I completed reading Masti's classic historical novel, Chikkaveera Rajendra. The story is set in 1833-34, during the last year of rule of Chikkaveera Rajendra, King of Kodagu. But Masti gives insight to the past history, to the time of Raja VeeraRajendra, who was a just ruler. He wanted his daughter to succeed him, but his younger brother Lingaraja had other ideas. After VeeraRajendra's death, his daughter ascended the throne, but very soon Lingaraja took over. After his death, his son Chikkaveera Rajendra became the king of Kodagu.
When the story starts, the king's rule has already become a terror for the people. A wicked and cruel womanizer, Chikkaveera has one and only one friend - his minister and childhood companion Basava, who assists him in all his expeditions, and so is equally hated by the public. The king doesn't hesitate to eliminate anyone who comes in his way, and even kills the baby son of his sister in a rage. Plans are already going on among the people, and multiple parties are holding secret meetings, to discuss about ousting the king and installing somebody whom they are interested in. His brother-in-law wants his wife to be the next ruler, there is another rumor about the king having an elder brother, and another team wants son of Appaji, Lingaraja's brother, to be the new king. Ministers Boppanna and Lakshmi Narayana are also distressed with the rule, but the latter cant free himself from his loyal mind set. The British are just waiting for complaints from people and ministers which they can use as an excuse to dethrone Chikkaveera.
Things go to an expected conclusion, when finally the British come to Kodagu with their army. Even the minister Boppanna supports the move to impeach the king. The next task was to choose the next ruler. The king's wife and daughter refused to rule; Appaji being dead already, his son was off somewhere. Boppanna was asked to rule by other ministers, but he also was not willing to rule. Basava was already killed by the king, who suspected that he was a betrayer. So, the British happily took over, and sent the king into exile "with respect".
While describing about the king's brutal deeds, or about the selfish operations of the British, or about the conversion mania of Christian missionaries, Masti never becomes over-emotional. He shows utmost restraint like a sage, and views all characters, even the king and his minister with the same level of sympathy. Basava's end is touching. He gets killed by the king himself, the only person who was kind to him in his entire life. Basava never knows that he is the stepbrother of the king, and his mother is busy planning for his throning.
Masti was awarded Jnanapith for Chikkaveera Rajendra in 1983. I feel the novel stands in the class of historical novels by Kalki and CV Raman Pilla.