I am indebted by the kindness shown by Mr.M.D.Hatkangalekar for allowing me to use his write-up and the encouragement he gave me.
For the last three decades G.A.Kulkarni, as a short story writer has remained a name to conjure with in Marathi literature. He will stand in comparison not only with such masters of the short story in India languages as R.Tagore, Premchand, Masti Vankatesh, Ismat Chugtai, Krishna Chandra and others but also with such world figures as Stephan Zweig, Faulkner, Hemingway, Chekhov and Maupassant, and this statement can be true entirely from any suspicion of literary chauvinism. It may well be remembered in this connection that many of these world-class writers, Zweig, Maupassant, Chekhov, in particular, have practiced more or less exclusively the form of the short story. Their total view of the world as reflected in their short stories has commanded equal attention as that of the novelist or those who have successfully practices more than one form of literature. They have been able to express their understanding and mediation on life as comprehensively and profoundly within the scope of this supposedly minor form of the literature, G.A.Kulkarni, unmistakable, belongs to this category of writers.
Over a period of thirty odd years, G.A (as he is called with affection and respect) has produced eight collections of short stories, two translations and two collections of a distinct kind of parables. His story writing has passed through three stages. ‘Neela Savla’ 1959, ‘Parva’ 1960, ‘Hirve Rave’ 1962, ‘Raktchandan’ 1966, ‘Kajalmaya’ 1972, ‘Pigalavel’ 1977, these contain stories of high drama and destiny. ‘Ramalkhuna’ 1975 and ‘Sanjshakun’ 1975 contain his distinctive parables and situation-stories as he calls them. The two translations are selected to project his own serious and awesome vision of life. His recent collections ‘Amritphale’ and ‘Onjaldhara’ are stories told to children that have a message for elders too. In these stories he has succeeded in bringing grater discipline and simplicity to his usually studded style. Perhaps it is his way of working towards the core of the meaning of human existence.
His stories fall into three groups; first group is that of the social tragic stories. These are more tragic than social. They deal with abiding human passions and problems but at the same time are firmly entrenched in a native social and domestic context, and yet at all points they are able to transcend this context to rise into the lonely tormented suffering of man as the Homo sapien. His very first published story ‘Aamanhi’ (girl under a black curse) epitomizes the basic situation of human beings that are like files to wanton boys. It is the story of an illegitimate girl who is thrown to the village gods and who is done to death by a pack of villagers that fall upon her like famished wolves under the spell of religious frenzy. The story assimilates in itself, centuries of primitive practices and beliefs, which invest it with a weight and substance that goes far beyond the ordinary scope of a short story. Stories ‘Manoos Navacha Beta’ and ‘Maanasache Kaya, Makadache Kaya’ treat the same theme, thickly laid out with mundane and contemporary details, ironical comments and flashes of black comedy. Most of the stories in the four collections and some from ‘Kajalmaya’ and ‘Pigalavel’ fall into this group. The most serious charge brought against G.A is that his stories nourish the unredeemed philosophy of fatalism, projecting the human being as a creature entirely at the mercy of the incurable destiny and that this robs his stories of the variety of human experience and man of the freedom of his choice. This charge is misleading being based on too simple an understanding of his stories. G.A, perhaps anticipating this charge, has, reproduced at the beginning of his collection ‘Pigalavel’ a quotation from Strindberg, ‘shallow people demand variety – but I have been writing the same story throughout my life, every time trying to cut nearer the aching nerve!’
There is a variation of this group, consisting of stories which are tragic and which have a peripheral social matrix and which later on soar into a well modulated world of gruesome fantasy. Stories like ‘Anjana’, ‘Swapna’, ‘Veej’, ‘Funka’ are outstanding illustrations of this variety. Through these stories G.A has tried to unearth the hoary roots of the human race steeped in mystery and witchcraft. The evocation of elemental forces in these stories produces a stunning effect. In the third group G.A creates an imaginative universe of power and studded beauty. The power is that of perennial quests and passions and the beauty is that of elaborate construction of the fable and stupefying richness of imagery and language. ‘Swami’, ‘Yatrik’, ‘Thipka’, ‘Kalsutra’, ‘Ratna’ and ‘Vidushal’ are such stories. Vidushak is the crowning achievement of the art. This story must easily find a place among the world’s grate short stories. Stories like ‘Orpheus’ and ‘Eskilar’ are original and meaningful recreations of legendary tales. G.A attempted through such stories an absolute situational form in which the basis of existence reveals itself in a context-free but richly fluid, imaginative construct. He attempted this on a leisurely expansively scale as well as on a miniature scale. The stories on a miniature scale are collected in ‘Sanjshakun’.
G.A in the course of nearly more than three decades of exacting creativity stood out as a lone and solemn landmark amidst and endless stretch of mediocre fertility. He inspired devotion in the minds of young literary aspirants and remained an unattained ideal for a talented few among them. Many have with great humility and reverence dedicated their collections, not only of short stories but also of poems of him. None of the modern writers have evoked such instinctive love and respect. G.A has emerged as a true redeemer of the timeless and undying in literature.
Not easily accessible G.A has not yet been widely translated. He should have been so translated in Kannad which is his mother tongue and which has lent a different relish to his marathi style. Dr.M.S.Gore has translated ten of his short stories in English. Translations of a few stories in Hindi and Kannad are available. Two stories have been adopted for the stage and a film is being planned on one of his stories by the noted actor and stage artist, Amol Palekar.
G.A. has lent almost epic dimension, and depth to the form of short story. ‘Here is a writer who has often raised the short story to the stature of an epic almost an impossibleliterary entity in modern times.’ (Marathi short story by K.J.Purohit : Comparative Indian Literature Volume 2 pp.790) Very rarely, if at all, a short story writer in any language has received such high praise. His stories apparently concern the lives mainly of the lower classes living in the border regions between the states of Maharashtra and Karnatak. These lives are brutally cramped and miserable but are capable of sudden violence and massive suffering and they still actively inherit a tribal and primitive ego. Some of his stories also concern the middle and lower classes living in urban areas. G.A.’s art in painstaking and elaborate, Goethic in its designing skills and awesome effects. His stories gain a haunting, macabre quality, which throbs with irresistible undercurrents of metaphysical speculations. His sense of humor breaks out in grotesque imagery that adds to their acid flavor. G.A is a rare phenomenon in the field of short story, a dedicated artist sculpting out rich forms from the huge boulders of human suffering. His short stories have therefore been considered under the same categories as to the novel or the epic poem. The writings of few other Indians have the inner resources to sustain critical appraisal at this level.