by Shobha Kulkarni
This interview was done in 2019, Sri Chandrakant Kusnoor left for his heavenly abode on 18 April 2020.
It was a pleasure talking with Sri Chandrakant Kusnoor, an intellectual, litterateur, a multilingual and a multifaceted personality.
Born and brought up in Kusnur, a small village in Kalburgi, he had his primary education in Urdu and graduated too in Urdu medium. He later passed his M. A. in Hindi through Osmania University, Hyderabad. He used to attend Urdu Mushiara with his friends which kindled his interest in poetry. He joined as a clerk in the Education department and simultaneously acquired a Masters’s degree in Education. He started teaching Philosophy of Education in Gulbarga B. Ed. College and later joined as Lecturer in Hindi in P. U. College. He had an opportunity to interact with writers like Sri U. R. Anantmurthy, Sri Krishna Alanahalli, Giraddi Govindraj, Chandrashekar Patil, and Siddhalinga Patil.
In nineteen seventy four, he had the opportunity to recite a Hindi poem in the golden jubilee function of Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachara Sabha in Dharwad.It was at this juncture that he visited Dr. Bendre’s house along with writers like G. B. Joshi, Ramakanth Joshi, Siddhalingayya and Kirtinath Kurtakoti. It was customary of offering sugar to guests.Dr. Bendre offered him sugar with a sweet advice, ‘write in Kannada’.
Kusnoor was unable to read and write in Kannada although it was his mother tongue. He took up the challenge and with the help of distinguished poet Shantarasa and Dr. Siddhalinga Pattanshetty he acquired the written skill. He had a limited vocabulary in Kannada, so he started writing Haiku poems which brought a revolution in Kannada literature. Similarly, he was the first person to introduce Absurd dramas in Kannada, which ushered in an air of freshness and modernism in Kannada literature. He retired as Deputy Director, Kannada and Culture Department and has settled in Belagavi. He is fluent in Urdu, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi and English languages. He has published a number of plays, poems and articles and has bagged many awards. He is also a very creative abstract painter.
I present a simple but versatile personality beyond his words and colors.
Shobha – You have been recognized as an experimental writer. What influenced you to bring a new wave of change in Kannada literature?
Kusnoor : Second World War left an indelible mark on the psyche of people all around the world. Western writers like Samuel Beckett, Kafka, William Golding and Eugene Ionesco wrote about the deteriorating values of European society. The concept of Church, God , Family, Belief and Religion weakened. Millions of lives had been destroyed in the Second World War and the uselessness of living was deeply felt by the people. Literature during this period pictured the realistic society and the Absurd plays became very popular. Samuel Beckett’s, ‘Waiting for Godot’, a strange little play in which nothing happens was an instant success.
In India, pre-independence and post-independence writers belonged to different generations. Though the cultural history of a country is permanent, the political history varies and so too the influx of customs, rituals, traditions and the living style. The Indians too were tired and disappointed after the independence and a sense of hopelessness was felt in them. At this point, I introduced the western writers and their style to the Kannadigas. Many of my friends and critics wrote against me but I was firm in my belief that the Kannada readers too would understand the complexities of life which are reflected in my writings.
Shobha : You are a multifaceted personality – an excellent orator, writer, poet and painter. What inspires you and how do you have this zest for life even at this age?
Kusnoor :In one of my poems, I have written that the paint on the tip of the brush does not know it’s destiny and shows the uncertainty of life. Life is full of adversity. So I celebrate life everyday. Man, Nature, Soul and Cosmic energy are deeply related. A poet is capable of absorbing the mysterious energy of Nature. We should internalize it and give it back to the world. We should assimilate pure qualities from Nature and demand peace and contentment from her.
Shobha : Your dramas are very symbolic. Could you elaborate on them ?
How do you persuade people to accept your point of view ?
Kusnoor : ( Ane bantondu Ane ) a song sung for children has historical reference. Similarly ( Shravana Shukrawara song ) from the play, ‘Vidhushaka’ speaks about Oedipus Complex and ( Mane ) talks about the limitless desires of man. A rich man is given a place in the cemetery to build a house, the cemetery being symbolic of desires. This play was selected as a textbook for Karnataka University and another play, Vidhushaka was selected as a textbook for Tumkur University. In a way the plays reflect the shortcomings in society.
Shobha : Today we have more writers, more books, but very few noteworthy writings. What does the modern writer lack?
