A FEATURE ON BISHNU SAHOO By Prashant Biswal
A prolific and powerful storywriter, Bishnu Sahu is popular and widely read for his short stories with exquisite artistry, finesse in character portrayal, masterly treatment of archetype of compassion, impeccable use of metaphors, flawless imagistic language, deep-rooted culture consciousness, unfailing capture of vagaries of human life together with penetration into deep recesses of human mind, endearing exploration of threads of complex human relationship. There occurs near-total balance of archaic and modern lexicons, clinical dissection of contemporary social character, dramatic irony and twist and his inimitable grand style, which make his stories distinct and dignified. He is a recipient of numerous prestigious literary awards including Sahitya Akademi, Bishuva and Sahitya Bharati. Apart from short stories, Sahu has been successfully grappling with other genres of literature like plays, poetry, children’s literature, columns, criticism and, last but not the least, golden sonnets with sonorous musicality and thematic intensity. An acclaimed AIR playwright, a lyricist, Sahu’s works include ‘Gotie Gaanra Chitrapata’ Kahani ‘O’ Kathachampa” Jane Saudarinka Samaprkare”, Parulra Preuika’ Bishnu Sahunka Katha ‘O’ Kahani, Bishnu Sahunka Prema Galpa’ and others. In an interview for The Bhubaneswar Review, Mr. Sahu spoke to Mr. Prashant Biswal.
What’s the source of your creative inspiration?
From my childhood, I have been a passionate lover of solitude. As a schoolboy, I used to take delight in moving in the meadow, in the lap of nature. Even when I played with my friends, I was different from others. Natural beauty of the village surrounding filled my hearth in joy. I loved reading great classics like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and Panchatantra. I derived pleasure in listening to Mathura Mangala, Rasakallola and other poetic works. At this age, I felt I would be able to write something. The passion for writing grew. I would say my village life and my exposure to literature at this age is the source of my creative inspiration ‘Gotie Gaagra Chitrapata’, which got the Sahitya Akademi Award. It is a fictional representation of my childhood memories and my artistic curiosity and the small and trivial things and affairs.
What, according to you, is a good story?
According to me, a good story is that which has an immediate impact upon the mind of the reader. I have always sustained a belief that a good story creates a mood in the mind of the reader to love all. It is a literary product, I would say, which arouses love and sympathy. After reading a good story, a reader funds himself as if he is part of this orchestra called humanity. He wants to rediscover the world anew. He wants to reveal the secret beauty of human existence and explore the unexplored ways to live a life of content. I believe a story is a story and it must have a message for the readers and, for that matter, a message for mankind. It gives a sense of hope and contentment to the reader. It pushes the dark clouds of despair from the reader’s mind and misprices him to love life, to move towards a hope-filled future, to be in the journey so that one day or other he or she will come across the oasis. On the whole, a good story stirs a reader’s consciousness, makes him ecstatic elevates his mind and widens his mental horizon.
It is found that there is a pervading tragic element in your stories. What’s your response?
Yes, I have been alive to this kind of reader’s response. I must confess that I am a huge lover of our cultural tradition. I’m convinced that I should be rooted in my heritage and culture even when I am experimenting something new in my writing. I have witnessed agony, helplessness, poverty and ill fate of people in the village. In the city, I have also marked the unspeakable conditions of some people living miserable life. As a writer, I have been critical of the ‘evil’ and responsive to the ‘good’. Most of my stories have tragic elements because of my keen observation of human life and complex human relationships. At the same time, I must say this tragic tone is not the outcome of my conscious attempts. As usual, a writer is moved by his subconscious and I am no exception. Having said this, I would like to dwell upon the fact that the stark reality and subtleties can be better captured in tragic writing. Fantasy and melodrama may be good for entertaining the readers, but tragedy seizes their minds, stirs their emotion and makes them look within.
You’ve been writing stories four decades. What would you say about the present status of Odia short stories vis-à-vis the stories written in other parts of the country?
In the recent past, I had the privilege of reading the English translation of one of my stories at a symposium organised by the Kendra Sahitya Akademi. The attention and accolade the story drew from the assemblage of writers from different States convinced me that our stories have occupied very significant place in the domain of Indian literature. I venture to mention that Fakir Mohan Senapati is a paradigm maker in the field of short stories in India. I assert that the portrayal of characters by Manoj Das, the psychic insight of Ramachandra Behera, the delicate diction of Chandrasekhar Rath, the time consciousness of Santanu Acharya, the insightful analysis of Pratinha Ray, the dissection of contemporary ills by Binapani Mohanty, the flowing tenor of Bibhuti Patnaik and the psychological craftsmanship of Padmaj Pal are rare and have added grandeur to the Odia stories. I feel proud to be an inheritor of this great tradition. Without mentioning the names, I would say that the new generation story writers have also proved their talents. I dare say too much experimentation kills the spirit of a story. I am not against innovation, but what I believe is that a story must not confuse the reader’s mind; its impact must be immediate and it must carry the stuff which would move the readers. I am sure Odia short stories have not failed the readers; and they have not fallen short of artistic and aesthetic excellence.
Apart from short stories, you have written lyrics, plays, children’s literature, columns, criticisms, poems and sonnets. How is it possible?
Before writing stories, I used to write poems, plays and lyrical dramas. When I was pretty young, one of my lyrical dramas was broadcast in All India Radio. From my childhood, I had a passion for music and singing. I wrote lyrics and got myself approved as a lyrist in the AIR. My lyrics have been rendered by the great singers like Akshaya Mohanty. I have also composed music in many lyrics. My plays have been broadcast by AIR; and some of my plays have been staged by famous operas. ‘Paralova Premika’, a collection of poems, has been immensely appreciated by readers. But my paramount passion has been writing short stories since the time my story was published in the story magazine ‘Katha’. And I have never looked back. At present, I have been writing golden sonnets because they have gained immense popularity in the social media.
People say it is difficult to try all these genres. But I feel at ease with all these forms of literature. There is no secret behind it except my unswerving commitment to literature, my irresistible desire for creative writing, my tireless striving to promote my language and literature guided by the love and affection my readers have showered upon me.