Sujatha’s Kathaavilaasam

[Pic – Vikatan]

This week, S Ramakrishnan’s Kathaavilaasam column in Ananda Vikatan features Sujatha. Kathaavilaasam isn’t as interesting as his previous series, Thunaiezhuthu. One reason why I keep reading it despite the semi-boring narrative is that, Ramakrishnan explores the world of tamil authors and showcases an author’s creation. Earlier the column featured Aathavan, Ashokamithran and few other favorites of mine. The column is a success, if only 50 people would have bought Aathvan’s Enn Peyar Ramaseshan after reading Kathaavilaasam.

S.Ramkarishnan points out Sujatha’s shortstory Nagaram which is considered to be one of his best. Anyone who has read Nagaram would agree that the ending left a guilt in their hearts.

Nagaram’s premise has been modified and used in some sequences of Shankar’s Indian. One, when Manorama goes to the government office to get her cobbler husband’s pension. Two, when Kamalhassan and Sukanya take Kasturi with third degree burns to the hospital.

I just thought I should post, Writer Sujatha – Essential Reading. I had compiled a list earlier, for a friend and happily forgot to pass it on. Will dig it out and post it here sometime.

17 responses to “Sujatha’s Kathaavilaasam”

  1. Lazy, Do you read Vadivelu’s post in Vikatan ?
    I dont know why, but Im really impressed the way Vadivelu writes up. I felt there were inbuilt messages to us, though it wasnt intentional, better than what Isha Yoga master is telling.

    give it a read.

    I liked the portrait of Sujatha in Kathavilasam.


  2. Well.. I am not sure how this post is going to shape up.

    I like Sujatha’s writing. He has a very attractive style of narration. He did introduce a very different narrative style in Tamil.

    However (if there is no ‘however’, why would this post be written), I don’t think his style is entirely new to the literary world in general. I could sense some impact of fast paced and fiction styled well educated authorship. His stories has sharp and intelligent observations, but they are not insightful. Maybe it is a matter of taste. Reading maturitry (the taste of reading), or the lack of it, is developed over a period of time.

    Say, if I read a story by Ashoka Mitran or Jayaganthan or Pudumaipittan (BTW, have you read his short story ‘Upadesam’?), I am usually left with a state of introversion. Wait… I would be – and I am not – comitting a sin if I compared two writers. See, I am talking about a personal impact of a piece of writing.

    There are a few exceptions to this. Nagaram is definitely one of them.

    When I read Sujatha’s writing, I usually first come across an intelligent writer. Everthing else is next! This does not stop me from reading his stories though.

    Somewhere in his books, Salinger argues, intelligence is an anti-thesis to freedom. That is right. In Sujatha’s writing, I don’t enjoy the freedom. That is exactly it.

    Wait again… I am no longer talking about insightful writing. I am talking about the sense of freedom in reading.

    May be that is the difference between a good writer and a great writer!!!

    If you happen to think or be impelled to argue that I am very biased and/or it is just a personal opinion. Maybe you are right. After all, everything is a personal opionio. Ain’t it?


  3. Thalaiva…Do post that list!

    *looks sheepish*

    I haven’t read even one of his stories. Mainly cos my tamizh reading skills compare to that of a 5th std school kid. School padikarche, tamizh was my 3rd language from 7th to 9th and the syllabus used books that were actually for the kids from 1st to 4th to use for their tamizh second std course… Sollave koochama irruku.

    Which is why, I still havent read any of the tamizh classics and my intro to Sujatha was thro the on-screen versions of his works (starting from “En Iniya Iyandhira”??)! 😦

    But better late than never!


  4. Sure do post that list… Would be of great help to folks like me, who have absolutely no knowledge of Tamil literature… Sujatha mattum illama post a list of must read Tamil classics… plsssss:)


  5. Guru, for aspiring amateur writers, Sujatha is an icon – not only because of his writing, but for the fact that he managed to be successful in his professional career as well as his literary career. That gives hopes to many aspiring people that one can straddle both the worlds. But how difficult and impossible it is :-).

    Sujatha acted as a bridge in introducing many things to a normal reader. I learnt about Richard Bach from one of his serialised stories – where a girl races across Mount Road in a bike skipping signals and the entire police force chasing her – he writes “she wanted to soar like Jonathan Livingston Seagull”. That set me in search of Richard Bach. Similarly about Sundara Ramaswamy – I first came to know about Su. Ra when Sujatha wrote that JJ Sila Kurippugal is one of the greatest novels in Tamil. He is one of the very few who mentions about other writers in his columns. His columns are being pilloried now for being too simplistic and misleading- may be true – but they do give the reader a chance to explore further and opens up new avenues.

