Tuesday, 12 June 2018

சென்னை நகரத்து நூலகங்கள்



தீவுத்திடலில் ஜூன் 2016 நடந்த சென்னை புத்தக கண்காட்சியில் சென்னை நகரத்து நூலகங்கள் என்ற தலைப்பில் உரையாற்ற நண்பர்கள் பிரதீப் சக்கரவர்த்தியும் பிரியா தியாகராசனும் பபாசி நிறுவனத்தின் சார்பில் கேட்டனர். மகிழ்ந்தே ஒப்புக்கொண்டேன். ஒரு சில நூலகங்களுக்கு சென்று, அங்குள்ள அலுவலர்களோடு பேசி, சில தகவல்களை சேகரித்தேன். 

சிறு வயதிலேயே கன்னிமாரா நூலகத்திற்கு என் தாய் புஷ்பாவுடன் சென்றுள்ளேன். அம்மா எத்திராஜ் கல்லூரியில் எம்.ஃபில். பொருளியல் படித்துவந்தாள். சில சனிஞாயிறு அன்று கன்னிமாரா செல்லும்போது என்னையும் அழைத்துச்செல்வாள்.

கன்னிமாரா நூலக புதிய கட்டத்தில்
கன்னிமாரா நூலக பழைய கட்டத்தில்

மதறாஸ் இலக்கிய சங்க நூலகம்

 அக்காலத்தில் தமிழ் படிக்கும் ஆர்வமேதும் இல்லை. குமுதம் கல்கி ஆனந்தவிகடன் பத்திரிகைகளில் வரும் துணுக்கு ஓவியங்களை (கார்ட்டூன்) மட்டும் படித்து ரசிப்பேன். எப்பொழுதாவது பாக்கியம் ராமசாமியின் அப்புசாமி கதைகளை வாசித்து காட்டுவாள்; ரசகுண்டு பேரை கேட்டாலே சிரிப்பு வரும். எனக்கு ஒன்பது வயதிருக்கும். ஆங்கிலத்தில் படிப்பதிலும் ஆர்வமில்லை. ஆனால் சென்னையிலிருந்து புனே செல்லும் ரயிலில், பொழுது போக்க யாரோ கருடன் எனும் அமர் சித்ர கதா ஓவியக்கதையை (காமிக் புத்தகம்) வாங்கி கொடுக்க, காமிக்புக் மோகம் பிறந்தது. ஆங்கிலம் மட்டுமே. முப்பது வயது வரை தமிழில் ஆர்வம் வரவில்லை.

சிறுவயதில் தந்தையுடன் ஓரிரு முறை மயிலை ரணாடே நூலகத்திற்கு சென்றுள்ளேன் – ஏதோ ஒரிரு மாலை வேளை ஏதாவது சில மாதாந்திர பத்திரிகை அல்ல செய்தித்தாளை படிக்க போவார். அதன் வாசலில் நிற்கும் நடமாடும் தபால்வண்டியை (சிவப்பு வேன்) ஒரு முறை அவர் காட்டினார். வாய்பிளந்தேன்.

கடந்த சில வருடங்களாய் கோட்டூர்புரம் அண்ணா நூற்றாண்டு நினைவு நூலகத்திலும் அடையாறு கே.வி.சர்மா நூலக்த்திலும் பற்பல நாட்கள் நாலைந்து மணிநேரம் படிக்கும் இன்பத்தில் மூழ்கியுள்ளேன். உவேசா நூலகத்திற்கு நரசையா அழைத்து சென்று தமிழ் தாத்தாவின் கையெழுத்தும் சன்னதும் ஓலைச்சுவடிகளையும் ரவீந்திரநாத் தாகூர் எழுதிய வாழ்த்தையும் பார்த்தது மறக்க முடியாத திருநாள். அங்கு நண்பர் உத்திராடம் பணியாற்றி வருகிறார்; அவரைக் கண்டதும் ஒரு இன்ப அதிர்ச்சி. அவர் சென்னை கிறுத்துவ கல்லூரி பேராசிரியர் பாலுசாமியின் மாணவர்; பல முறை பேசி பழகியுள்ளோம். உவேசா நூலகத்தை பற்றிய பல தகவல்களை அளித்ததுடன், தே.சிவகணேஷ், ஐ.சிவகுமார் எழுதிய “சென்னை நூலகங்கள்” என்ற புத்தகத்தையும் காட்டினார். கைத்தல நிறைகனி! எல்லா நூலகத்திலும் வாசலிலே வரவேற்கும் மாவிலைத் தோரணம் போல இந்நூலை காட்சி வைக்கலாம்.

