A pen portrait of ANAKRU

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DR. A. N. Krishna Rao (1908-1971) - popularly known as Anakru, was Karnataka’s genius of the century! His literary output exceeded 80,000 pages. The speeches he made were innumerable. People influenced by him and those who came up as important personalities were countless. His services to Kannada was of such magnitude that Kannadigas can never repay the debt. Anakru threw a magic spell on Kannadigas by his talent, literature, love of Kannada and oratory. From 1930 to 1971, for four decades, he was the uncrowned king of the land and the people.

The period Anakru entered the literary world, was one when there was not Kannada readership, nor sale of books. Whatever available in Kannada was only a handul of religious books and books based on mythology. From such shackles of literary traditionalism, Anakru liberated the Kannada reader. He wrote social novels such as Jeevana Yatre, Udayaraaga, Sandhyaaraagaa, Mangalasutra, Natasarvabhouma, Sahithyarathna, Thayiya Karulu, Grihalakshmi, Thayi Makkalu, Aasheervada and Anugraha which won him great popular name Kadambari Sarvabhouma. What Anakru did in that period was a virtual revolution! He did not sit in the corner of a cozy room, blinded by curtains, cutoff from the outside world and write un-understandable, terse books just to win the approbation of the pundits and scholars. His aim was to reach the common man. Firstly, he had to inculcate the habit of reading Kannada books by the people. This he achieved marvelously. The readership brought to its fold the factory labor, hotel workers, riksha pullers and millions from the lower strata of society. Then came the social reform when he wrote Nagna Sathya, Shani Santaana and Sanje Gattalu, that threw light on the issues of prostitution, the traditionalists and protagonists of religion were shaken and called him a "vulgar writer" for writing on such a subject. "if telling the truth is vulgar, then I am a vulgar writer; if the act of covering with a cloth, a downtrodden, helpless, naked woman on the street is vulgar, then I am a vulgar writer" was Anakru's reply. It is an irony that the very same people who criticized Anakru, wrote on the same subject later.

Anakru spoke perhaps thousand times more than what he wrote. His torrential flood of thoughts could not be contained within the covers of a printed book. It reached millions all over the land. Anakru was one of the greatest orators of our land. He had no University degree! But the intellectual world and the University scholars would be spellbound by his vast and deep knowledge. If he adorned the stage words would flow like Ganga in his stentorian voice. Let it be any subject, be it about modern India or world affairs, literature, music, drama, fine arts, Kannada and its problems and solutions, Indian Culture, Veerashaiva Sahithya, the list is endless. He could talk for hours with authority and authentically and that too spontaneously, without any reference or preparation. It seems when he talked to a Maharashtrian audience once, at the end people were astonished that Kannada is such a rich and beautiful language. His style could reach the most ordinary person. His oratory was a thunderbolt, a revolt against blind traditionalism, a storm against politics, a fight against injustice! Anakru was merciless and ruthless when he fought for the cause of justice. He could never praise or condemn anyone without reason. While people listened to his oration, it would inspire them, they would experience an unprecedented joy and it would instill a tremendous courage, patriotism would surface and dance in their hearts. People’s thirst to hear him speak was unquenchable. Once they heard his oratory, more and more they wanted to hear. His profound knowledge came from the great heritage, enormous study, analytical thinking, crowned by his own inferences.

He did not confine himself to his writing but also read what others wrote, encouraged them and built up a generation of new writers and thinkers. The way lakhs of people used to assemble to hear Anakru’s speech, there was no precedent Karnataka’s history, and if there should be one, perhaps Anakru alone has to be reborn. It is unfortunate that we don't have the repository of his wonderful speeches which could have inspired generations of Kannadigas.

Anakru was not in any government service. His livelihood was dependent upon his writings alone. But most of his earnings were spent for the service of Kannada and the land. He spent his own money to tour all over the state several times for the cause of Kannada. The world of artists were intimately connected with Anakru. He had immense love for art and respect for the artists. Artists pilgrimage to his house “Annapoorna” was an everyday affair. Be it a dancer, musician, writer, journalist, artist, actor, or a student, may be a publisher or a teacher, whoever came, “Annapoorna” doors were always open. Anakru discovered many young talents and encouraged them to blossom. He had immense respect for those who worked for the cause of Kannada. The happiest person was Hanuman to find true worshippers of Rama. Kannada-Anakru bondage was similar to that of Rama-Hanuman.

We may say without the slightest exaggeration, if today in the integrated Karnataka people are emotionally integrated, if their dormant Kannada pride has been awakened, if the Kannada readership has grown to a level worth consideration, if the Kannada writers numbers has swelled, if the musicians of Karnataka have found a respectable place in their own land, on the whole if Karnataka and Kannadigas have been recognized in our country and abroad, it was because of the persistent struggle of Anakru.

Anakru was neither a fanatic nor an extremist when he spearheaded the cause of Kannada. In his fight for Kannada, he never undervalued other languages or the people. He never meant others are enemies of Kannada or they are low, that we should drive away or torture people who speak other languages. Neither ignorance of other languages nor hatred towards them turned him to be a Kannada lover. His cardinal principle was that all people of all languages should live in harmony in Kannada land but not at the cost of trampling over Kannada and its culture.

