Jayant Kaikini

Published on: January 2013
Jayant Kaikini is a poet, short stories author and movie songs scriptwriter in Kannada. He has bagged in many notable awards like 'Karnataka Sahitya Academy' award. Dr.Jayant Kaikini is regarded as one of the most significant of the younger writers in Kannada today. He is a writer of short stories, film scripts and poetry, and is based in Bangalore. His poetry is characterised by subtle imagism, a minute documentation of the seemingly commonplace, a colloquial idiom and a conscientious refusal to engage in any poeticising. He has so far published six anthologies of short stories, four books of poetry, three plays and a collection of essays.

Dr.Jayant Kaikini was born in Gokarna. His father, Gourish Kaikini, a schoolteacher, was a Kannada littérateur and mother Shanta, a social worker. After a Masters in Biochemistry from Karnataka University, Dharwad, he moved to Mumbai where he worked as a chemist for many years. He now lives in Bangalore. Apart from Kannada Jayant is fluent in Konkani (his mother tongue), Marathi, Hindi and English.

In an introduction to Dots and Lines, an English translation of Kaikini's short stories, critic C.N. Ramachandran writes, "To understand Jayant's works, we have to situate him in the literary context of the last two decades of the 20th century. During that period, there arose a group of writers who consciously differed from both the earlier Modernist writers (called Navya in Kannada) and those contemporaneous to them, the Writers of Protest (called Bandaya in Kannada) and Dalit writers. They did not subscribe to any particular philosophical or political system of thinking - be it Existentialism of the Modernists or the Leftist ideologies of the Dalit and Protest writers. On the other hand, what they wished to do was to select precise and authentic details of daily life and organise them in such a way as to culminate in a particular experience... Generally, their style was comic-ironic; and the language they used was the spoken language of day-to-day life. They were neither idealists nor cynics; they just wished to observe the life around them - generally mediocre - to register all the fleeting details that marked an ordinary man's daily routine, and lead up to an experience rich in connotations. Jayant was a major figure in this group of writers who, loosely, can be called 'post-modernist'."
jayant kaikini,kannada film industry
Jayant Kaikini(JK): I started writing in my college days, during my MSc. in Bio technology. I took part in inter college competitions, I used to write short stories and poetry. I wrote for a local Kannada magazine called "Sudha". I believed that girls will read and get impressed, but that never was the case as none of them ever bought that magazine (he laughs).

In Dharwad, when I was studying, I got a real good atmosphere to write. The environment was very vibrant. Sir Bendre and few other creative people were there. It was indeed a great experience. After that I went to Bombay. It was a different environment altogether. I started working for Procter & Gamble. 23 years in Bombay, and yet all through, I was a part of Kannada literature because writing is something that was in practice always - Not for the film industry, that happened recently. There were many people who were writing in Kannada then, and reading Kannada. I have almost published around fifteen books before I came to Bengaluru!

I still don't feel I am a part of the industry, I feel I am a writer. So whenever somebody comes to me asking to write for something, I just do that. Not that I write only for the industry, I keep writing otherwise also now and then. For ETV channel, I made a series about Kuvempu, Sir Bendre, Shivaram Karanth and Rajkumar, where I interviewed people who have personally interacted with them.

When I write a poem it's a different feeling. When I write fiction that's a different thing. It is not complementary.

In Mumbai there is a Kannada newspaper that has circulation of 20000 daily. In Bombay region, there are at least 28000 people who purchase Kannada newspaper daily. Bombay is a real metropolitan city. Till the time people stop asking about caste, creed etc., they can never come forward- And that is exactly what I like about Mumbai. In 23 years of time, I haven't found a single person who asked my caste or any of my personal details. They really mean it when they say we treat men and women equally. My mother used to love to come to Bombay. Like how in vacation we used visit Gokarna, she used to come to Mumbai and stay for 20-25 days like that. She felt liberated!

Q: How did you come to film industry?

JK: Entering this field professionally was basically because of Mr. Yograj Bhat, as he was a fan of my writing. When he was in his 11th, he had read an article of mine in one of the dailies (that was 20 years ago). It was of two pages and he told it to me by heart) He recited the same in front of me. He did that to impress me, and I was impressed. Because for any writer, when somebody comes to you and recites something that you had written 20 years ago, you feel good. Then I thought he is genuinely interested in my write ups, and agreed to write a song. I had never written a song before. 'Anisutide' was my first attempt. But before that I had worked as a script writer for a Shivraj Kumar's movie - 'Chigurida kanasu'. But 'Mungaru male' was the first important activity as a writer.

The Literature field is very vibrant. I am different, though. There is something called as history of literature. I have never tried to be a part of it. I always have tried to be a part of history of humans. The moment you think of being a part of the history of literature, there are various things that you need to be a part of. There are various bodies involved, awards etc. You need to be a part of various revolutionary things. That is not the basic purpose of writing. The purpose of writing is to intensely experience life that God has given in the human context and try to share it with others that is it. The more I write, the more I evolve. Writing is a mode of thought for me. See we don't think deeply while walking.. we think about the next schedule or maximum about the next day's schedule honestly. For a writer, writing is a way of thinking. For a poet, writing a poem is his way of thinking. So that is why when I write it's a question of my thought process, so I like it, that's my enjoyment. Since I was in Mumbai for 23 years, I was never a part of many moments that happened here. Mumbai was a liberated space for me which gave space for my thoughts. Because there people believe in the work is worship principle. People should have a working experience at least once in their life time.