இருளில் ஒலித்த குரல்

ஒளிமயமான பிரதீப் உரை

நண்பர்கள் ராம்கி, சேவாலயா முரளிதரன், காந்தி நிலையம் அண்ணாமலை ஆகியோர் அறிவுருத்தி சைதை காந்தி நூலகம் பற்றி அறிந்தேன். அதன் நிறுவனர் மகாலிங்கத்தின் மகன் நித்தியானந்தரை பலமுறை டக்கர் பாப்பா காந்தி நிலையத்தில் புதன்கிழமை நூலாய்வுகளில் சந்தித்துள்ளேன். மகாலிங்கம் ஆச்சரியமானவர். கல்கி, ராஜாஜி, மாபொசி, ராஜம் ராமசாமி, கண்ணதாசன், பரளி சு நெல்லியப்பர் என்ற பல ஜாம்பவான்கள் தன் நூலகத்திற்கு வந்த வரலாற்று சம்பவங்களை பேசி நெகிழ வைத்தார். 

அதே போல் திருவல்லிக்கேணி கஸ்தூரி ஸ்ரீநிவாசன் நூலகத்து நிறுவனர்கள் நரசிம்மன்னும் பார்த்தசாரதியும் அன்பாக பேசியதோடு, இதே ஜாம்பவான்கள் தங்கள் நூலகத்துக்கு வந்ததை சொல்லி அசரவைத்தனர். எம்.எஸ்.விசுவனாதனுக்கு “மெல்லிசை மன்னர்” என்ற பட்டத்தை அளித்ததே இவர்களது திருவல்லிக்கேணி கலாச்சார மன்றமே என்று தெரிந்ததும், நூலகத்தில் புத்தகத்தை தாண்டி எத்தனை அதிசயங்கள் உள்ளன என்பதை புரியவைத்தது.

அந்நாளில் சேப்பாக்கத்தில் சென்னை பல்கலைக்கழக வளாகத்தில் இயங்கிய அரசு கீழ்திசை சுவடி நூலகத்திற்கு சென்றபோது, அதன் இயக்குனர் சந்திரமோகன் அவர்களே பொறுத்து பல தகவல்களை அளித்தார். இந்த சுவடி நூலகம் சமீபத்தில் கோட்டூர்புரம் அண்ணா நூலகத்திற்கு இடம் மாறியுள்ளது. வரலாற்று புகழோடு அரிதான களஞ்சியமாக திகழும் நூலகம் என்பதால், ஓலைச்சுவடிகளையும் அவற்றின் பாதுகாப்பு முறைகளையும் படமெடுத்துக்கொள்ளலாமா என்று அனுமதி கேட்டேன். மறுத்துவிட்டார். ஆனால் தன்னுடைய கணினியில் வைத்திருந்த படங்களை படமெடுக்க அனுமதித்தார். அடுத்த நாள் அடையாறு நூலகமும் இதைப்போல் அனுமதி மறுத்தது. பின்னாளில் அடையாறு நதி வரலாற்று தேடலின் போது நண்பர் வெங்கடேஷ் ராமகிருஷ்ணன் அனுமதி பெற்று, அடையாறு நூலகத்து அரிய நூல்களையும் பார்க்கும் வாய்ப்பு கிடைத்தது. முகமதிய நூலகத்தின் மேலாளரை பார்த்து தகவல்கள் பெற்றுக்கொள்ள நண்பர் கோம்பை அன்வர் அறிவுருத்தினார். மூன்று முறை சென்றும் அவரை சந்திக்க முடியவில்லை. மயிலை ராமகிருஷ்ண மடத்து நூலகத்திலும் மேலாளர் சென்ற போது இல்லை, அவர் அனுமதியின்றி ஒன்றும் செய்ய முடியவில்லை, படம் கூட எடுக்கவில்லை.

ஒரு மணி நேர உரைக்கு தயாரான பின் நாற்பது நிமிடமாக சுருங்கியது. கொஞ்சம் வேகவேகமாக பேசினேன். 1950களோடு நிறுத்திக்கொள்ளும் நிலமை, சில நூலகங்களை பற்றி பேச இயலவில்லை. இணையமே இன்று அனைவருக்கும் நூலகமாயினும், காகித புத்தக நூலகங்கள் வழக்கொழியவில்லை.

காணொளி பதிவாகவில்லை என்பதால் ஒலிப்பதிவுடன் படங்களை சேர்த்து காணொளியை நான் படைத்து இணையத்தில் ஏற்றியுள்ளேன். கீழே காணலாம்.

வத்தல்குழம்பு சம்பவம், சின்ன மழையில் தவித்தாலும் பெருவெள்ளத்தில் தப்பித்த நூலகம், ஆங்கிலேய உவேசா என்று அழைக்க தகுந்தவர் யார், எகிப்து மன்னர் கொடுத்த பரிசு, நூலகவியலின் தந்தை, அவர் வகுத்த ஐந்து விதிகள், தமிழில் மருத்துவ நூலை எழுதிய அமெரிக்கர், சிவலிங்க வடிவிலுள்ள ஓலைச்சுவடி நூல், திபெத்திய திபிதகம் என்று பல சுவையான தகவல்கள் இவ்வுரையாய்வு தேடலின் போது கிடைத்தன. இதையெல்லாம் காணொளியில் பார்க்கலாம். இந்த நூலகங்களுக்கு நேரில் சென்றும் காணலாம்.  

