If a Kannada literary don can warn of repairee…

S.R. RAMAKRISHNA writes from Bangalore: What’s in a name? Oh, everything.

On Monday, the crew of an FM radio station in Bangalore got beaten up because someone didn’t like the name of a show they were recording.

And what was the show called? Bendetthu Bengaluru.

If you are a Bangalorean, and if you have Kannadiga friends who don’t mind a bit of slang, you will probably have come across the expression ‘bendetthu‘.

Bendettu‘ is a mix of two words: ‘bend’ and ‘etthu‘. Bend is from English, and etthu is Kannada to take out, remove, lift. Bendetthu means to straighten up something, and I suspect it comes from the world of tinkering.

Cars that are dented need to be straightened up… they need the bendetthu treatment.

Get the drift?

‘Bendetthu Bengaluru”s producer describes it as a show that tries to find solutions to Bangalore’s civic problems.

Now why should this name upset anyone? Members of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike went to Vijayanagar, where the crew was talking to passers-by, and asked them why they had chosen a name that was insulting to Bangalore.

The terrified jockeys had no answer, and so these custodians of Bangalore pride decided to teach them a lesson.

We all know the Rakshana Vedike is excitable when it comes to Kannada issues, but how do you explain them going and thrashing Kannada radio jockeys doing a Kannada show with what one would think is a witty Kannada name?

Anyone with any interest in Kannada movies will have heard of an actor called Jaggesh. If you want to enjoy Bangalore’s street language, you should watch his movies. I am sure he makes up his own dialogue. His clowning is good fun, but he stands out for his linguistic brilliance.

I know of no actor who has been able to tap into the rich, iridescent world of Kannada slang the way Jaggesh has. Raj Kumar is too dignified an actor to mouth slang, and romantic heroes such as Vishnuvardhan don’t ever try to break out of their middle-class monotony. Upendra talks a lot, and tries to shock you with his iconoclasm, but you can hardly accuse him of good taste.

You’ve heard of the expression ‘would-be’ to refer to a fiance? In one of his films, Jaggesh plays on this word, and refers to his girlfriend as his “Udupi wife”. He can turn any word on its head!

Jaggesh acted in a film called Bundal Nan Maga some years ago. I suspect he thought up that name himself. It’s again like ‘Bendetthu Bengaluru’. Bundal is probably bundle, short for bundle of lies. Nan maga means my son.

If Jaggesh could get away with a title like that, there’s no reason a radio team should be harassed for the title ‘Bendetthu Bengaluru’.

Jaggesh is now an MLA, and could lose his wit trying to say the right things for the consumption of the media and his constituency. Just imagine the artistic suffocation he would experience if someone went to him and demanded that he explain his word play.

He hails from Srirampura, close to the city railway station, a neighbourhood of working class and poor Kannadigas and Tamils. It was at one time notorious as a haven for criminal gangs. Jaggesh’s language draws on the brash, clever, and often dark humour of people forced to live in squalor.

In the hands of a great director, he could produce comedies of Chaplin‘s class.

Dr Siddalingaiah, the most famous Dalit poet around and now chairman of the Karnataka Book Authority, also hails from Srirampura. When a reporter called him yesterday, he suggested the Rakshana Vedike was hurt because of the title ‘Bendetthu Bengaluru’.

In truth, Siddalingaiah is a sophisticated humorist, and can produce a great script for Jaggesh. If only he’d stop saying bendetthu is bad Kannada…

(S.R. Ramakrishna is the resident editor of Mid Day, Bangalore, where this piece first appeared)

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