Even today if you take an auto rickshaw, if the meter reads 48, they take 48 only. They will give you Rs.2 back to you. Because end of the day, they know that we all are here to work and earn and they value every single rupee. The whole of Mumbai is like one factory and all are workers over there. Different uniforms for different designations. End of the day you go home and remove the uniform. That's how the feeling is. All are treated equally, the feeling is immensely satisfying.

Q: I have seen many writers who expect an exclusive environment to write. How is it for you?

JK: See for a writer, writing itself is an environment.. writing itself is a mood. Writing in itself is to create a mood. In Mumbai, while travelling in local metro and in many such situations I used to write. We were in a small room of 10 by 10. I married my colleague, Smita. Ours is a love marriage. We have lived in a very small place. Today when we see that we feel, I wonder how did lived there, how we brought up our children to the schooling stage there. But we never felt that. Why I am sharing this is, because when you live such a small space, we always try to create some mental space by writing, art etc. So that is why I never demanded for a good environment to write as such. Nor did my writing wait for any good mood. Whenever you ask such questions to writers, they start lying. They mostly try to create an image just to show the world how different they are from others. I think the moment one thinks that I am different from others he lost the worldly connection. Because it only comes to you when you have connection with others. The moment you think that I know better than others, you have lost it. I only pity such people. When you are with others and you are with the human chain, then only you can understand the mysteries of life.

Q: What do you have to say about the people who are willing to jump into the literature field and opt it for living, leaving their main stream jobs?

JK: I left Bombay because my factory closed down. I came here and was an advisor for Etv channel. Then I had to leave as they wanted to place me in Hyderabad. But I wanted come to Bangalore. So then I had nothing to do as I had started to live by writing. At that time it was my wife who really supported me. If it was someone else, they would have forced me to go back to 8 to 5 job. It was a difficult time. It was really difficult for me to leave writing. It was difficult to live on writing. Forget about butter, it was difficult to earn bread only. The Writer is the least paid and the last paid here. So earning was a tough thing. It was a major decision for me to leave job. But when you say I am a writer.. I write poetry, fiction and all that. I can't guarantee that it will be sold in the market unlike English, Malayalam, Bengali and few other languages. Especially in Kannada, you hardly find readers who purchase books and read. There are people who go to restaurants and in the amount that you leave for waiters there, you can buy two Kannada books. People spend Rs.2000 on buying shoes, jeans, etc. But if they have to pay hundred rupees for a book, they step back. They don't buy it. People mistake reading to reading newspapers. It is not reading at all. It is just a medium to prevail the connection with the world. It can't give you a space for thought. In some places, I really am happy to see youth holding books in their hand.

There are so many people who don't dare commenting on articles on science, history and subjects like that. It demands a lot of knowledge and research. But, everyone tries to poke their nose into literature. Criticising it in all the ways possible. That is not fair in entirety. Ultimately, the purpose of writing is something else. To see life deeply and to evolve. Because we thought it ends at the saying of Darwin- Monkeys to human - No it doesn't stop there. Evolving is still a process. If I am doing something in my field, If you are doing something in your field, it is the collective mind on the planet which is evolving through you and me. I should not take credit for that. That is why I say if some writers get good price for their book, I tell them that it is the price you got for your work and not for you. Then it will help you when you don't achieve the price expected. If my work hasn't got its price, I need to reason it out and analyse the ways of improvement. You can sit and think to work better. But on the other side, when you start taking its worth to be yours, when your work doesn't get a good price, you will not be able to handle it.

Evolving process is on. It's always trying for excellence. For example, when a player gets a gold medal in Olympics, he doesn't stop it there. He aims higher- to beat his previous record. He continues his practice. He raises his bar and gives his heart out to surpass the same. It is not just him surpassing. But he is stretching the entire humanity with him. So when a writer is writing, he is stretching the entire human mind with him. Singers like Kishore, players like Sachin Tendulkar- Every day is a new game for him. He is stretching the human spirit.

Insecurities are very interesting and very romantic when you are alone. You can enjoy it in a different way when you are a bachelor. But once you have a family, you have children in the schooling age and then suddenly you have a situation where in you don't know what to do. That's a very testing time. Luckily for me, I didn't have to worry so much because things came in my way. The moment my company got shut down in Mumbai, I got some ad agency working. At that time, got a call from etv people that we want you to an advisor for our channel. So after an year I left the job. When I left that, Vijaya Karnataka people called me and told that we are making a magazine called as 'Bhavana', be an editor. So I edited it for two years, then that also stopped. Then I got some script writing work that I did for six months. Eventually, etv people asked me to interview people. I interviewed celebrities every day.

If we sit telling I don't want to do this job and etc., you will never learn things. Push yourself and you will learn new things. You may not want to do something, or you may not be trained to do one thing.. but the mind is a complex one, you can do anything, if you want to.
I remember a lady Bengali poet of 75 years age. One of the top poets in Bengali. She was our neigbhour in Mumbai. This is a 15 years old story I am sharing. One day she came in search of me telling - "I heard there's a young Kannada poet here and I want to meet him." In the conversation with her, I got to know that she wrote her first ever poem when she was 55. That was very inspiring. There's no age limit to desire and achieve anything. I have seen many telling that my turn is over at 45 and they live for 30 years saying the same.

Keep the child like quality in you, till your very last day - an excellent example for this would be Dr.RajKumar- an actor in the Kannada industry, who told his kidnapper Veerappan, that the last thing he wanted to do before getting released, was to touch his huge moustache! Keep the child alive and awake within you. You will go far!
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