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Goodbye, Gentle Friend of Karnataka's Tribes

Well-known tribal expert and environmentalist Sethu Madhav leaves behind an immense body of work— documentary films, studies on the tribes of Karnataka, and writings  on the environment for the younger generation

Published: 11th June 2014 05:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th June 2014 08:10 AM   |  A+A-

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BANGALORE : Well-known tribal expert and environmentalist Sethu Madhav leaves behind an immense body of work— documentary films, studies on the tribes of Karnataka, and writings  on the environment for the younger generation.

Condoling his death during his study-travel in Wayanad-Nagarhole, Dr Vijayamma, the reputed Kannada writer, says, "Sethu was a good writer and had dramatised Niranjana's famous novel Chirasmarane for the first World Kannada Conference at Mysore that was held in the presence of Dr Shivram Karanth and Kuvempu. In fact, Niranjana had appreciated this dramatisation that was directed by B Suresh. He was also instrumental in conducting studies on tribes like Soligas in B R Hills. However, his major work was giving importance and prominence to short film makers in international film festivals held at Hyderabad and Bangalore."

He was a Marxwadi, says writer and film director Veerappa Maralwadi and adds, "Through NGO forums, Sethu has contributed to child and women welfare and was a committed environmentalist. However, I would call him an Alamari as his studies and research focused mostly on Soligas, Jenu Kurubas, Kadu Kurubas and Todas. He had a good technique of studying them at close quarters, by staying with them and empowering them."

Recalling his association, veteran theatre and film art director, Shashidar Adapa, says, "We worked together for seven to eight years in Kannada theatre and also under the acclaimed director C G Krishnaswamy and these years were fruitful. It was not just writing, Sethu was involved in every department of theatre. He participated in popular theatre workshops in Sri Lanka and Philippines. But his intense work on tribes in B R Hills,  Kodagu, Uttar Kannada and involvement in tribal empowerment stands apart."

His close associate, Mahendra Kumar, Green India, Dandeli says, "His obsession with tribes and tribal issues was unmatched. His research, writings, empowerment campaigns and film documentation on many tribes of Karnataka, Assam and Odisha is vast and he actively participated in eco-conservation activities in the state. However, he did not live to publish his works."

Hailing from a cultured Jodidar family of Molkalmuru, Sethu Madhav imbibed their gregariousness and generosity to produce 50 documentaries on tribal culture, children's rights and education, self-help initiatives, the languages of Karnataka, and floods in north Karnataka. His documentary on Jenu Kurubas won rave reviews while his writings on environmental issues like Hasira Kolalu are not only interesting but have been widely appreciated. He leaves behind a manuscript comprising 25 years of his study on the tribes of Karnataka which his associates and friends have vowed to publish.

(Sethu Madhav was 56 when he died on May 30)


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