Book review-Narayanray Huilgol Jeevan-Sadhane by Radha Kulkarni

Narayanray Huilgol is well known for his patriotic song for Karnataka state which is still played during light and sound show in Bengaluru. The song was a great inspiration during Karnataka state formation movement just after India’s independence.

Recently, came to know that one my colleagues is a great-grandson of Huilgol from his mother’s side. Not only that, he also talked about he having in his possession old books and other material related to him. He handed over me two bio-graphical books on him in Kannada language. One of them is written by Radha Kulkarni, again from family of Huilgol.

In this blog I am attempting to present the overview of the book where I got to understand many other facets of Huilgol and I was thrilled to know those, as they related to the topic of pre-independence culture of Karnataka, dramas which was main topic of my recent translation work on Amirbai Karnataki. Radha Kulkarni’s book is not the first biographical work on Huilgol(and author has referred many of them as per the reference list given). Since I have not read earlier works, I don’t know the uniqueness of her book and value over earlier ones. But for me, it is certainly very informative and the reference material given at the end, helps me to delve into this further.

There are two main sections. One is covering his life and personality in general. The other one is on his achievements and contribution. The former section is rather short comparatively. There is another section which lists down songs he has penned down. It was interesting to note that he studied in Pune’s Ferguson college and later in Mumbai where he studied law.  The second section starts with his most famous work which is patriotic song for Karnataka state. Later on there chapters on his contribution to prose and prosody works, as playwright and contribution to Kannada theater(especially North Karnataka theater), to education field, to freedom fighting movement, and lastly to Karnataka state formation related movement. The sections goes on listing and detailing on awards conferred on him, and later opinions by key personalities in Karnataka on him and also remembrances from his current members his family tree. The book has 3 appendices viz. first one on list of significant events in his life, second one on list of his literary works, third one on reference material used by the author.

Huilgol’s contribution to poetry and drama is significant. I am particularly interested in his thoughts and approach on improving situation of early Kannada theater in last century. He was studying in Pune where he came cross professional approach to Marathi theater. He being not only a playwright, but also one who participated in all activities right from production, shows, rehearsals apart from writing. As the book says, he made significant improvements on the ways Kannada theater used to go about that time. He wrote total 16 dramas including social, mythological, historical types. In fact, he is hailed early social playwright, because of his approach to women liberation, upliftment of downtrodden, also generating movement around Kannada language, Karnataka state formation and also freedom fighting against British government.

All in all, the book gives complete overview of his personality and achievements in various fields, with details, appropriate photographs and also covers various contextual information around pre-independence era. I am not sure if there is any anthology of his work put together. If not, that is something would very useful to this generation along with this book.

To conclude, as mentioned earlier, Huilgol, being native of Gadag, I am sure I will make it a point that I will visit his heritage home during my next visit to Gadag.

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