Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Portraying Realities of Contemporary Life

With the great writer Ashokamitran
If the 12 year old boy Thyagarajan had not come across a short story in the literary magazine Kalaimagal and enjoyed reading it, he might not have discovered the Ashokamitran in himself.

“The short story Siddhi, which I read and enjoyed in my school days, did not let me sleep for many days” says the 82 year old modern Tamil writer Ashokamitran, whose real name is Thyagarajan,

Ashokamitran remembers that, as a school boy, he was very much interested only in the story and discovered its author after a period of 15 years!

“He was none but the famed Tamil writer Pudhumaipithan” he avers.

Shouldering family responsibilities after the death of his father, Ashokamitran came to Madras in 1952 from his home town Secundrabadh. As S.S Vasan, founder of the Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan and Gemini Studios, was a friend of his father, he provided Ashokamitran a job as Public Relations Officer in the studio.  

In the beginning, Ashokamitran wrote short stories only in English and got them published in magazines including The Illustrated Weekly of India. Due to his association with the popular Indian English writer R.K Narayan, he was also asked to translate his novel The Guide into Tamil.

“As I was just 31 years old then, I had little confidence in translating R. K. Narayan’s
The Guide. I just attempted translating one or two sentences from the novel and later gave it up” remembers Ashokamitran.

When asked about why he switched over to Tamil literature from being an English writer, the modern writer says:

“Though Tamil literature has wonderful classical pieces, I felt it was lacking the contemporary character. Most Tamil writings of those days were rhetorical and full of exaggerations. Hence I wanted to write something, which should reflect the reality of the contemporary society”

Of his numerous novels and short story collections like Appavin Snekithar, Pathinetaavathu Atchakodu, Manasarovar and Karaintha Nizhalkal, his novel Thaneer discusses not only the acute scarcity of water in Chennai, but with its background, brings to the reader how human relationship survives amidst the people, who are cruel and narrow-minded in the city.

When asked about his early literature friends in Coimbatore, Ashokamitran recalls:

“Marxian literary critic Kovai Gnani used to laud my writings and novelist C.R Ravindran had written many letters to me in those days. Moreover, I remember poet Puviarasu and Dhilipkumar from Coimbatore once jointly edited an English magazine called ‘Word’ and discussed with me the production of one of its issues”

Ashokamitran was in the city recently to receive an award from Kannadasan Ilakkiya Kazhagam.  

On a question regarding contemporary Tamil cinema, Asokamitran wonders why most films of these days are filled with violence. Nevertheless, lauding Tamil actor Dhanush, the octogenarian writer says:

“The young guy is doing well in Tamil movies. I enjoyed one of his movies. I think it is… Poda Podi… sorry… Thiruda Thirudi”

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:


  1. you have done a nice job of introducing a great writer to the younger generation-well done meenakshi--vilvam