 சென்னை நகரத்து நூலகங்கள் - video

உறவுடை சுட்டிகள்

ஞானதேவதைகள்அமெரிக்க தேசிய நூலகத்து ஓவியங்கள்
ரவீந்திரநாத் தாகூர் இயற்றிய உவேசா வாழ்த்து
ஒரு ஆங்கிலேயனின் தமிழ் கல்வெட்டு
இந்த உரையின் ஒலிப்பதிவு


Friday, 1 June 2018

Vali Vadham - book review by S Kannan of Siriyana Sindhiyaadhaan


S Kannan labelled a “scholar in hiding” by my friend, V Chandrasekar, reviewed the book Siriyana Sindhiyaadhaan, a Tamil book by Dr S Ramakrishnan, at Gandhi Study Center in Thyagaraya Nagar on Wednesday, May 30, 2018. This book was written in the 1950s.

Here are my notes from his review.

He introduced the author Dr S Ramakrishnan as a Marxist scholar, a Shakespeare scholar and connoisseur of Tamil literature. He spoke English as fluently as we speak Tamil, said Kannan – implying that he was very fluent in English. This book is a literary work; we have not discussed literary books of late in the Gandhi Study Center, he gently chided.

S Kannan 
The author is not to be mistaken with the better known S Ramakrishnan, a contemporary Tamil novelist. The subject of the book was an episode from the Ramayana, Vaali Vadham (Killing of Vaali). The death of Vali is a minor episode in Ramayana, and is often considered the black mark in the character of Rama, otherwise considered the epitome of Dharma. The author examines this major deviation, the motivations behind the conduct of the various characters, their argument and their justifications, and how the public should understand these contradictions. This has been a long running debate in Indian society.

Kannan characterised Vali Vadham beautifully as “a dramatic interlude in an epic poem”. The episode can be compared with a Shakespearean play, high strung with emotion and animated disputes and debates, and a tragedy unfolding with foreshadowing and inevitability.

Dr Ramakrishnans skill with words is the remarkable aspect of this book. Quoting a lament of Angadhan, Kannan says, the book tries to discusses the morality or legality of the killing of Vali. When Rama and Lashmana kill Kabandhan, he thanks them for relieving him from the curse and advises them that they cannot defeat the kidnapper of Sita without a strong ally and suggests that Sugreeva is the most suitable ally. Neither Kabandhan nor Sabari recommended Vali, but only Sugreeva. This is significant, notes the author.

Earlier, when Vali fights an asura in a cave and blood oozes out, his ministers advice Sugreeva that most likely Vali is dead, so he must seal the cave and rule the kingdom. A reluctant Sugreeva aregues against their advice, but is then persuaded to heed it. When Vali returns, having killed the asura, he feels betrayed by Sugreeva, and storms back full of vengeance. He pays no heed to Sugreeva’s pleas, explanations, apology or immediate offer of the crown, or his dharmic explanation that he only followed his minister's advice. Sugreeva flees to hide in a hill, fearful for his life. Vali takes back not only the crown but also Sugreeva’s wife Rumaa Taara, for his own. It is this pitiable Sugreeva, hiding in the one place where Vali is powerless because of a rishi’s curse, whom Rama and Lakshmana encounter in their search for the kidnapped Sita.

Rama promises to restore both crown and wife to Sugreeva. Did Rama do so in an emotional outburst, having lost his own wife and feeling a kindred sympathy? Even so, the kingdom was rightfully only Vali’s. How could Rama offer Sugreeva the crown too? Did Rama who renounced his own kingdom at the mere word of his father, feel a greater sting at the injustice meted out to Sugreeva than to his own self?

Worse, Rama offers to kill Vali, not merely defeat him and restore the kingdom. Where was the need to kill Vali? But Sugreeva had realized that only the death of Vali would make Sugreeva safe again or get back his wife. His trusted minister Hanuman employed diplomacy at its finest to explain this to Rama.

The author argues that Kishkinda is an undeveloped (in Kannan’s words) society which is why both Vali and Sugreevan reacted with murderous rage than righteousness (dharmic conduct). By undeveloped, I suspect the author implies that it is less socially evolved than Kosala.

The next contradiction is the different standards that Rama applied for Vali versus Ravana. Why did Rama, who offered several opportunities to Ravana to repair his conduct and restore Sita, and offered not to kill Ravana if he complied, not undertake any such effort with Vali? Why didn't he even send a messenger? 

