Regional writers back Nemade on tirade against Naipaul, Rushdie

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After comments by Jnanpith winner Bhalchandra Nemade earlier this month directed at Indian- origin authors in English like Salman Rushdie and VS Naipaul, writers in regional languages have now thrown their weight behind the noted Marathi writer. “Nemade is an important writer of India. For me he is more important than Rushdie, who has made no contribution to Indian literature,” Bengali writer Subodh Sarkar said at the inaugural session here yesterday of the LIC-Gateway Litfest, which is dedicated to literature in the Indian languages.

Following the announcement earlier this month that he had won the prestigious Jnanpith Award, Nemade, a pre-eminent Marathi novelist and poet, had sparked off a row by accusing Rushdie and Naipaul of “pandering to the west” and stating that Rushdie’s works post ‘Midnight’s Children’ lacked literary merit. Responding to the criticism, Rushdie had tweeted saying, “Grumpy old… Just take your prize and say thank you nicely. I doubt you’ve even read the work you attack.”

Weighing in on Nemade’s side, veteran Gujarati writer Sitamshu Yashachandra said, “I will not play the game Rushdie plays, even if I am not known beyond my native place. I am doing something else.” He further alleged that English writing should be blamed for paralysing the regional literature.
Earlier, former secretary of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi, K Satchidanandan, took strong exception to the way English writers were sidelining the regional languages. Citing his experiences in his home state of Kerala, Satchidanandan accused English language writers of “trying to sell the beauty and colour of Kerala” to the global audience.

Meanwhile, participating in a discussion on why films are not getting inspired by literature, noted filmmaker Adoor Gopalkrishnan said, “They (script-writers) don’t read books, they are not inspired by writings or writers, but by drugs.” He acknowledged that literary works are rooted in the daily life, while film are based on dreams.

Fellow film-maker Govind Nihalani blamed technology for the disconnect between literature and film scripts. “Now the relationship is in a flux. But I hope it will stabilise and we will have some good movies based on literature,” he said.

National Award-winning actresses Nandita Das and Usha Jadhav and over 50 writers in the regional languages attended the first day of the two-day festival here.