    Nagaram was a classic story but as somebody pointed in comments above most of Sujatha’s stories are kept in tight leash by the author. You see more of his craft and intelligence than anything that leads the reader to introspect. There are exceptions like Nagaram, Mahabali etc. but most of his stories seem to follow a pattern.

    Anyhow, he is someone who will always be praised or pilloried but never ignored.


  6. Somebody, Interesting points here. Obviously when one reads two peoples book, the comparison is bound to author.

    Sujatha as mis-understood by many isn’t for light reading. To serve for tamil literature ones doesn’t involve in writing tough words which noone can understand. Sujatha eases the presure on the reader by making his language straight and simple.

    Two, none of his novels are grand and magnum opus. I am sure he would accept it, too. His shortstories are his forte. And as you mentioned the reason why you found fast paced action is because of his sheer understanding of the architecture of shortstories.

    Ashokamithran and PudumaiPithan are ofcourse stalwarts of Tamil literature. I have enjoyed Jeyakanthan’s earlier works that his later ones. Thats doesn’t mean he is not a stalwart of tamil literature. I agree their stories are insightful.

    Pudumai Pithan is the only man, who has impact on all the writers who came after him. Sujatha too has layers of PP style.

    BTW, when you say Sujatha’s stories aren’t insightful. I think thats a generic statement. If you can give specifics, we can continue the discussion.

    But before all that, I want you to know that a shortstorie needn’t be insightful. They say, shortstory should have time (Kaalam) and backdrop(Kalan). I believe, a shortstory is one thats cuts through both kaalam and kalan diagonally and at the same time take a sneak peek life’s minutest moments.

    I think while reading Sujatha’s stories one is swayed by the sharp intelligence thats wades through. Pudumai Pithan is a pioneer and comparing him to sujatha or others isn”t appropriate


  7. Keerthi, I remember you telling this to me before. Only after that I started erading it seriously. i like it but not more than just liking.

    Anti naina, Truly better late than never. Sujatha is one whom you shouldn’t be missing. he isn’t tough to understand.

    Nithya, Sure. Anaa romba ellam ethirpaaakatheenga enna i’m a little odd with my literature likes except for Sujatha. i don’t how i got this stupid habit but if a book gets a bad review, i would hunt it down to read it. Silly me 😉


  8. Chenthil, From Balakumaran to S Ramakrishnan, writers have been fans of Sujatha. I don’t see how you saw the stories follow a pattern.

    Other than fiction, From thalamai Seyalagam to Silicon Sillu Purathchi to Enn Etharkku Eppadi display unknown dimension of Sujatha. May be people could argue that he copied stuff rom english books. But I think he read, understood and simplified stuff in tamil. who else ever wrote a widely read series on the brains. Its a no-brainer brainy series.


  9. Guru, you very well know how much I idolise Sujatha. But that doesn’t mean I can’t criticise him :-).

    What I meant by a pattern is – In most of his stories, the end emphasises the rudeness of the world, you can feel the impotent anger of a common man. Some of them are well done, like Nagaram. In most of the stories – like the one about how a Swamiji’s ashram land is obtained by peddling women to the signing authority – you can feel the cynicism of the writer. But most of his short stories are based on this cynicism. I like them a lot, and his short story collection is one of the oft read books in my book collection.


  10. Insightful writing:

    Have you read Saki or O.Henry short stories? If so, after reading a story (be a random one), what was your feeling? Did you feel like closing the book and having a little walk to think through and “digest” the story? How many times has this happened when you read Sujatha’s stories. Except for a very exceptions, his (short & long) stories are page turners.

    Again, this is not a criticism on Sujatha’s writing talents. I am talking about a personal impact of a reader of a great piece of writing.

    I happen to think that in order to write good one has to write not only crisply. Crisp writing is a cultivated art, though.

    The difference between stating a judgement and being insightful is that in judgemental writing, the intelligence comes through. The arrogance of knowledge is obvious. Where as in insightful writing, the wisdom shines. I am not talking about sentimental writing!!

    Is my point becoming clearer?

    Wait…this is not a fault finding post. I do happen to like Sujatha’s writing. He is a good writer.


  11. I haven’t read a single story or a even a single piece of article which sujatha wrote.I heard about his writings only from my hubby.Its probably coz I did not have Tamil in my curriculum.
    I wish there were english versions of his stories. But I pretty much understand that it would lack originality. I still wonder if there are english versions….I have no idea