UR Ananthamurthy: Literature, propaganda and controversies

UR Ananthamurthy passed away on Friday at the age of 82.
Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy, a contemporary writer and critic in the Kannada language was born in Melige, in Tirthahalli taluk in the Shimoga District.

Born on 21 December, 1932, Ananthamurthy grew up in an orthodox Brahmin family as the grandson of a priest. His schooling began in a traditional Sanskrit school before he went to the University of Mysore and to Birmingham, England, for a doctorate in English on a Commonwealth Scholarship.

UR Ananthamurthy: His life, career and achievements

• Ananthamurthy is considered one of the pioneers of the "Navya (new) movement" in the Kannada literary world.

• Ananthamurthy hit the limelight in 1965 with his novel, ‘Samskara', which earned him the tag of a scathing critic of Brahminism, its superstitions and hypocrisies. Samskara, meaning rituals, is his most famous literary work that depicts a Brahmin village.

• The novel was turned into a film in Kannada and won the national film award for the best feature film for 1970.

• His main works include Samskara, Bhava, Bharathi Pura, and Avasthe. AMny other numerous short stories are also to his credit. Many of his novels and short fictions have also been made into movies and appreciated.

• He is the sixth person among eight recipients of the Jnanpith Award for the Kannada language, the highest literary honour conferred in India.

• In 1998, he received the Padma Bhushan award from the Government of India.

• He was the Vice-Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala during the late 1980s.

• In 2013, he was also one of the finalists of Man Booker International Prize.

• Ananthamurthy had also served as the Chairman of National Book Trust India for 1992, President of the Sahitya Academy in 1993.

• The idea proposed by Ananthamurthy to rename ten cities in Karnataka including Bengaluru from their colonial forms to actual native forms was accepted by Government of Karnataka and the cities were renamed on the occasion of golden jubilee celebrations of formation of Karnataka.

• These cities include Bangalore's name being changed to Bengaluru, in Karnataka. He said that the old names were remnants of British colonialism and thus, the change of name was needed.

• A socialist in political belief, he also contested in the Lok Sabha and Rajya elections once each but did not achieve success.

UR Ananthamurthy's controversial legacy

• Like his literary works, Ananthamurthy's strong political views were also very striking which often landed him into controversies. He courted controversies quite often with his views that were generally against BJP and Sangh Parivar. Few of the controversies are:

• In June 2007, Ananthamurthy created controversy by saying that he will not take part in literary functions in future. He said so because he was strongly criticised for his reaction on S L Bhyrappa's controversial novel Aavarana.

• Ananthamurthy also courted controversy by saying that he would leave the country if Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister. He later did a U-turn and said that the remark was made when he was overcome by emotion.

• In 2013, he was part of another controversy when he made a statement that there is a reference in the Mahabharata to Brahmins consuming beef. This drew flak from Hindu religious leaders.

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