About Pranabandhu Kar

Pranabandhu Kar (1914-98) is a pioneer of modern Odia literature, a playwright and short story writer of extraordinary genre. He not only set a new benchmark in the literary world of his time but also has inspired succeeding generations of writers to adopt his style.

His genius is reflected both in his plays and short stories, a rare combination the likes of which modern Odia literature has hardly witnessed. His penchant for delving into human psyche has made him stand apart in the literary sphere of the state. An educationist by profession, he drew inspiration from simple real life situations and experiences to weave tales that will forever continue to fascinate readers and writers alike.

Pranabandhu started writing short stories from a fairly young age of 21. He was immediately recognised for his creative talent and encouraged by his seniors and peers. His first short story was ‘Bhranti' (1935) and he then introduced one-act play to Odia literature with his 'Pagala Jantara Bahare' (1938). Rightly acknowledged as the ‘Father of Odia one-act plays’, he brought in a style and technique that were unparalleled in Indian writing of his time.

He, however, was never prolific and was often prodded into writing by his students, friends and editors of literary magazines. He has written only 35 plays and 51 short stories in his entire literary career that spanned over six decades. Yet, all his works stand out as literary gems.

His characters were drawn from all walks of life and his canvas spread from little known Tikabali in the backward Phulbani (now Boudh) district of Odisha to Los Angeles, US. He was not only realistic in delineation of various subjects and aspects of the society but also romantic in portraying his characters. Even though he dealt with poverty, backwardness, frustrations and disappointments, he was essentially an optimist and celebrated life. His writings, thus, tend to emanate positivity, the bright side brought out through exquisite psycho-analysis of his characters.

Rather than focusing on narrative, he chose to explore the psychological reactions of his characters to situations and present them in such a manner that the reader was compelled to transport himself into the character.

Pranabandhu was a champion of womens' emancipation from the beginning and most of his writings bear testimony to this. His powerful dramatic style and simple language coupled with experimentation has set him apart from others. It is his style, technique, language and willingness to experiment that earned him the sobriquet of 'trend setter in Odia short story and plays'.

Apart from his original works, he had the distinction of giving dramatic version to some of the classic Odia novels such as Fakir Mohan Senapati's 'Chha Mana Atha Guntha', 'Lachhma', 'Mamu' and Kalindi Charan Panigrahi's 'Matira Manisha'.

His works have won him several awards and recognitions from the Central Sahitya Akademi, Central Dance-Drama Akademi, Odisha Sahitya Akademi and Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi to many other prestigious literary and cultural organisations. He was aslo the President of Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi. The Central Sahitya Akademi has announced to publish a monograph on his life and contributions to literature besides undertaking translations of his works.

Pranabandhu’s sensibilities as a writer had been more honed by his profession as a teacher.  He was very popular with his students, thanks to his affectionate bearing and engaging teaching methods that were laced with humour and sans any formality. He was a constant source of encouragement for them.

His teaching excellence earned him the prestigious Smith-Mundt and Fulbright fellowship from the U.S. Government to spend one year in various universities there to study Educational Administration. He was also one of the founding fathers of the State Institute of Education in Bhubaneswar, which is now known as the State Council of Educational Research & Training (SCERT).

In his later years, though, he would often express his dismay and dissatisfaction over the rapid decline in the quality of education. He would rue that the nurturing and personalized classroom environment had given way to a disturbing proliferation of mass-education through large, money-churning tutorial centers, run like factories. In his opinion, such a trend devalued our human capital and made us non-competitive in the national and world stage.

Paraphrasing someone who knew him well: "Pranabandhu Kar, who over six decades made significant contributions to Odisha's educational, social, and cultural life, is not a person but an institution. Those who were fortunate to enter his magnetic sphere of influence will always remain closely tied to him.”