Jayakanthan Interviewed by BBC Tamil – A Translation from March 2005

by K. Thirukumaran

Jayakanthan (April 24, 1934-April 8, 2015)

Jayakanthan (April 24, 1934-April 8, 2015)

Jayakanthan – (April 24, 1934, – April 8, 2015) – Tamil writer, essayist, journalist, pamphleteer, filmmaker and critic

RIP – My Translation of his interview with BBC Thamilosai (Aired in 2005)

“There will be many opinions about my stories. Not everything is right nor everything is wrong.”

BBC Thamilosai talks to Tamil Creator Jayakanthan – Recipient of Gnanapeedam Award for Literature – ” There will be many changes. The changes themselves will keep changing.”

Jayakanthan is the second Tamil writer to receive India’s highest literary award, Jnanpith – Gnanapeedam, the first being Akilan. While Akilan, who got the award way back in 1975, was an epitome of Tamil orthodoxy, Jayakanthan is its very antithesis, for he shot into fame by writing about the slum culture in Chennai in a way that shocked middle class values.

Though Jayakanthan’s maiden short story was probably Vazhkai Azhaikkirathu (Life is calling-1957) and Kaivilangu (Handcuff-1961), it was Yarukkaka Azhuthan (For whom did he cry – 1962) and Unnaipol Oruvan (Someone like you -1962) which brought him to limelight.

Written in earthy prose, they highlighted the life of the downtrodden in Chennai slums. His writings had an authentic touch, for he lived among the slum dwellers in his early years of struggle when he worked as a compositor in a printing press.

He spoke to BBC’s Thamilosai after the Gnanapeedam Award was announced last week:

Q: Typical question….Why you have almost stopped writing?

A: I didn’t stop writing. There seem to be a larger interval between writing thats all.

Q: For approximately twenty years you didn’t write any new creations.. When you look at that is this is a “1st Gnanpeeda award” without any controversy?

A: Only for the last 10 years I didn’t do big creations…so its not correct to say that I didn’t write anything for 20 years. So (award) is considered for writings within 20 years. I have made only an impression that I am not writing but I am continuing to write.

Q: What do you think of this award?

A: This is a supreme award. Indian literatures are written in many languages. This award enables us to see and feel the advancement and superior quality of Indian literatures. Tamils should be proud that Tamil has received this year’s award on behalf of Indian languages. I express my gratitude.

Q: When reading your essays or listen to your speeches you come across as a proud – that is such as Bharathiyar, I haven’t seen Bharathiyar but what I have read about him – you could even say a sort of “vidhya garwam” literary superiority, when reading them – a superior feeling..but there is an opinion that you strongly instill your thoughts and views through the characters in the stories…?

A: There will be many opinions about my stories. Not everything is right nor everything is wrong.

Q: Your writing style was considered new in those times and deeply followed or being followed later. What do you think was special about your style?

A: It was special in the sense it that affected Tamil language and those who became writers in the future.

Q: About 30-35 years ago when the anti-Hindi language movements were widely prevalent, I have listened to your speeches. You courageously spoke against anti -Hindi language struggles. I even recall you even being attacked for this…?

A: I was never attacked and I never attacked anyone. There was an opposition to Hindi language those days. Tamils did fear about this matter then. After the attempts to make feel that opposition is unnecessary, that fear also has diminished today and also opposition to Hindi is not in those heightened levels today.

Q: In the days of your earlier times, once when you were speaking about the movie industry, you leveled heavy criticisms and attacked two of the popular directors of those times but then you also gave two films “For Whom did he cry?” and “Someone like you”. Your criticisms were because you didn’t like the movie industry and/or why you did not continue in the movie industry?

A: I was saying only because of my concern about the movie industry’s wellbeing. There is no hatred.

Q: During the days of your active writing times, short stories, even in popular-mass media outlets such as Ananda Vikatan seemed to be having a seriousness in tone, but nowadays you see them -the weekly magazines and monthly magazines –
whether stories and short stories itself are on their path to extinction. Do you regret about this?

A: Don’t make calculations like that. There will be many changes. The changes themselves will keep changing.

Q: There seem to be many mini-literature creations nowadays. Do you feel that there are creative work being done in this line?
A: Many of them are coming out. This also being reflected in larger publications and bigger media outlets.

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