Sami Venkatadri Iyer, popular called Samasa, was a novelist, poet and dramatist of the classical Kannada school of literature.
The language used in his works is mellifluous and heavy on imagery, though the same is far removed from colloquial Kannada. Of his of works, very few survive today. The handful of his works which are available in print evoke pictures of the general life in the royal courts of yore
A Peek Into His Early Years
Sami Venkatadri Iyer was born in 1898 into a prominent family of scholars in the erstwhile Mysore state. He had a firm grounding in classical Kannada and was self taught in Sanskrit and English. It is rumoured that Sami Venkatadri Iyer was unable to pass his matriculation exam.
His love for travel took him to various parts of India and to Fiji, Burma and South Africa. He suffered from Persecution Complex and returned to Mysore to lead a solitary existence.
Sami Venkatadri Iyer attempted suicide twice before he was 40 years of age and his writings during this period reflect a deep melancholy and a feeling of being abandoned. His complex was so strong that he wrote a 183 page complaint to the Inspector General of Police against the Mysore Police.
His Professional Work
Samasa was deeply influenced by Shakespearan drama and staged his Vigada Vikramaraya based on the intrigues in the royal court of the Wodeyars, rulers of Mysore in the 16th century. This play was first published in Prabuddha Karnataka, a journal launched by Mysore University.
The play was written in a dialect called Halegannada and the plot is an intricately designed one with subplots and counter plots, royal intrigue and the treachery of courtiers. Samasa took up very meticulous research for writing the play and the characters had their basis in various historical figures.
The character of the wicked Vikramaray lies in stark contrast with that of the ideal king, Narasaraj Wodeyar. Samasa is credited with writing 23 plays, and unfortunately only six have survived till date. Vigada Vikramaraya was the first of a trilogy, and it was followed by Vijayanarasimha and Mantrashakti.
His Death and Legacy
Sami Venkatadri Iyer committed suicide at the age of 41, as his Persecution Complex got the best of him. His plays rightly bring out all his essential characteristics, including his attention to detail, his imaginative mind and his conscious self that was sadly plagued by his complex.
Samasa contributed a lot towards taking Kannada literature to the next level and will always be remembered for it.