How could he decide on a death sentence for Vali, unilaterally? Was this conduct of Rama any more “evolved”?

Taking Rama at his word, Sugreeva challenges Vali. An enraged Vali is ready to rush out to battle, but is restrained by Tara – unfolding more drama. Foreboding disaster for her husband, Tara, Vali's queen, counsels caution and evaluation. Her spies, she says, have informed her that Sugreeva has acquired a formidable friend called Rama, and Vali’s life may be in danger from this new enemy; and that he has to be cautious in dealing with Sugreeva's latest efforts to rile him.

It is Vali’s response, that elevates him to unparalleled moral heights – and tragically, his downfall.

Defending Rama, Vali tells Tara she is ignorant of the character and nobility of Rama who threw away his kingdom for an oath. 

Will Dharma kill itself, retorts Vali, for Rama is the personification of Dharma? Why would such  a great king need to befriend a mere monkey, Sugreeva? And even if he did, would Rama, who makes no distinction between himself and his brothers, kill one brother for the sake of another, rages Vali. 

For this slight, I would have killed anyone else but I spare you because you are a woman.

The skill of Kamban, the peerless poet, is in full bloom in these passages, in wordplay, mastery of metaphor and nobility of thought, in dramatic exposition and dripping irony. Kannan recited them with unsuppressed admiration, dancing with diction and pulsing with rhythm.

The irony is that Vali, an ardent admirer of Rama is the one who has misunderstood him, and it is Tara is properly understood him, underlines the author. This scene is eerily similar to one in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, where Calpurnia, his wife warns him of a conspiracy to kill him, but he ignores it contemptuously.

Further, Lakshmana who never hesitates to counsel Rama in all other situations, including the Mareecha episode, has not opened his mouth since they entered Kishkinda. 

But seeing Vali, Lakshmana praises his countenance and valor. Would not even clouds and oceans treat Vali with respect, on merely beholding him?

But Hanuman’s persuasive skills have been so effective that anything I could say has no effect on you Rama, he continues. Even Yama, the Lord of Death, would fear to approach Vali, but Rama has undertaken to fill Yaman’s (கூற்று) role. When Lakshmana  raises these doubts, and questions Sugreeva’s character, of one who wishes to kill his own brother, Rama retorts, “Why Lakshmana, would every brother be as conscientious and loyal as Bharatha?”

What a cruel swipe at Lakshmana, the outstanding example of brotherly loyalty! Did he shut up Lakshmana with emotion, because he could not do so with righteousness. What shuddering contrast to the words Vali uses to praise Rama.

The author argues that these are vakra vaatham - flawed arguments, made by Rama, because he is following his emotions rather than sense of dharma and judgment.

When Vali and Sugreevan wrestle Rama who has promise to kill Vali, doesn't. He explains that he couldn't distinguish between the brothers. Was this even honest? Could he have failed to recognize Sugreevan with whom he had been moving in close quarters for so many days?

On the second day, when Rama’s arrow pierced him, a surprised Vali retrieved it and then found Rama’s name on it. And he felt ashamed on behalf of the Surya dynasty, as it had slipped in its path of Dharma.

Lament for Vali Pullamangai temple

Then he looks at an undisturbed Rama and is astounded that he has not even felt guilt or shame at such an execrable deed (a phrase used by Rajaji while he wrote this episode in his Chakravarthi Tirumagan). 

The parallel in Shakespeare is Caesar’s shock, when Brutus whom he held in high regard, also stabbed him.

Why would you have one Dharma in your kingdom and the opposite Dharma in this forest, he asks Rama.

Why have you punished me for the rage caused by the asura Ravana’s crime, who is unconnected to me? 

And by what authority? We have no enmity. Even if you felt I commited a crime, I am not a subject of your kingdom, Ayodhya. And even if I were, you have renounced the kingdom and have not even that royal authority to fall back upon.

You have killed not only Vali, you have killed the fence of dharma (அற வேலி), he accuses.

Chandran the moon has flaws kalankam (களங்கம்) but now Rama by your action you have wrought and colored even Surya with a flaw (kalankam).

Both in morality and in law, the arguments of Vali are valid. And couched in finest Tamil poetry, that pierces us with the injustice and cruelty of the murder, not just a killing.

Here the author reminds readers of the suggestions of Kabandhan and Sabari to seek Sugreeva, not Vali. This is appeal neither to morality or legality, but simply fact that prods us to ponder why.

Traditionally, the events in epics are governed by whimsical Fate – a common theme in the plays and myths of ancient Greece, but also in ancient India. But tragedy in Shakespeare's plays is brought about by the flaws and failures of human nature. And such too is the episode of the murder of Vali, contends Dr Ramakrishnan. The mortal nature of Rama is here to be kept in mind, not his divinity as an avatar of Vishnu.

