R Venkataramanan

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"To be an Inspiring Teacher,one should be a Disciplined Student throughout Life" - Venkataramanan Ramasethu



Sunday, April 29, 2012


Jayakanthan (Tamil: ஜெயகாந்தன்) (born April 24, 1934) is a Tamil writer, essayist, journalist, pamphleteer, film-maker and critic.

Jayakanthan was born in 1934 in a family of agriculturists in Cuddalore, in the South Arcot district of Tamil Nadu. He quit school after completing grade 3 education. He was then considered a problematic child. He was close to his mother and grandfather. He had a rocky relationship with his father. Unable to bear the harsh treatment meted out to him at home and in the village, he ran away from home at the age of 12 to Villupuram. There, he grew up under the aegis of his uncle from whom he imbibed communist ideologies and was also introduced to the works of Subramanya Bharathy. At this stage, his mother took him to Chennai and requested a friend/family member associated with Communist Party of India (CPI) to bring some sense to him for she was frustrated that he was a school dropout. It was here where Jayakanthan first worked as a minion in the CPI party office. Jayakanthan has written a lot about his days in the office and seems to cherish his boyhood days there. During this period, he became acquainted with some great CPI leaders of Tamil Nadu such as Mr. Jeeva Jeevanandam and Mr. Baladandayutham and many others. Thus, the CPI office in Chennai became his primary school, the members of the communist party his immediate family.

Jayakanthan grew up listening to the discussions of these leftists during his formative years. It can be seen that this had a serious impact on his outlook and literary works. Jayakanthan once wrote that Mr. Jeeva was horrified to read his Tamil with full of grammar mistakes. This led to Jeeva offering the fee needed for proper education under a Tamil pandit. Thus he learned proper Tamil from a pandit. Later he moved around in various jobs forced by circumstances. He worked in the party's printing press and spent his evenings selling the magazine JanaSakthi on street corners. But in 1949, unexpected political developments resulted in extreme restrictions on the activities of the CPI. Jayakanthan was forced to work in a shoe shop in Thanjavur for a short period of time, after which he came back to Chennai. This period was an important phase for Jayakanthan as he found more time to think and read. During this period, the CPI also was eclipsed by the emergence of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the DK, whom Jayakanthan termed "fascists".

Internal rifts within the CPI and his difference of opinion on many political issues forced him to gradually withdraw from CPI and active politics. His frustration with CPI can be seen through his short story "Karungali" (The traitor). Equally he broke ranks with his fellow Tamil writers in opposing E.V. Ramasamy Naicker (a noted rationalist movement leader in Tamil Nadu) and his view of brahminism in Tamil Nadu. Only a personality like Jayakanthan who could have the courage and wisdom to oppose Mr. E.V. Ramasamy openly in a public forum. Jayakanthan was greatly praised for his public speech in Tiruchi. Before this, he also tested waters in other political philosophies including Congress. He was fascinated with the former Chief Minister and Congress party leader Kamaraj and briefly served as a member of that party and actively compaigned for him and his party members during election time. He also served as the editor of "Nava-Shakthi" a daily with leanings towards Congress party philosophy.

Jayakanthan himself has accepted that he had no patience to do a systematic research and do a complete work. It was this lack of scholarly approach to his work led to more short stories than fiction writing. It was only later he matured enough to write fictions. Once Jayakanthan wrote that all his true friends lived in Soviet Russia. Of course Russia loved it and invited him as a state guest and gave him a "Nehru literary award".

His lack of scholarship in matters of religion can be seen in his writings. Jayakanthan started his literary work at a young age. He started writing from around 1953 in Tamil magazines such as Saraswathi, Thamarai, Grama Uzhiyan and Anantha Vikatan. He called himself "the first Tamil writer to earn a living by writing". He went on to become one of the most prolific and powerful Tamil writers of the twentieth century. He also had a stint in Tamil Cinema and tried his hand at making films. He made a film based on his novel, Unnaippol Oruvan, which became the first Tamil film to get an award at the national level in India. It was awarded the President's award (third prize) in "The Best Regional film" category .

It was then that he developed a relationship with a stage actress. Jayakanthan was already married to his uncle's daughter. This chapter in his life was fictionalized in the novel Oru Nadigai Naadagam Paarkkiral(An actress witnesses a play).
His stories are vivid portrayals of life as he sees them and they embrace humanity as a whole. His later works also witnessed a strong dose of his philosophical musings. He is considered as one of the most influential writers Tamil Literature has ever produced.

Jayakanthan is infamously known for his arrogance and his multi-dimensional personality. Significantly, his personality became ideal characters of a writer—many movies and writers later adopted such characters as protagonists for their creations.
Though he is not a brahmin, he orated "Why I am a Brahmin", explaining why Brahminism was a concept.

2009 -'Padma Bhushan' -very first time for Tamil Literature was given to Mr.D.Jayakanthan.

2002 - Jnanpith Award: The 2002 Jnanpith Award was announced for D. Jayakanthan. His works were described as one that delicately unveiled every depth of human emotion and equations. Announcing the award, L. M. Singhvi said "He has not only enriched the high traditions of literary traditions of Tamil language but has also made outstanding contribution towards the shaping of Indian literature. His literature presents a deep and sensitive understanding of complex human nature and is an authentic and vivid index of Indian reality." (The Hindu)

1996 - Fellow of Sahitya Akademi (Sahitya Akademi)

1972 - Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize: He awarded Sahitya Akademi translation prize in 1972 for his work on Tamil novel Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal. (Sahitya Akademi)

"2011-Order of Friendship’ Russia has announced

Notable quotes

There was a time when I numbered among my close friends rickshaw- drivers, prostitutes, rowdies, pickpockets and cigarette-butt scavengers. Perhaps because of that fact I can never work up disgust towards their kind. There is a sense of involvement among them. Sometimes I even wonder whether I wouldn't have been happier if I had decided to live among them as one of the family. Truly, an attraction for their life came to be planted in my youthful mind . . . There is in the life of such people a flaming passion, a liveliness, and truth!

They hold a notion that I have all along been writing about people of the lower strata. But haven't I really been writing about high level people among the so-called lower strata. Who belongs to the higher strata and who to the lower strata? That cannot be determined by their position or by their place of living. It is by how they are - how they live - that a determination should be made.

However lowly and decadent are the matters that I have to take up broadly for depiction in my story, I tend to place special emphasis on whatever is elevating and meaningful for life embedded in them. And thus I sing of the glory of life