|| MALAYALAM LITERATURE
O. Chandu Menon
O. V. Vijayan
M. T. Vasudevan
Ezhuthachan (16th century)
is one of the giants among Malayalam poets. Believed
to have been born in Trkkantiyur in Malappuram district,
Ezhuthachan is considered as the father of modern Malayalam
poetry, who gave the language a power not known before.
He has also made significant contribution to the spiritual
and cultural renaissance of the state. Mahabharatam
is the most important among Ezhuthachan's poetical works,
the rest being, Adhyatmaramayanam, Irupattinalu Vrttam,
Harinamakirttanam, Cintaratnam, Devimahatmyam. His Mahabharatam,
the greatest epic poem in Malayalam, though a rendering
from the Sanskrit epic by Vyasa, possesses all the necessary
attributes of an original work of art.
Nambiar (18th century) is considered as the
creator of Thullal, a popular performing art of Kerala.
Thullal avoids the high-brow rigidities of classical
art forms like Kathakali and Koodiyattam, and also steers
clear of the pedestrian folk forms such as Padayani.
It blends the finer elements of both the genres, in
formulating its strategies of performance and narration.
Nambiar's Kalyana Saughandikam, (the golden water-lily)
is believed to be the first among the forty odd Thullal
songs he has composed for the stage. It was while enjoying
the patronage of king Devanarayana of Chempakasseri,
as a courtier that he composed the aforementioned Thullal
song. His songs though dealing with puranic themes,
abound in pungent and biting social criticism. Armed
with satire and humour, Nambiar ridiculed the failings
of his contemporaries and insisted on proper conduct
and civilised behaviour from all sections of the society.
Chandu Menon (1847-1900),
is considered one of the two pioneers of Malayalam fiction
(the other being C. V. Raman Pillai). A Munsiff and
later Judge at Tellicherry of the erstwhile Malabar,
Menon has to his credit two novels Indulekha and Sarada,
the latter remaining incomplete. Indulekha occupies
a unique niche among Malayalam movels, in that it marked
the dawn of modernity in the literature, highlighting
the value of English education and the right of women
to assert themselves in issues like their marriage and
education. Even as a work of art, the novel was a trendsetter
in its wonderful delineation of characters.
is a reputed Malayalam poet. All his major works including
Chinthavishtayaya Sita, belong to a certain class of
poetic writing, casually mentioned in the texts on Sanskrit
poetics as Khanda Kavya. Chinthavishtayaya Sita (Sita
in Meditation, 1919) is regarded by many as the masterpiece
of Kumaran Asan. It marks the zenith of poetic finesse
in the career graph of Asan, wherein the authenticity
of his unique vision resulted in the creation of an
almost new Sita who could confront Rama without flinching.
Veena Poovu (Fallen Flower), Nalini and Leela are some
of his other great works.
Narayana Menon (1878-1958) - In the early
decades of the 20th century, Malayalam poetry, fettered
for a time by repetitive neo-classical works, was rejuvenated
and liberated by the trio of Kumaran Asan, Ulloor S.
Parameswara Iyer and Vallathol Narayana Menon. Vallathol,
the youngest of the three, knew little English; yet
by his intuitive capacity, he imbibed the spirit of
romanticism which infused new life in Malayalam literature.
A classicist by discipline, Vallathol started composing
poems at the age of 13. His mature poems in Sanskrit
and in Malayalam appeared only after 1910, and he translated
Rigveda into Malayalam at the age of 75. His major works
include Magdalana Mariam (1921)- an exquisite narrative
poem based on an episode in the life of Christ as depicted
in the gospel according to St. Luke. A patron of Kathakali,
Vallathol founded the Kalamandalam institute at Cheruthuruthy.
When India won freedom, he was made the Poet Laureate
of Malayalam Language and Literature.
Muhammad Basheer (1908-94) is regarded as
one of India's most outstanding writers, on account
of his superlative wit and originality. A freedom fighter,
Basheer started writing short stories in 1937. Balyakalasakhi
(Childhood Friend, 1944), a simple tale of love, friendship
and tragedy, earned him a place in Malayalam literature.
This was followed by Ntuppuppakkoraanentarnnu (Me Grandad
'ad an Elephant, 1951), the English translation of which,
by R. E. Asher of Edinburgh University, won worldwide
acclaim. Basheer's major works are peopled with characters
drawn from his own Muslim milieu, whom he depicts in
a manner that creates a strange combination of laughter
and tears within the reader. Mathilukal (Walls, 1955)
is another great novella by Basheer which was made into
a successful motion picture by the renowned film-maker
Krishna Pillai (1911-48) is one of the most
popular poets in Malayalam literature, second only to
Kunchan Nambiar in bringing poetry to the common man.
