Girish Canard – Notes primarily to self, and incidentally to a fanboy of Mr Canard

14/06/2019

The problem with this Girish is that there are lots of, real lots of, helluva lot of Canards about him.

Primary one is that he was a GREAT litterateur. Oh my.

Sorry, I am of the opinion that Girish Karnad was a grand mediocre auteur, at best.

Yes – I have read many of his works, have listened to him in person (not one-on-ones, but in smaller groups) and have not been impressed at all – either about his alleged literary capabilities or about his ‘activism’ – which, by the way, was not at all about FACTivism. He has always been a trueblood Twistorian.

And, definitely, I do NOT belong to that hypocritical school of thought that, just because someone has been ‘active,’ has famously written a ‘lot’ over many decades, has been a professional protestwallah for donkey’s (y)ears, and is naturally/finally dead (thank gawd, for small mercies!), he should suddenly become praiseworthy and that we should all be sending hosannas heavenwards!

Yes. I have read his alleged ‘historical play’ – Tughlaq – in its English and Tamil translations. I have read MANY other books & random essays of his too. Besides, I have some scholarly acquaintances in the Kannada lit circles, to boot. Anyway, I will come back to this Tughlaq, later in this mail.

Let me first, ask a rhetorical question: What is the admix that makes these kinds of Canards into uncalled-for Icons?

If I attempt to answer that, it would go somewhat like the following attributes…

1. Intense political acumen (I gladly accept that Girish was a bright guy who moved towards avenues for self advancement, nothing wrong with it, per se)
2. His Oxford ‘education’
3. His careful stewardship/exploitation of the network/connections of left-liberal ‘progressive’ supportbase – and the nurturing of ardent armies of semi-literate jolawallah admirers & other public ineffectuals
4. His ability to artfully(!) integrate elements of titillation, at one level
5. His ‘cultivated image’ & looks (Remember? One of his female admirers, known to both us very well in those days, was totally infatuated with him & was swooning all over, because he looked like a ‘greek’ Icon! But he didn’t even look like a Ford Icon to me though, in spite of the fact that he famously considered himself an iconoclast! Oh my!)
6. His ability to cultivate friendship (strictly on mutual admiration and/or YouScratchMe-MeScratchYou basis) among critics and fellow intellectuals – and thus alchemically translating his political acumen into much admired ‘literary’ skills.

So, siree – if you were to say that Girish was a skilled politician (mind you, I consider politics to be a very important profession in any given society and have a lot of respect for politicians), then yes – I would respect your point and agree with you. But then, please do understand and accept that you are praising him for all the wrong and uncalled-for reasons!

The thing is, anyone who had read the originals (whether it has to do with Tughlaq or Yayati or Hittina Hunja or Agni Mattu Male or The Dreams of Tipu Sultan etc etc) – say, like the primary sources or even secondary sources – will realize that the kind of ‘liberties’ that Girish has taken with them, twisting & tormenting them. But obviously you haven’t done your homework – as a trueblood jolawallah or a cross-eyed intellectual. All your knowledge about, say Tughlaq, comes from the NCERT school textbooks or from THE Girish himself, oh what to do!

In fact, you would be surprised that, Girish himself got his idea for Tughlaq from a school textbook, just like you. No wonder you consider that work to be of great literary consequence!

Please do not talk about it in terms of nonsensical and dreary terminologies like freakin’ ‘metaphor’ and ‘symbolism!’ bah! Tughlaq the play – was/is pedestrian at best! It is mostly pulp fiction, given an ‘artistic’ sheen – irrespective of whether it was written with your Jawaharlal Nehru in mind or whether it has parallels between the two failed ‘visionaries!’

Now, may I rejig your memory about how this Tughlaq came about please? Definitely, it was NOT by way of a process of artistic imagination or anything. It did not ‘brew’ in the mind of Girish for years together, as you blindly imagine or fall for the propaganda. Sorry.

