"Success comes to a writer as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed." – Sir. P. G. Wodehouse
It was August 1907. The place is Karangalpady in Mangalore. A child was born in a middle class house hold and they named him ‘Vasudeva’. Kudpi Narasimha Shenoy and his wife Kalyanibai never had the least imagination that their new born child would become a legend one day!
This is the story about a great journalist, writer and playwright who lived his life with pride, spreading happiness and making life a wee bit different for himself, the ones who read his publications and the ones who watched his plays.
This is the story about Kudpi Vasudeva Shenoy, popularly known as ‘Kudpi’ who was born 100 years ago, this day!
He was born third, out of the ten children in a middle class G.S.B. household, misfortunate enough, having lost his father when he was 12 years old. He also lost his elder brother who was just 11 years due to Typhoid, thus becoming the eldest son in the family.
Kudpi ( in many moods!)
He had to take over the responsibility of looking after his mother and his younger kin. Thus, he was deprived of College education and could study only upto 6th Form (SSLC) with the help of his famous lawyer uncle Adige Varadaraja Shenoy.
In School, he was encouraged by his Kannada teacher M.N.Kamath to take to journalism. M.N.Kamath appreciated a poem written by Kudpi when he was in school and he was so impressed, he presented him his personal fountain pen and wished him good luck in developing his literary talents! Kudpi’s literary talents made him write short stories, mostly filled with humour.
Prabhata – 1936 Dassara Annual
Prabhata – 1938 Annual
Soon after coming out of school, Kudpi joined Prabhakar Press in Udupi as proof reader. He left his job in Prabhakar Press later, and joined Kanteerava Press in Mangalore to become co-editor with Huruli Bheema Rao in their publication called ‘Kanteerava’.
Late V.S.Kudva of ‘Navabharatha’ fame recognized his work and made him editor of a patriotic periodical called ‘Swadeshabhimaani’ which was aimed at defying British rule. Both the papers saw Kudpi as a powerful and definitive journalist during the early Thirties.
Prabhata – 1939 Annual
Prabhata – 1940 Holiday Annual
1935 – A year to remember. Kudpi took a firm decision and established his weekly newspaper – ‘Prabhata’. Prabhata contained wholesome feast of articles by many senior writers, having a clean look with meaningful write-ups. Initially, Prabhata was being printed at Mangalore Press and City Press.
He opened his office in a corner upstairs opposite Balaji Talkies (Present Srinivas Talkies) in Car Street. Prabhata was one of the most prestigious publications in the coastal regions of Mysore and Bombay states.
In the Forties, Kudpi floated his own Public Limited Company known as ‘Prabhat Printers Limited’ opposite B.E.M.High School near Car Street, and started to print Prabhata weekly in that press. VJP Saldanha’s ‘Kannadavani’ used to be printed there for a short period in the mid sixties.
1941- V.S.Kudva wanted to start a weekly newspaper and he approached Kudpi to get an idea. Kudpi, already experienced in the field, assured Mr.Kudva that he will manage the show. Thus, ‘Navabharatha’ came into existence, and Kudpi became the first working Editor of Navabharatha. Soon, Navabharatha was graduated into a daily newspaper, upon the overwhelming response of its readers!
Kudpi has encouraged women in the field of journalism such as Varija Devi and Mohini Bai by guiding them and publishing their periodical ‘Suvasini’.
Discussion with a film personality
Kudpi was innovative in his own way, as far as journalism is concerned. He used to visit many film studios in Bombay (Mumbai), stay there for a month or two, collect spicy material like behind the scene pictures, interviews with prominent actors and directors and publish them in Prabhata in colour, especially in the special annual issues. He was very close to Mehboob Khan, V.Shantaram and Sohrab Modi, the stalwarts in Hindi Cinema those days!
Film shooting at outdoor location
With film crew at Prakash Studios
He was inspired by writers such as Sir. P. G. Wodehouse, Somerset Maugham, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Guy De Maupassant, O’Henry, Anton Chekov and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
His short humour stories, mostly based on every day life, speak volumes about how simply one could bring a smile or laughter on anybody’s face with simple usage of clean language! His stories are often filled with tragedy and comedy blended so perfectly that the reader always has his laugh, while the author remains silent, swallowing the tragedy himself! Many a times, he has included his own character in his stories.
Ondaanemale, a series of 347 small booklets of 16-22 pages each, was one of the best things that could happen during the 50’s and early 60’s! The variety within the series was vivid. Short stories, dramas, travelogues, home medicine, detective stories, astrology, science, moral stories, Upanishads, Subhashitas, Sarvajna Vachanas, profiles and many other aspects were covered, while encouraging young and experienced writers. He used to publish at least one such booklet per week.
His compilation of short stories in Ondaanemale include ‘Jaathaka Pathana’, ‘Panditana Pitilu’, ‘Kumaara’, ‘Namma Desha’ ‘Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’, ‘Sarvajnana Vachanagalu’ and ‘Namma Naadu’.