If Nambiar is famous for his fine sense of humour, Changampuzha
is renowned for his exquisite strain of lyricism. Belonging
to the third generation of Romantics in Malayalam, he
led pure romanticism to its very zenith. A prolific
writer, with a writing career spanning two decades,
Changampuzha produced more than 40, 000 lines of verse
collected in around 44 volumes; this in addition to
more than a dozen works in prose, including a novel,
Kalittoli (Girlfriend, 1952) and an essay of literary
criticism, Sahityachinthakal (Thoughts on Literature).
Immensely well-read in world literature, especially
poetry, Changampuzha translated many works into Malayalam.
Sivasankara Pillai (b. 1912) started off
as a small-town lawyer but took to full time writing
later and won himself the Sahitya Akademi Award (1957),
Soviet Land-Nehru Award (1975) and Jnanpith Award (1984).
His Chemmeen (The Shrimps) is one of the few works of
fiction in an Indian language to gain worldwide recognition.
The novel has been translated in all the major Indian
languages and also in quite a few foreign languages.
The film version of Chemmeen received the President's
Gold Medal in 1966.
V. Vijayan (b. 1931) is undoubtedly the pioneer
of modern fiction in Malayalam. A cartoonist, novelist
and short-story writer, Vijayan has to his credit five
novels, including Khasakkinte Itihasam (The Saga of
Khasak, 1969), Dharmapuranam (The Saga of Dharmapuri,
1985) and Pravachakante Vazhi (The Way of the Prophet,
1993) besides many collections of short stories and
articles and a book on his own masterpiece, Itihasathinte
Itihasam (The Story of the Saga). Vijayan who started
his career as lecturer in Kerala, soon opted for full-time
journalism and making cartoons.
(b. 1932) is the pen-name adopted by Kamala
Das in her Malayalam writings. Though internationally
renowned for her spirited poems in English, Kamala Das
nee Madhavikutty has penned some brilliant short stories
in her mother tongue. Her pseudonym represents the more
intense and confessional self of this feminist writer.
Her stories first appeared on the Malayalam literary
scene in the 1950s, and later more frequently, in the
sixties. She unleashed in them the pent-up world of
female urges, frustrations and wild sexual fantasies,
thus exposing the raw side of human identity. Madhavikutty's
focus has always been on the tormented female self craving
for love, but doomed to be cheated, exploited and abandoned.
She replaced the self-pity that was a staple element
of conventional women's stories with a subversive, vengeful
imagination that demythified love, sex and even death.
Her principal works include Naricheerukal Parakkumbol
(When Bats Fly, 1960), Thanuppu (Cold, 1967), Madhavikuttiyude
Kathakal (The Short Stories of Madhavikutty, 1982),
and Neypayasam (Rice Pudding, 1991) and Ente Katha (My
Padmanabhan (b. 1931), a distinguished short-story
writer in Malayalam, has been writing since 1948, except
for a brief period between 1963 to 1969. He has been
credited with bringing the modern Malayalam short story
nearer to the subjective intensity of the lyric. Many
of his works have been translated into various Indian
and foreign languages. It was when the short story reached
a saturation point as a result of the repeated depiction
of romantic idealism and social commitment that T. Padmanabhan
emerged on the scene with a unique and highly individualistic
idiom. Among his major works are Prakasam Parathunna
Oru Penkutti (A Girl Who Spreads Radiance, 1955), Oru
Kathakrittu Kurishil (A Story writer on the Cross, 1956),
Makhan Singhinte Maranam (The Death of Makhan Singh,
1958) , Kala Bhairavan and Gouri (1993).
T. Vasudevan Nair (b. 1933), the famous Malayalam
story-writer, novelist and editor has to his credit
a number of fine films as well: he has written the script
for a number of outstanding films besides having directed
a few. Winner of several awards including the Jnanpith,
Vasudevan nair, popularly known as M. T., burst into
the literary scene with his maiden work, Nalukettu (the
ancestral home of a Nair joint family), followed by
Asuravithu (Asuravittu; Demon's seed: the son born to
undo the family). The latter novel, written in a prose
with poetic quality, bears the stamp of his genius,
his mastery in subtle delineation of characters with
great psychological insight.