It was merely a reaction against the celebrated critic and auteur, the BRILLIANT Kirtinath Kurtakoti‘s lament that there was no decent historical drama/play in Kannada. Obviously, there was no ‘muse’ goading on and whispering into the ears of Girish to write that splendid(!) play.

Spurred by Kirtinath’s perceptive comment, our Girish leafed thru elementary level SCHOOL TEXTBOOKS for a possible ‘heroic’ character that he can ‘develop’ on. He has gone on record saying precisely that.

And then, after the textbooks told him that Tughlaq could be a possible ‘hero’ for his historical play, he read up some material apparently, including some Ziauddin Barani, when he was still at Oxford. If my fading memory has it right, it was in an early 1970s Interview with Rajinder Paul in Enact magazine; in fact, in that interview, ISTR that he had even claimed – Tughlaq was the most brilliant of ALL kings/emperors of Delhi, including the Mughals! So what about Akbar, one might ask, yeah? ;-)  And, wouldn’t Audrey Truschke  feel sad about her hero Aurangzeb not being included, no? :-)

Girish has merely managed to milk the discontent/disillusionment & cushy/armed-chair cynicism of jolawallahs of his days even as they became part of the cultural commissars, while pretending to be proletariat. Of course, you can eulogize about Girishes and Tughlaqs and you can talk endlessly about Bakhtins and Dialogism and Holquists and power relations and hegemony and realpolitik…

Also, besides whitewashing the really gruesome portions of Tughlaq, Girish has physically lifted quite a bit of dialogue stuff from Barani, VERBATIM – from Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi. And, added quite a few fictional stuff and characters – like Aazaam, Aziz et al.

One can go on and on… A third rate Tamil auteur like our S.Ramakrishnan can do better than that play, anyway!

…But, it is important here to remember that this play on Tughlaq, could  NEVER gain the approval of Kirtinath, to counter whom, it was originally written. (but it went on to win accolades from the culture vulture commissars – and because it was so praised, the clueless semi-literates also started worshiping that! That’s how CreA – an avant garde Tamil publishing house also published a Tamil version of it and I had the misfortune of reading it in Tamil too!)

’nuff said.

If you really want to dissect the palpable and puerile offerings of the likes of Girish and UR Anathamurthi – you had better go to the SOURCES first; that is, if you want to understand Samskara, you must, MUST read the History of Dharmasasthra by PV Kane, at least.

No need to fall for middlemen like Girish & Antanthamurthy kinda clowns, vending their own sterilized & warped histories – all in the name of artistic licentiousness. Sorry.

(This is a slightly edited/prettified(!) text of an intemperate email interchange I had with a ‘friend’ who was getting into a heavy mourning mode on hearing the passing away of Girish. He wanted me to write an obit about him in Tamil; however, I feel that Tamil audience deserve something better than me writing hilariously about some random auteur of no literary or otherwise noteworthy consequence – so lapsed into this English mode)

4 Responses to “Girish Canard – Notes primarily to self, and incidentally to a fanboy of Mr Canard”

  1. xxx Says:

    That image is from CHO tamil movie parody not from GK’s tuglak play. If you poisonous sanghi cannot verify even this, how can you rubbish someone with his stature? STUPID BAKHT IDIOTIC GOOSE


    • Sir, of course, I know that. Thanks for reminding me of that in a masterly goosey way. Getting too many of these goose-bumps these days, anyway.

      However, if your GK or GK’s GK do not permit the basic historical knowledge/awareness – then it is your problem, is it not?

      However, no worries! Please relax as his son Raghu Karnad continues his father’s work of spreading canards and vending half-bakery products. So nice to see your GK’s legacy continuing, yeah? https://twitter.com/rkarnad

  2. K Muthuramakrishnan Says:

    Oh! You have almost echoed the Aasan in this matter! He had some sweet words too for Girish. You had none!!


    • Sir, happy to note that I could just about manage to echo the sentiments of my Perum-PerAasaan.

      And, am kinda annoyed that you refer to him just as Aasan. What temerity!

      You blasphemed! Am fuming… grrr


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