Bhagavadgite for one anna
The success of Ondaanemale inspired Kudpi to offer Bhagavadgita with over 200 pages for one Anna (Present day 6 paise). Few people voluntarily contributed to the cause, such as D. Puttaswamy and K. Vimalamma Ballal.
Meere Matthu Naanu
Japan Belaku – Kasada Dabbigalu
Apart from Ondaanemale booklets, Kudpi has written and published short stories in volumes such as ‘Meere Matthu Naanu’, ‘Japan Belaku Matthu Itara Kathegalu’, ‘Kasada Dabbigalu’, ‘Malegaalada Swapnagalu’ and ‘Aayasavillada Ogatugalu’. They used to be sold like hot cakes those days!
With Aa Na Kru
Stalwarts in literary field like Manjeshwar Govinda Pai, A.N.Krishna Rao(Aa Na Kru), M.N.Kamath, Dr.Shivarama Karanth, Kayyaara Kinhanna Rai, B.Shanker Bhat, Dr.H.L.Nagegowda, S.V.Parameshwar Bhat, D.Puttaswamy, T.Chandraraja Shetty, Balkooru Subraya Adiga and many others were closely associated with Kudpi.
With The Dalai Lama
Kudpi has written and directed many dramas. In Ondaanemale series, he has written several dramas including ‘Chunaavane Arthaat Banaavane’, ‘Baabige Baasinga’, ‘Satyavantha Baabi’ and ‘Nareeshwararu. His other published dramas are ‘Naavu Saahukaara Kuladavaru’ and of course ‘Sanyaasi Gongadi’, which was the most popular of the lot.
Sanyasi Gongadi Team 1960
1960 ? Manipal hosted the All India Kannada Sammelana. The organizers approached Kudpi and requested him to write and present a drama to be played during the sammelana.
Kudpi worked on the script for 15 days without rest. D. Puttaswamy, younger cousin of Manjayya Heggade of Dharmasthala who was Kudpi’s neighbour in ‘Veera Bhavana’ was surprised to see the light in Kudpi’s study room early one morning and asked him, why he woke up so early! Kudpi coolly replied ? "I didn’t sleep at all. I’ve been awake, the whole night!"
Thus, ‘Sanyaasi Gongadi’ took shape.
‘Sanyasi Gongadi’ was staged in Manipal for the first time. The very first scene had the sanyasi entering the stage through the audience along with his disciples hailing him with ‘Jai Jaikar’. The entire audience was stupefied and stood still with folded hands with respect, thinking that a real swamiji has come to bless the gathering! When the drama dialogues started, they realized that it was part of the drama! Such was the innovation that Kudpi used to cleverly adapt in his play!
He has also written dramas such as ‘Varthaka Vilasa’ and ‘Saitaananodane Karaaru’. He has translated Marati dramas like ‘Ekach Pyaala’ into Kannada. Following the success of Sanyasi Gongadi, Kudpi translated it into Konkani as ‘Bhangraa Goddadi’. His Konkani drama ‘Dolyaan Khelu’ has been widely accepted as one of the most humorous Konkani dramas ever!
‘Kala Bhavana’, a registered trust was formed by the local Drama artistes, Writers and Directors in the sixties. Kudpi was the secretary. Kala Bhavana has successfully held ‘Nataka Saptaha’ for seven days every year at Don Bosco Hall for many years during which, many Drama Troupes from all over Karnataka State (Then Mysore State) used to participate and exhibit dramas with wholesome entertainment under the categories – ‘Samajika’ (Social), ‘Pouranika’ (Mythological) and ‘Aithihaasika’ (Historical).
Some of the stage personalities who have been associated with Kudpi during those days include R.D.Kamat (Marati), Ramananda Choorya, S.R.Balagopal, Krishnagopal, Mohan Rao, Narendra Mendon, Yellur Umesh Rao and Basti Narayan Shenoy.
Kudpi was also good at drawing and photography. He has drawn many Indian ink sketches for Prabhata as well as for cover page of Ondaanemale. ‘Shingannaa’, a comic character that became popular in Navabharatha was originally the concept of Kudpi. Pictures taken by him using his Brownie camera have a class of their own!
Kumara – Indian Ink Drawing(L); Creative Photography by Kudpi (R)
He was an exponent of Hindustani Classical music. He was converse with playing Harmonium and Flute. He has played flute and Harmonium during Bhajana Saptahas in the temples. He and his like minded friends have hosted Pandit Madhav Gudi and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi to perform in many Sangeet Kutcheries in private houses during the 40’s and the 50’s.
Kudpi’s favourite singers were Khan Sahib Abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Pandit Pannalal Ghosh, Pandit D.V,.Paluskar and Bala Gandharva. Among the English movies, he loved ‘Frankenstein’ starring Boris Karloff so much, that he has seen that movie, at least a dozen times! Among the Indian actors, he liked K.L.Saigal most of all. He has seen ‘Devdas’ many times and he also used to appreciate Saigal, C.H.Atma and Punkaj Mallick for their excellence in singing. When he used to sit in the Radio room to shave his face every morning at 7.45a.m., he used to switch on Radio Ceylon and nod his head to Saigal’s song which used to appear exactly at 7.57am!