When an era changes, as did the end of Ravana and the great war that caused such havoc, like a flood it destroys minor obstacles in its way. And Vali was only a minor obstacle. This is the essence or thesis of this book, concludes Mr Kannan 

Kannan’s narration in Tamil was simply epic. As epic as the source Kamban from whom he quoted. I have captured some snippets in translation. We were all in the presence of something majestic.

The video uploaded by Mr Vijayan can be seen below. Don’t miss it for the marvelous Tamil. This English translation is only for those who cannot savour the original Tamil, of Kamban, Ramakrishnan and Kannan.

Related Links
Kannan on Avvaiyaar
An antithesis (in Tamil) by Sudhakar Kasturi
Vali Vadham episode by Kamban (in Tamil)

Literary book reviews
On Siddharthan's Asoka
Narasiah on Subramania Bharati's Essays and Fiction

Notes
I had earlier mentioned Tara as Sugreeva's wife, forcibly taken by Vali. Tara was always Vali's queen. Ruma was Sugreeva's wife, whom Vali forcibly took for his own. Thanks to Rajani Arjun Shankar for the correction.

Video of Kannan's lecture

Friday, 25 May 2018

Theodore Baskaran on Film and Literature at MLS


Theodore Baskaran தியோடோர் பாஸ்கரன், renowned film critic, and author of a history of Tamil cinema, Em Tamizhar Seytha Padam (The Films Made by our Tamils) எம் தமிழர் செய்த படம் lectured on the topic “From Print to Screen : Literature and Tamil Cinema” at the Madras Literary Society, on 21 April, 2018.

The lecture was preceded by the opening of a Tamil Books section, at the MLS, thanks to a generous contribution of Rs.25000/- from Smt Padmapriya and her husband Sri Baskaran (no relation to the speaker). via their foundation Aalayam Kanden Trust. They donated the full receipts of Padmapriya’s book “The Gods of the Holy Koovam”, which was released in Feb 2017 at the MLS. On that occasion, I had the privilege of lecturing on the History of the MLS, based on the then recently rediscovered book by N Ramaswami. Several books have also been donated by various people and patrons. The library is eager to expand both its collection and its membership.

Padmapriya and Baskaran and friends
Tamil Books Section MLS

Nivedita Louis, who compered the program, invited me to say a few words about the Tamil section. I said that it was an extraordinary and generous contribution by Padmapriya. I added that such a section was long overdue, given the historical association of the MLS with the Tamil language, its discovery of the Dravidian and Munda families of languages by Francis Whyte Ellis and his collaborators, and the significance of their contributions to several aspects of Tamil society in general.

Theodore Baskaran lecture at MLS

These are my notes from Theodore Baskaran’s lecture.

He had prepared a PowerPoint presentation in Tamil, but he said that, based on a quick glance at the audience, he felt it best that he speak in English.

Tamil film had a long association with books and notable authors. The film Malai Kallan மலை கள்ளன், starring MGR, was written by Namakkal Kavingar, a famous Tamil poet. Classical Tamil literature like Silappadikaaram சிலப்பதிகாரம் and Kundalakesi குண்டலகேசி had inspired such films as Kannagi கண்ணகி and Manthiri Kumari மந்திரிக்குமாரி, adapted as screenplays by M Karunanidhi. Both MGR எம்.ஜி.ஆர் and Karunanidhi கருணாநிதி later became Chief Minsters of Tamilnadu as did their mentor, CN Annadurai அண்ணாதுரை, a popular playwright, novelist and screenwriter.

But these famous names came later. Anaathai Penn (Orphan Girl) அனாதை பெண், a book by Vai.Mu. Kothainayagi, வை.மு.கோதைநாயகி a path-breaking feminist, freedom fighter and author of the early twentieth century was filmed by Raja Sandow. It was the first Tamil book to be made into a movie. Serialized novels in magazines were popularized by SS Vasan, the founder and head of Gemini Studio. He published stories like the famous Thyaga Bhoomi தியாக பூமி, written by Kalki கல்கி and Thillana Mohanambal தில்லானா மோகனாம்பாள் by Kothamangalam Subbu கொத்தமங்கலம் சுப்பு. Such novels were the source for several of his movies.

Unfortunately, most Tamil films are merely photographed drama, the speaker lamented. Most film directors, even the popular ones, like AP Nagarajan and K Balachandar came from the stage. Cinema has its own grammar, different from print and the stage. Few filmmakers understood this. Also, Tamil country had a very popular era of stage plays before the advent of film, full of songs and dance, and narrations of mythological stories. When the era of silent movies ended, and talkies came along, the first generation of actors were all from the stage, far better at singing than acting. The tradition of songs in the film, often utterly unrelated to the story, is till date a major flaw of Tamil cinema, the speaker said. They only retard the narrative.

