Wednesday 24 July 2024

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Culture | Literature

Should printed book alone decide the Sahitya Academy award?


Should a printed book be the only criteria to judge the literary talent of a writer in a developing world of information technology?

The question is thrown up with veteran litterateur of Konkani Adv Uday Bhembre getting the Sahitya Academy award at the age of 76 for a drama script he had written at the age of 21, a long gap of 55 years...

Udaybab, as he is widely known and respected in the field of Konkani literature, was honoured with India’s most prestigious award this year, for a book – Karnaparv - he had penned down in 1960.

The reason?

He has no book published to his credit, except Channyache Rateem, a collection of his select poems and songs, published in 1986 by Hema Naik’s Apurbai Prakashan.

Somehow he missed the award while his contemporaries like Ana Mhambro, Chandrakant Keni and Chafra D’Costa bagged it from 1987 to 1989.

The book in fact was titled as Channyache Rateem, a famous song sung by late Ulhas Buyao and has today become a folk song of Goa.

The second book took almost 28 years. Karnaparv was published last year – in 2014 – when Dinesh Manerkar of Sanjana Publications was struggling to publish his newspapers writings in a book form.

“Udaybab suddenly remembered that he has a manuscript of Karnaparv and I jumped at it”, says Manerkar.

He penned down the script while studying in Mumbai based on a thorough research and interpreting Mahabharat in a stunning manner to project Krishna, Karna and Kunti.

It was later staged at Goa Kala Academy’s Konkani drama competition almost a decade later, obviously bagging several first prizes including for the script writing. Several other performances followed.

But Karnaparv was not considered for any literary award simply because it was not published in a book form.

“The book kept on getting delayed because I could not find enough time to write an elaborate preface I wanted to”, says Udaybab in his usual humble manner.

Known for his sensitive poetry, Udaybab’s songs were recorded by All India Radio in Mumbai as well as Goa, HMV released his LP records and now students and youth dance at his songs, released in CD formats.

He has 60 songs to his credit with 50 of them already recorded, around 40 poems, six short stories and thousands of newspaper articles and editorials, written with literary flavour by this multifaceted personality.

“I have one more script written on superstition with a mining background”, Udaybab reveals to

But is the book format necessary to recognise the literary talent of this prolific writer, who has written hundreds of prefaces to several books, some of which even won the Sahitya Academy awards?

“It’s a wrong system of choosing a book Sahitya Academy follows to recognise the writer at national level. Time has come to honour a writer by reviewing his or her literary journey and not any particular book”, feels Madhav Borkar, president of Goa Konkani Academy, himself a poet and Sahitya Academy award winner.

Udaybab points out at the Bhasha Samman Puraskar the Sahitya Academy has instituted, but agrees that book alone should not be a criterion to judge a litterateur.

“It should be writer’s literary work in the field of literature”, he opines.

While pointing out at Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh, a path-breaking Hindi poet who never published a single book, Borkar feels the Sahitya Academy should choose writers for the award like how Sangeet Natak Academy chooses to honour the artist every year.

Dr Kiran Budkuley, the Dean of Languages at Goa University and a renowned critic, feels that time has come to take into consideration multiple forms of documenting literature, not alone a printed book.

Leave aside what Sahitya Academy decides at national level, Dr Budkuley felt Goa can make a beginning in this regard.

Udaybab has primarily written literature for performing art like scripts and songs which are well-documented in the form of a drama, radio recording, LP records and even Compact Disks.

“Book was the old criteria. We definitely need to consider other formats with changing technology, but an authenticated document is a must”, Hema Naik, a publisher and the award winner, makes a point.

Dinesh Manerkar, who published Karnaparv in a book form, observes that this is an era of audio books, video formats and e-books which help cross the barriers of scripts and reach out to the larger audience.

“What if a writer never comes out with a printed book”, he asks.

All of them are unanimous that the Sahitya Academy needs to review its age-old policy and take a call with the changing technology rather than harping only on one format – a printed book – to honour a writer at national level for his or her literary contribution.

(Please post your comments in a comment box below, to make it a comprehesive one-stop debate related to the topic that will remain documented. Personal irrelevant accusations will not be approved.) is now on Telegram & also Youtube. Kindly subscribe for free & remain updated.

Total Comments :3

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When time changes it ushers in new technology. New criteria is a must. Today even titles of ownership of wealth are stored in e-form. Here question of honouring and acknowledging comes where we insist on a printed book. Should a genius carry an evidence a witness? No. No.

Madhav Bastodker , Ponda

लिहीणे आता टायपींग होत आहे .इ-साहित्याचा उदय होत आहे. लिहीण्याचा काळ संपेल. म्हणूनच लिखित साहित्या वर आधारलेले मुल्यांकनाचे /evalution चे प्रकार बदलले पाहीजेत. सुरवात शाळा काॅलेजांचिया परिक्षापासून होईल

Madhusudan Joshi , Rajkot

Though I agree that a book or books alone should not be the criteria by which a writer is judged for a honour or award but then how does one expect that people who judge the writers will be able to read his/her writings unless brought out in a formal book format?