With D Rathnavarma Heggade, Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala
Kudpi was in close contact with Dharmasthala. The Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala, D.Rathnavarma Heggade charged Kudpi with the responsibility of convening an all India Exhibition at the 25th Sarvadharma Sammelana in Dharmasthala in the year 1957.
Kudpi’s arrangements and the efforts to bring out a Souvenir to commemorate the event were appreciated by the then Chief Minister of Mysore S.Nijalingappa, Minister for Labour and Law, B.Vaikunta Baliga and Union Minister for Works, Housing and Supply, K.C.Reddy.
With his wife Ramabai
Kudpi Vasudeva Shenoy married Ramabai in the year 1936. They had 8 children including one daughter and seven sons. Out of the seven, one passed away at his early age, three are doctors (including their daughter), one is a dentist and the three others worked for different Nationalised Banks before taking VRS and have started their own professions. He has never used his influence to place his children in high places, in spite of the contacts he had with the Politicians and Bank Executives.
Ramabai was the ideal match for Kudpi in all respects. She used to take care of the house hold, take care of the children, help needy servants and neighbours financially and socially and most of all, she followed his principles such as self respect and dignity.
Kudpi has actively participated in the Freedom Struggle, being an active member of Congress Party. He used to print hand bills that exhibited defiance towards British rule in India.
That was a late afternoon in the early forties, when the police came to Kudpi’s house when he was away. They knocked on the door and Ramabai didn’t open the door. She asked them who they are, and what they want. When she came to know that the police have raided the house, she politely requested them to wait till her husband is back. The police were restless, and they kept banging on the door and demanding for a search. Ramabai, though not well educated, understood the situation and she gathered all the hand bills stocked within the premises and put them into the fire place in the bath room. When Kudpi returned home in the evening, he saw the Police waiting for him, and he courageously let them in to search his premises! The police had to return with disappointment!
Had Kudpi been caught red handed with the hand bills, he’d have been arrested and become a political sufferer today! Ramabai’s presence of mind and her foresight about her children’s’ future saved the family from a possible crisis that day!
After Indira Gandhi declared emergency in 1975, Kudpi lost faith in Indian Political system and he wriggled away from politics. He also stopped writing about politics in his paper Prabhata.
He had a passion for classic furniture. This passion often made him take his favourite carpenter to Hindi movies and show him the furniture displayed in the movie to get similar ones made for him! He used to clean and maintain all the furniture himself. He lived a simple life, while providing all the luxuries to his family. His attire would be as simple as a white Khadi Jubba and cotton Dhoti and a Gandhi cap covering his head most of the times.
On a normal day, he would walk 3 KMs to reach his office in Car Street. He was compassionate towards the needy. He used to employ even handicapped people on daily wages to encourage them to be self sufficient.
He had a cool attitude, never giving scope for unpleasantness. He used to bear any pain without uttering a word! An incidence that happened during the early sixties will give us a picture about how cool he was, even in times of crisis!
The domestic servant did a mistake by dumping ashes from the bath room fire place into a basket in the back room of the house, in which Kudpi was tenant of Dharmasthala Temple Trust. The cinders contained live fire. Kudpi was awake, writing articles as usual in the early hours and he saw the glow of a blaze through the ventilator of the back room.
He opened the door and saw that the basket is ablaze, firewood and couple of the wooden beams of the roof were on fire! He immediately sprang into action. He woke up his wife Ramabai, their elder son and her nephew who was with them for college education. Without any delay and without making any noise, the four of them did a team work, drawing water from the well and extinguishing the fire much before the roof and the house could be reduced to ashes! None of the neighbours came to know about the incidence! Such was his presence of mind and crisis management.
He aspired to publish ‘Gowda Saraswat Samaj Darpan’, a 1001 page guide to G.S.B. Community with ‘who is who’ section. He set on to collect the information but he could not go far with the mission.
1977- February 1st. Kudpi Vasudeva Shenoy had a massive heart attack, the first and the final. He was no more. Even during his departure, he did not give any trouble to his family that was out of town except for his second daughter in law, who was the only one near him at the time of his death.
A legend left this world on his eternal journey, leaving behind him, the legacy of numerous books and dramas for his next generation to carry on with! He published his brainchild Prabhata Weekly till he breathed his last. Till his last breath, Kudpi Vasudeva Shenoy was active!
Legends are not made. They are born. Kudpi Vasudeva Shenoy was a true legend in his times.
About The Author
Rajanikanth Shenoy, Kudpi is the youngest son of Kudpi Vasudeva Shenoy, noted journalist and playwright. After working for Syndicate Bank for 22 years, he took VRS in the year 2001 and started his Multimedia Center – Kudpiraj in Bejai Mangalore. Over the years, he has mastered Audio-Video editing, short documentaries production, script writing and photo restoration.
He has contributed to Mangalorean.com over the last one year with many pictures, articles, features, poems, recipes and jokes. This feature is a tribute from him to his great father Kudpi Vasudeva Shenoy on the occasion of his Birth centenary.
Author: Rajanikanth Shenoy- Kudpi