The era of mythologicals gave way to social themes during the 1950s, primarily fueled by the politics of the Dravidian movement. This merely replaced innumerable songs with interminable monologues. Even Dravidian film makers who brought on social themes like caste discrimination and social justice, had actors talking like they were on  political podium rather than exploiting the grammar film.

Not many of us know Rajaji
ராஜாஜி was an excellent writer in Tamil, Mr Baskaran continued. His novel Thikkarra Parvathi திக்கற்ற பார்வதி was filmed by Singeetham Narasinga Rao. The major flaw in the story is that the protagonist gets addicted by drinking toddy. You can't get addicted to toddy, only arrack. I have drunk toddy, nothing happens, he quipped. Rajaji didn't know the difference because he was not a drinker.
Literary writers also contributed their mite to the screen. Ucchi Veyil (High Noon) உச்சி வெயில் a novel by Indira Parthasarathy இந்திரா பார்த்தசாரதி was turned into a film called மறுபக்கம் which won a National Best Film award, but was totally ignored by Tamil population, because it was not a commercial hit. Tamil audiences and even the film world had a mental division of films as either commercial or art, and the latter label was an omen of commercial failure.

In this dark world of Tamil cinema, there were  a few flashes of lightning like Jayakanthan
ஜெயகாந்தன் who filmed two of his own novels. Yarukkaaka Azhuthaan (For whom did he cry) யாருக்காக அழுதான் one of Jayakanthan’s films is one of my favorite films, he said. Nimoy Ghosh, who settled in Madras, and was a contemporary of the legendary Bengali film maker Satyajit Ray, shot this film and used very imaginative lighting.

Great films like Mullum Malarum (The Thorn and the Flower) முள்ளும் மலரும் were made from mediocre novels. This is often true of Hollywood films like Godfather and Psycho. Anuradha Ramanan’s அனுராதா ரமணன் novel Chirai(Prison) சிறை was made into a film – a rare example of a female author’s book, after VaiMuKo.

Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal (Some People in Some Moments) சில நேரங்களில் சில மனிதர்கள் was another classic Jayakanthan novel, filmed by a director who showed people talking all the time - it wasn’t very visual. Most authors feel unhappy that directors have misunderstood their novel and made a mess of the movie, but often the authors themselves had a very poor sense of filmmaking. They also indulged in long dialogs and poor pacing.

Alfred Hitchcock said, “Never use words to describe what you can simply show.”A filmmaker should think visually first, but most Tamil filmmakers think verbally. This led to absurd scenes. For example, there are scenes where a character walks into a room and  says things like, “There is nobody here” or “Ah, there is a glass of water.” The audience can see this, why this superfluous dialogue?

A brilliant example of visual filmmaking is from the Hollywood film Gandhi. In a scene, Gandhi washes his face in the river, when he notices a desperately poor woman, washing half her saree. She is so poor she has only one saree and she can only wash one half of it while wearing the other. Not even looking at her, and not wantingto overtly walk over and give her a shawl, Gandhi lets slip his shawl into the river, and it gently floats to the lady. She gratefully grabs it. Without one word being spoken, the filmmaker Richard Attenborough shows the compassion of Gandhi...

Often a film can be inspired by a short story, not a novel. Such was Baskar Shakti’s short story, made into a wonderful film Azhagar Saamiyin Kuthirai (Azhagar Saami’s horse) அழகர் சாமியின் குதிரை.

The Malayalam film Madhilukkal (Walls) மதிலுக்கள் has a scene of the line where the protagonist in the novel, a prisoner, says, “I could smell women, on the other side of the wall”. Because a womens prison was on the other side. Adoor Gopalakrishnan the director, could not show the character smelling the walls. So he introduces a peal of a woman's laughter. This is creative interpretation, and evokes the same emotion the author intended.

Overall, Tamil unfortunately doesn't have a good relationship between literature and film. Several novelists' books have not been made into films.

Cinema is not for entertainment, he concluded.

Gopu’s Comments

While I whole heartedly agree with Theodore Baskaran in his criticism of Tamil cinema as being too verbal, photographed drama, and not often visual, I think he is totally off the mark on two issues.

1. Songs – Indian audiences love them. In fact cinema music is the most succesful and popular music industry and genre in India. The bulk of the audience simply doesn’t care that the narrative is broken or retarded, or irrelevant to the film. Often the songs are far more popular than the movies.
2. “Cinema is not for entertainment.” I think what Theodore Baskaran means, is that cinema is a powerful medium that can be used to educate and mould public opinion, improve society etc.  Personally I prefer entertaining cinema to any advice and propaganda.
3. Literature versus Cinema. I think good literature (itself a very subjective estimation, usually by a segment of the population that reads a lot of books, and has an innate sense of superiority) rarely makes for good cinema (another subjective estimation). In contrast, often so called mediocre novels, make for excellent and successful cinema, because they appeal to more than snobs and nabobs. John Grisham and Chetan Bhagat’s novels are the most popular proof. Often the “mediocrity” of one generation is the classic of its succeeding generations.

