Speaking of the Personal with Praveen Kumar G

By Gautami and Tejas

Tales of rotti and bendikayi chutney tickled and stirred the audience at META 2020’s second session of ArreBhashe!

Writer Praveen Kumar G, who is no stranger to META and St. Joseph’s College, made his third visit to the literary fest for a reading of his Kannada short story, Rotti Bendikayi Chutney. Originally written for a newspaper competition, the story comes from the writer’s love for event-based stories, and of course his favourite food, rotti and bendikayi.

Praveen Kumar read the story to a mesmerized audience of both Kannada and non-Kannada speakers. His intention when writing the story was to show each event through different perspectives. Acknowledging its disjointed nature, he said that no event simply starts and ends. “In our lives, an event either develops slowly day by day, or happens all at once in a big climax,” he says. The cinematic chapter-like quality that the story possesses separates it from your average short story. As someone who also writes film dialogues, Kumar believes stories are better told through scenes.

“I wanted to tell many stories at once,” he continued. “The story of travelling from a village to the city, the story of a diverse community in an apartment complex, the story of people in the food business, and so on.” He wanted to add small details like the awe that skyscrapers produce in small-towners, and the disappointing saaru that city restaurants serve. The story was born when he bound these ideas together with nostalgia.

Rotti Bendekayi Chutney, both witty and sentimental in parts, seems to come from somewhere deeply personal, but Praveen Kumar does not agree entirely. Writing about personal things can be hard, he says. The more intense the sentiment, the harder it is to write about. Death and family are difficult subjects, he agrees. But making your character speak for you and adding a little drama makes it infinitely easier. Speaking of the personal, the writer comments about the literature coming out of his hometown, Ballari city. “The mining industry there has produced a lot of interesting stories. Local stories always have global potential,” he says. “The writing coming out of Ballari always has a very personal touch.” Vasudhendra’s short story Kempu Ginigalu is one of his favourites, where the author, on returning home to Ballari after nearly two decades, is surprised to see the place full of brown parrots. Excited that he might have discovered a new species, he follows them to a pond and realises they are just the same green parrots covered in dust from the mines. “Vasudhendra manages to portray the violence through a story rather than a report or a document,” Kumar says.

A three-time TOTO Award nominee, Praveen Kumar’s repertoire includes poetry, apart from prose and film dialogues. He believes each form is related to the other. “Short stories are condensed novels, and poems are more effective short stories,” he explains. “If I’m not able to read a 400-page Tolstoy novel, I can still get the effect it produces from an O. Henry short
story.” Writing a poem is taking that same feeling and delivering it in as few words as possible, and that is his goal when he writes poetry.

Kumar is currently writing scripts for upcoming Kannada films like Ninna Sanihake and Yellow Gangs. He looks forward to directing his own films, and is in search of a production house to work with.

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The Open Dosa is dedicated to covering Bengaluru, the Universe and the Internet, not necessarily in that order. It is the WordPress unkal of the lab-journal brought out by students of the Department of English, St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous), Bangalore.

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