Kusnoor : A vacuum has been created in the minds of people today whom I describe as belonging to the third generation. Pre-independence is the first generation who fought for freedom, second-generation knows the value of freedom whereas the third generation is not aware of the political history and there is a vacuum. Rituals are a weak bridge and there is cultural poverty everywhere. Polluted elements come and occupy this empty place and create negativity in their minds because positive qualities take time to percolate into the minds. The biggest tragedy is they don’t accept and respect the Indian values which have grown for years together. It takes time but today’s generation has no patience. They are self- centered. Lack of love and tolerance in the society and family has made the society complex and relationships weak. That is why there is no depth in their writings.
Shobha : A simple question – Why do you write and paint ?
Kusnoor : For liberation; For my own joy. Whenever I have faced crossroads in my life, colors and words have helped me sail through the obstacles and develop my creativity, my imagination, my thinking and my personality as a whole. An artist is not Brahma to create anything new but tries to probe through the secret of creation through words and colors.
Shobha: How do you differentiate between colors and words ?
Kusnoor : In each language, words are bound by their own framework. So freedom is curtailed. Not so with colors. Colors have Universal appeal and can reach a larger number of people. Each color combination has a message and a meaning at the surface level and at the core level. Viewers must feel the painting. No doubt Painting is a very powerful medium to interact with people and can give immense joy to the viewers.
Shobha: Should we judge and appreciate paintings critically ?
Kusnoor : That is a very complicated issue. When we say a painting is beautiful , what do we really mean? A painter has two visuals – real visual and an imaginative visual. Imaginative visual enhances his creativity and helps him grow into an artist. So the beauty of a painting must be felt deep within. A true artist is never worried about criticism.
Shobha : How do you create a mood in a painting?
Kusnoor : Just as turmeric, kumkum, sandalwood paste, flowers etc are symbols of Indian culture, a few lines should create a whole picture in our mind. Doesn’t a peacock feather or a flute create the picture of Krishna in your mind?
Shobha : In your book, ‘Kale mattu Kalanubhava’, you have given us a true picture of Art and Artists. On page 35, you say that the mythological figures in Indian epics and Puranas are distortions. If so why do we accept it ?
Kusnoor : We are under the wrong impression that Modern Art has come from the west. Our ancient art , especially mythological figures like Garuda, Gajendra, Hayavadana, Maruti, Airavata, Varaha , Vamana etc are experimental paintings but Indians have the intelligence to use them for a different purpose, merely worship them. In short, we have the tolerance to accept and digest everything.
Shobha: Your journey started in Hyderabad Karnataka and now you have settled in Belagavi , North west of Karnataka. Do you feel the difference?
Kusnoor : A physical place can only influence you to a certain extent, like, listening to Urdu Mushaira made me start writing in Urdu and residing in Belagavi helped me to interact with both Kannada and Marathi speaking people, but a Writer’s journey is always a pilgrimage, seeking joy and contentment within.
Shobha : What is your advice to the present generation writers ?
Kusnoor : Enter deep into your experiences. Quality, not quantity is important. A writer should have his own identity and not remain stagnant at any point of time. Emotions in a human being are not linear, so plot and characters should grow in all directions.Let there be a flow in thoughts and words. Let there be involvement with society and let their writings reflect the same.
Shobha : What have you to say about the women writers ?
Kusnoor : Women fail to see the larger picture of life. In the patriarchal system, women cannot participate actively and so the themes are usually limited to their families. More life should be filled in the characters. They should read more and discuss more various authors. Literature is not reporting. Women writers are not taken seriously and so more critical analysis is essential. Ultimately men or women are not important. Their writings should be relevant.
Shobha : How do you formulate your philosophy of life ? What message do you have for your readers ?
Kusnoor : All living beings respond to Nature. Man has a special quality of responding. He creates art through imagination. Desires of a man are limitless. He makes continuous efforts to understand the mystery of the Universe through religion and science. This search brings meaning to his life. Nothing comes to us on its own accord. We should make efforts to find Universal joy and peace. Life is Man’s journey towards fullness. Philosophy, Knowledge, and Art give meaning to his life. He develops tolerance and is able to feel the joy of living even in adverse conditions.
Chandrakant Kusnoor :
Published works :
Kannada to Hindi
Kaadu and Sanskara
Kannada to Marathi
Kale mattu Kalanubhava
Karnataka Natak Academy 1990
Karnataka Sahitya Academy 1991
Govt. of India Hindi Directorate Award
Govt. of Karnataka Rajyostava Award
About the Interviewer: Shobha Kulkarni M. A. M. Ed.
Retd. Principal, Bhagyanagar, Belagavi
( has published a collection of poems – Invisible Threads )
Email: [email protected]