Related Links
Theodore Baskaran’s essay in Madras Musings How Old is Tamil Cinema
Pradeep Chakravarthy essay in Madras Musings on Gods of the Holy Koovam 

Indian Literature – Four hundred Shakespeares, zero Jules Vernes
Rajaji –A Biographical Lecture by Dr Va Ve Subramaniam
Francis Whyte Ellis - by Thomas Trautmann
தமிழ் இலக்கியம் – ஒரு கால அட்டவணை


Books
Gods of the Holy Koovam by Padmapriya Baskaran

Friday, 4 May 2018

Indian Mathematics and Astronomy - A summer course

Have you heard of the Ujjain Meridian? It was used for 1500 years, but why is it unknown to Indians, unlike the Greenwich Meridian?
How did Aryabhata Brahmagupta Bhaskara and Varahamihira do mathematics without knowing English or Greek? Was Sanskrit only the language of rituals and literature, or also of mathematics and science? Can you calculate long divisions in very narrow palm leaves?

How did Indians tell time, predict eclipses, make calendars and mark dates for religious festivals like Kumbha Mela or Mahamagham before the mechanical clock was invented in the seventeenth century? And what mathematics or astronomy did the Egyptians Chinese Sumerians Persians and Mayans understand or discover?

Learn the answers to these questions.

Learn the history of Indian mathematics and astronomy and its various texts, including Siddhantas, bhashyas, karanas, and panchangams. Discover Baudhayana’s geometry and Brahmagupta’s algebra. Discover the long history of Indian Astronomy before the telescope, Indian mathematics before Aryabhata, the connections from Brahmagupta to Baghdad to Fibonacci and other surprising and interesting facts that pervade your everyday life even today.
You can send me a Whatsapp message on +91 9841724641 or email to writergopu@gmail.com to register or ask questions on the course
My blogs on this theme

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Is India Secular - Michel Danino lecture


Michel Danino, at CLT, IIT Madras

Michel Danino, a professor at IIT Gandhinagar delivered the second Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay Memorial lecture for the Vande Mataram group, at Central Lecture Theater, IIT Madras, on April 23, 2018. The topic of the lecture was “Is India a secular nation?”

He first showed a picture of Rani-Ka-Vav, a magnificently sculpted 11th century stepwell built by a queen of the Solanki dynasty at Patan, Gujarat. He asked if any student could recognize it. One did.
 
Circular segments, Rani-ki-Vav
This is my photo when I visited it
This is not the photo Danino showed
These are my notes from Michel Danino’s lecture.

A well is a secular structure, but this one is replete with Hindu sculptures. It has a central sculpture of Vishnu as Anantasayana, reclining in the ocean. Is it Secular?

The slabs of the well are segments of large circle, ten metres in diameter, sculpted on the ground, then lowered, and assembled. No craftsman in India can do this today.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the darling of the secularists today, said this in the Constituent Assembly: “I would advise those gentleman who throw about the word Secularism to consult a dictionary, before using it.”

Socialism and Secularism were not in the Constitution of India in 1950 but added in the Forty second Amendment by PM Indira Gandhi in 1976 during the Emergency

Secularism is the principle of separation of state from religion, according to the Oxford English dictionary.

It was introduced as a principle of government Established by Europeans like French philosopher Voltaire, who wanted to free  their governments from the influence of Catholic church.

In the Muslim world, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk brought about the Turkish revolution  to establish a secular republic.

Before 1947, there was no word of Secularism in any Indian language. Words coined in Indian languages like “dharma nirapeksha” in hindi and “madha chaarparra
” மதச் சார்பற்ற in Tamil express indifference to religion, not so much separation of religion and government.

In ancient India there was no state religion. Medieval Europe though, suffered from religious rule. No ancient Indian ruler ever imposed his religion on his subjects. Not even Samrat Asoka the most powerful king imposed his religion. In fact, his edict declares these principles:
  • All should be well learned in good doctrines of other religions
  • No condemnation of any religion
  • No excessive devotion or praise for one's religion


Kharavela, the Jain emperor of Kalinga around 150 BC has inscribed his own edict in Prakrit in the Udayagiri Khondagiri hills near Bhubhaneshvar, Orissa. He says, he fought to bring back Jain images, which were taken away by invaders. But he portrays himself as "worshipper of all religious orders,  the restorer of shrines of all gods."

People call this tolerance, but this is much more than mere tolerance. Tolerance is such a condescending word.

If there is no state religion, why talk of Secularism? It has no relevance in Indian context.

The only thing Indian kings were under a theoretical compulsion to follow were a code of ethics.

