Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who is the greatest living author in Malayalam?

By John Cheeran
Who is the greatest living author in Malayalam? That tag would easily be applied to M T Vasudevan Nair, known as MT, who celebrates his 80th birthday today (July 15).
For beginners, MT has written short stories, novels, screenplays and edited the prestigious literary weekly Mathrubhumi. MT is also an acclaimed film director (six movies) and won the best national feature film award for his first movie, Nirmalyam, in 1973.
The weekend witnessed a deluge of encomiums to the writer, free from critical assessment of his works and that is not unusual. In Kerala, bitching among writers is conducted a little subtly, away from print and sound bites.
MT has written 87 short stories (that’s one count) and the last one (Kazhcha—Sight) was in 1998. He has written nine novels but all that was ages ago. Still there will be few who would not have read MT classics like Manju, Nalukettu and Iruttinte Aathmavu.
Lyricism was MT’s hallmark. But MT’s concerns were limited. He bemoaned a way of life, mostly depicting crumbling Nair joint families and trying on the mantle of the outsider in such circumstances. MT also encouraged the Malayali’s penchant for nostalgia and the beedi smoking author carefully cultivated his aura.
Unlike many of his generation, MT’s struggles have been few and patchy. MT never lived or worked outside of Kerala unlike some of the modern greats of Malayalam literature such as O V Vijayan and Vaikkom Muhammed Bashir. While Bashir pulled off all sorts of tricks while pitching tent at various parts of India, Delhi shaped Vijayan’s writing. Both have written powerful novels that addressed concerns beyond the parochial and maudlin.

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