We all agree that writing is a creative process. Most of the story writers are able to visualize something beyond the ordinary and that results in a work of fiction. Tamil language has the richest legacy left behind by writers most of whom were able to connect with the readers instantly. When you read the book, you are transported into a different world. But the writers have also faced lot of flak for writing the unthinkable that the conservationist Tamil society found it difficult to digest. Many writers have struggled with legal wrangles and court cases over delayed payments and copyright issues.
First, can we have a few glimpses of the genesis of creative writing?
Tamil writer Sivasankari once credited her story ideas to news paper headlines. The legendary Tamil writer Sujata’s creativity needs no introduction. Another writer Ra. Ki. Rangarajan (who wrote the story for Kamal Haasan’s Tamil movie Mahanadhi) described in one his articles about the inspiration for some of the stories. He says that he is grateful to the redoubtable S.A.P. Annamalai [editor, “Kumudam” magazine] for mentoring him so much.
Once the editorial team had read about a rich, dominating old lady who successfully isolates her son from his wife (the rich poor divide). To weave the plot, the editorial team brainstormed ideas and arrived at a decision that the lady’s grandson would eventually bring all the family members together. They wracked their brains hard and finally decided to portray the grandson’s character as a lorry driver. The immensely popular novel “Idu Sathiyam” [This is the truth] was born thus. The story was made into a Tamil movie (Kannamba, Ashokan) and later adapted in a Hindi movie – Shehazada (starring Rajesh Khanna, Raakhee) produced by Anil Kapoor’s father.
On another occassion, Ra. Ki. Rangarajan saw a gypsy girl hiding her hard earned money in a tree. When he asked her the reason for the same, she admitted that she did that to save money from her drunkard father. The writer appears to have remembered the movie “Do Aankhen Bara Haath” (“Two eyes and Twelve Hands”) (directed by V Shantaram), where a jailor tries to reform hard core criminals. A new story was born and it was eventually made into a movie called – “Needhi” (Justice) [Sivaji Ganesan, Sowcar Janaki, Jayalalitha] and proved to be a super hit. The story was about a truck driver who kills a man while driving his lorry in a drunker stupor. The sentence awarded to him ? He has to provide for the family who loses the breadwinner. Now readers, it is not hard for you to guess that this was the plot of the superhit – “Dushman” (Rajesh Khanna, Mumtaz, 1972). See how clearly the character of the gypsy girl was woven into the story.
Digressing a bit, the plight of a woman caught between her husband and her parents is always heart-rending. Many parents do not realise that when they do not treat their son-in-law well, they end up damaging the daughter’s peace of mind. There have been so many Tamil stories written on this theme, some of which were translated into celluloid. If any of you reading this has a daughter, please bear in mind that your daughter’s happiness lies in her husband’s. There is no need to mollycoddle your son-in-law but treat him with the respect that he deserves ! Jog your memory cells – “Kora Kagaz” (Vijay Anand, Jaya Bhaduri) was about marital conflict in which the mother-in-law was the main culprit. This movie was later made in Tamil (“Lalitha”) with Gemini Ganesan and Sujatha in the lead. Or take the case of “Phagun” (1974) where the mother’s (Waheeda Rehman) excessive love and concern for her daughter (Jaya Bhaduri) proves to be unnecessary interference for the husband (Vijay Arora). Such classic movies are never shown on television, wonder why ? In “Solla Maranda Kadai” (the story that was forgotten to be told), writer director Cheran vividly portrays the plight of the woman (Rathi) who is caught between dominating parents and a self – respecting husband.
Now let us talk about controversies.Lesser known Tamil writer K Jayalakshmi, it appears, was fighting a court case with producer-director K S Gopalakrishnan, for half of her life time. She had written a short story about an impoverished family where the daughter gets married to an affluent man. Her brother goes to her house on an invitation for a birthday party for his nephew and is outraged at the treatment given to him.While he leaves his sister’s place, his sister hurriedly thrusts a bag in his hand. After returning home, the brother, incensed at his mother and wife for forcing him to attend the birthday party without a formal invitation, blows the fuse and throws the bag. From the bag that was given by his sister, rupee notes and a letter hurl out. Allegedly, the director lifted this story and made it into a movie that enraged the writer because there were no credits in the title. Needless to add, the payment came to her only after she filed a case in the court.
In one of the Tamil movies, there is a silently suffering woman(Revathi) from a poor, economically downtrodden family, who marries a municipality worker (Pandian). The torture for the poor woman begins right after marriage with the drunkard husband bringing in another streetwalker into the house. Unable to bear the torture, the wife sets herself on fire and stealthily clutches onto her husband tightly and has her silent revenge. Writer Anuradha Ramanan (controversy was her middle name) alleged that this movie was based on a story written by her.
Maharishi’s Bhadrakali was another novel that ended up in a controversy of a different kind. The 1975 movie based on a novel of the same name was about the travails of an impoverished Tamil Brahmin family where the married daughter ends up with mental sickness after she witnesses a horrific rape and murder. Deserted by her husband after she ends up killing her own child in a demented state, the woman kills the villain in the end after donning the avatar of “Bhadrakali”. May be Tamil writer Maharishi was inspired by the 1975 movie – Jai Santoshi Maa. The lead actress Rani Chandra unfortunately died in a plane crash even before the movie was released and sceptics said that she had not followed proper religious norms during her portrayal of “Bhadrakali” and so she paid the price for it. This news may be apocryphal because Jayapradha who acted in the Hindi version (“Baawri, 1983) is still alive and kicking.A few years later, Maharishi wrote “Jothi Vandhu Piranthal” (Jothi is Born) which was based on reincarnation.
With the advent of television, sadly, story writing has been mostly confined to TV serials and writing for movies.But all is not lost. New writing talent is only waiting to be explored. New age writers like
Prabhanjan, Anand Raghav and N Chokkan hold lot of promise. N Chokkan’s (Kaanal Neerum Oru Maanum) (“A Deer and A Mirage”) deserves to be a text book in management colleges. But I am not even sure if this story has come out in the book form. Chokkan admitted to me once that the inspiration for the story came from real life characters.
Thus, Tamil stories and controversies have always been Siamese twins.The Brahmin community burnt copies of the magazine that carried the controversial story – “Chirai” [Anuradha Ramanan, again] – the story evidently was semi-autobiographical [like the heroine in the story, Anuradha was deserted by her husband, though the similarity ends there]. With dwindling writing talent, the controversies have also slowly died down. But it is an irrefutable fact that creativity in Tamil writing has been of the highest order.