“India has been a nation of pilgrimage from South to North to places like Amarnath Badrinath etc and North to South to places like Kanyakumari.” This was said by Jawaharlal Nehru, at Madurai Congress session, in 1961.

Let us look at Vande Maatharam, a song composed by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. It is now controversial because he says let's worship our nation as a mother (maatharam), a Goddess. It became a popular song against Partition of Bengal in 1905, among both Muslims and 
Hindus. But later on Muslim politicians said they cannot sing any song that portrays a nation as a Goddess.

The Preamble of India’s Constitution guarantees equality of status irrespective of religion caste or gender. But Articles 28, 29, 30 give religious and linguistic minorities special rights to manage their


  • Places of worship
  • Educational institutions
But Hindus are not given  right to administer their own temples with the argument that they are too divided. Only Muslims and Christians are discussed as minorities. Not Sikhs Jains Buddhists Parsis etc.

Muslims are 190 million in number in India. This is three times the population of Britain. Can this huge a community be considered a minority? Are they oppressed minority in any way? 

I used to live in the Nilgiris in Tamilnadu for twenty years. In Nilgiris, Christians own almost all the big bungalows, the estates, educational institutions. Is this an oppressed minority?

Is the Hindu majority monolithic? Being Bengali is very important for Bengalis, being Tamil is very important for Tamils etc. Sometimes, more so even than being Hindu.

Tajamul Hussain, a Member of the Constituent Assembly  said: “Sir I don't believe there is any minority community in this country. I don't believe I'm from a minority. We all have equal status.”

Damodar Swarup Seth, another Member of the Constituent Assembly, said: “Minorities based on religion or community should Not be recognized in a Secular Nation. If done that would be negation of Secularism.”

How Secularism sometimes became allergic to Hinduism became apparent in the episodes relating to reconstruction of Somnath temple.

By the prevailing standards, Hindu community should be declared a minority in Kashmir. But the Supreme Court asks Parliament whether it should be so declared and Parliament asks the Supreme Court to decide on this. It's just a political football with no conclusion.

Even teaching Sanskrit was considered against Secularism, until the Supreme Court declared that you could teach Sanskrit without violating the Constitution.

I teach at IIT Gandhinagar and I'm afraid most Indians are terribly unaware of their own civilization and culture. Unlike say Egypt whose modern citizens have no continuity with their past civilization  of pyramids and pharaohs, India has a continuous living tradition.

Not everything about India was the best, there were dark spots, but the best of India is amazing. 

My words are not a final answer, but just a contribution.

Danino concluded with this statement made by Aurobindo Ghosh in 1908-09.

“In India we have been cut off by a mercenary and soulless education from all our ancient roots of culture and tradition… National education… [is] the education which starting with the pastandmaking full use of the present builds up a great nation. Whoever wishes to cut off the nation from its past is no friend of national growth. Whoever fails to take advantage of the present is losing the battle of life. We must therefore save for India all that she has stored up of knowledge, character and noble thought in her immemorial past. We must acquire for her the best knowledge that Europe can give her and assimilate it to her own peculiar type of national temperament. We must introduce the best methods of teaching humanity has developed, whether modern or ancient. And all these mwe must harmonize into a system which will be impregnated with the spirit of self reliance so as to build up men and not machines”

In response to a student’s question where “dharma nirapeksha” is a suitable Hindi word for secularism, and wouldn’t madham rather dharma be the word for religion, Danino replied, “Dharma is a Sanskrit word that is quite different from religion. But it is used to mean religion in Hindi. It's a great injustice to the word and concept.

Dharma doesn't even require a belief in God or belief in particular Gods, which religions do.

Another questioner asked if secularism is not important given the "current government which is inspired by Nazism". Danino retorted that this is the kind of uncivil language used by most advocates of secularism, that discourages honest debate. If this government is inspired by Nazism, where are the concentration camps, he asked.

Danino has written a book about the lost Sarasvati river and delivered a lecture about it for Tamil Heritage Trust. He was bestowed the Padma Shri by the government of India in 2017.


Links to related topics

Video - An explanation of the Kharavela inscription


My other lecture notes

Politics

Gurumurthy on Demonetization
Political Situation in Nepal - Kanakmani Dixit

Science

1493 – The Columbian Exchange - Charles Mann
Art and the Brain - Vilayanur S Ramachandran
Sanskritam and Mathematics - Manjul Bharagava 
Faraday and GN Lewis - CNR Rao 
Clouds - Rama Govindarajan

Economics

Renminbi as international currency - Jacob Kurien

Literature

Subramanya Bharathi’s Essays - KRA Narasiah
Rajaji the writer - Va Ve Subramaniam
Vai Mu Kothainayaki - Va Ve Subramaniam
Siddharthan book on Samrat Asoka

Sociology

Law



Experiences of a lawyer and judge