Anakru believed "Only humanism values can save the world from exploding; and writer is the prophet of humanism". While he fought for the cause of Kannada, he maintained friendly relationship with the writers and artists of the neighboring states. Once in a function in Tamilnadu, he made his speech in Tamil and surprised the fellow Tamil artists. His friendship with the Mumbai theatre brought icons like Prithviraj Kapoor to Kannada filmdom. Anakru believed that one should not ignore the regional languages of the Indian states in the name of nationality. "Strong states such as Karnataka, Andhra, Maharashtra, Bangala should save and nurture their rich regional, cultural specialities in order to build a strong Indian nation. A weak province is always the enemy of the nation. This is the reason why we fight for Kannada. Others may consider us as narrow minded. But time will decide everything" was his words. When the fight for Indian independence was at peek, he urged his followers to keep the Kannada agitation down. "This is the time we all Indians forget our internal differences, unite together and join the cause of independence, which is the only most important thing now. We can settle our internal differences later." was his words. Anakru was never an opportunistic. His love for Kannada was never against the nationalism.

In those days, no film theater was available to screen Kannada films. All movie theaters were reserved for other languages films. Kannada film producers and distributors had to cringe before the theater owners to get a date for Kannada film screening. Owing to the Kannada agitation started by Anakru and his followers, for the first time a Kannada film was screened in Alankaar theater. The owners of Bharath Talkies who were Anakru’s fans decided to screen only Kannada films in their theaters thereafter. Subsequently, all theaters in Bengaluru decided for three months in a year, Kannada films would be screened. In those days, the Kannadigas who were organizing music festivals were inviting only musicians from Madras and were neglecting Karnatak musicians. Their argument was that musicians of Karnataka were of low standard. Once when Smt. M. S. Subbalakshmi was to give a recital in Ramanavami festival Anakru met her and explained to her the objectives of Kannada agitation and his opposition in principle to the injustice meted to Kannada musicians. Smt. M.S.S appreciated the point of view and canceled the program and went back. Anakru was a valiant fighter against any injustice met to a Kannadiga from any corner. He considered each and every problem of Kannada as his own problem. 

"Whenever any injustice is done to Kannada culture, many come forward to defend and answer it. But they all know their limitations. Let anybody answer, it would not match with the way Anakru dealt with it. He was the only person to give an appropriate reply. In the absence of Anakru, whoever tried to reply even in their best it cannot reach a second place. With Kannada language and Karnataka matters and Kannada culture, Anakru’s oneness is like sugar dissolved in milk - nobody can even reach the fringes of that level of devotion." was a remark on Anakru by a contemporary writer.

Today, the younger generation knows little about Anakru. Not only was he a great writer was a great friend to one and all. It is said “We have writers, but we do not get a complete writer like Anakru; we get friends but not the selfless friend like Anakru; we have guides but not one with profound sympathy like him; there are lovers of Kannada, but not of the standard of Anakru; Anakru is immortal. For those how knew him, the memories flood the thoughts; that fame, that popularity, that mass veneration, that humanism, that large heartedness, those qualities are only known to people who knew him. Those memories are as colorful and vast as nature. These are not just expressions of wisdom, but they are experiences of heart”.

Anybody looking at the enormity of achievements of Anakru would be surprised as to how one person could accomplish so much in his lifetime! It may even appear as a fable or a fiction. If he had not been involved in the social problems and their solutions and confined himself within four walls and devoted to literature alone, perhaps he would have produced still greater works, unsurpassable. But Kannada awakening and other problems would have taken a back seat. Now whatever people may say, there is now doubt that Anakru was the pioneer who instilled the Kannada reading habit and a value for Kannada. It is rightly said that Anakru is the hero of real life. When Anakru died at the age of 63, a flood of people from all over the land gathered at his residence to get the last glimpse of the mortal body. During the grand procession a writer made a remark "If a writer gets this type of treatment, I am ready to die right now!".

To write about Anakru, the multi-faceted personality, is like bringing a pot of water from an ocean. For Kannada and Karnataka, many great people have struggled before and now; but when compared with Anakru, they recede to the background.

To the land, which has given birth, a writer, an artist, why even a common man has a debt of service to render. That Anakru has done remarkably. One Anakru’s service is tantamount to hundreds of writers, hundreds of artists and hundreds of nation builders. What he has done in his lifetime is the work of several lifetimes. Thus Anakru was the life force or the torch of Kannada.

Once introducing him to an audience, our great writer Masti Venkatesha Iyengar said “I am a Tamil Kannadiga, Sir Mirza Ismail is a Muslim Kannadiga, and Anakru is a pure Kannadiga”. This tribute from a personality like Masti mirrors of Kannada fervor Anakru was known for.

Anakru’s contribution to the growth of Kannada culture is immeasurable. For his struggle, genius, efforts and contributions it is high time pay their debt of gratitude appropriately. Through this article, if the present generation of Kannadigas are inspired to think, to revive and do something to their debt of gratitude to this titan, perhaps the purpose will be amply served.