Renowned Odia novelist and columnist, Bibhuti Patnaik is a veteran in the Odia literary world. He has brought laurels to the state with his share of awards, the recent being the Central Sahitya Natak Akademi award for his short story collection Mahisashurara Muhan. The 78-year-old Patnaik who started off as a college lecturer in the Department of Odia language and literature in 1970 & retired as a reader in the year 1995 is still a favorite among readers. Excerpts from an interview
Tell us something about the book Mahisashurara Muhan that fetched you a Kendra Sahitya Akademi award?
This book is about a man who fights against social traditions. He takes help from political dignitaries to reach the right person and finally reaches the right person who can come to his aid. He struggles going out of his way but does not get justice even when he reaches the last resort. Not giving up, he decides to fight back and take revenge for whatever wrong has been done to him. That’s what the book is all about.
You have been an eminent writer but you have received this recognition very late. Does that affect you?
I have been associated with the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award committee as a jury member. My writing is based on different incidents related to society, people and politics. I wrote a book in 1965 named Chapala Chhanda which is based on the background of history from World War 2nd to First Democratical Election in India and afterwards. In 2008, I had written another novel named Dina Kala which is based on the Naxal movement. That book should have got its due recognition. I won’t say I am upset that I got recognition late.
Many writers junior to you have already received this award before you have. Do you think any political reason might have kept you away from this award?
No nothing like that. People who are the executive member in the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award committee, their books will not be taken under consideration for 5 years after their leaving the committee. That is the prime reason I haven’t received the award may be.
Is there any book in your knowledge that should have got an award but has not so far?
There is a book by Basanta Kumari Pattnaik “Amada Bata” which is a terrific novel. It should have got its due recognition. I personally wanted it to be recognized but you cannot blame anyone for this.
Which Odia writer’s books do you enjoy reading?
I am a huge fan of Manoj Das. I have read almost all his stories. I also like reading Surendra Mohanty & Rabi Pattnaik’s books.
Why do you think are there aren’t many Odia readers today?
I don’t have much to say regarding this except for the fact that the state government should work towards providing good books in the library which people might take an interest in. This could be possibly one of the reasons why people are not developing a taste for Odia literature.
So do you think there is politics involved in the award giving process of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi jury?
In today’s times nothing is free from politics. So how can I say that the Sahitya Akademi jury is out of politics? Earlier stalwarts like Jawaharlal Nehru, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Maulana Azad kept literature free from politics. They believed that literature was above everything, even politics. I am sad that it is not the case now.
We often see that Odia movies are copied from different languages. Don’t you think it’s time Odia movies are lifted up from Odia novels and books?
It is a good thing to make movies based on novels and books but given the mentality of the recent audience, I feel that maximum people are going to the theaters just for entertainment. But in spite of that, movies like Krantidhara, Sala Budha & Adima Bichara are still given importance.