks and corners of the world), his vast experience (he has widely travelled in almost all the countries in the several continents of the world, except Australia), his literally going in search of experiences his knowledge of other arts (including dance and music), his deep reflection on the various aspects of life and death. his distinctive literary taste (that makes him aim at rasanubhava in his literary creations)? I believe, it is a combination of all these. He takes to writing only when his experiences crystallize and compel him to express. He has produced 19 novels over a period of four decades and his readers eagerly await the publication of his new one. They are sure that their long wait is meaningfully rewarded. when, in his new novel, he takes them to yet another world of experience, without cheating them in any way or in any form.
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