Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter
Read books are great, but those unread are greater.
Movie lovers ! Cinephiles ! It’s time to bring to your attention some books, some classics which redefined the way we watched movies. May I welcome you on a journey across my celluloid shelf ? As I riffle through, the first title that catches my eye is Palunku written by Ravi ¹ in 1969. This book has an interesting history. The book had falsely been claimed to be written by a police officer named Madhu, but ultimately the real author surfaced and the imposter was chastened. Anyways, Palunku ultimately was heralded in the national level. A good book- but not suitable for a holiday read, is what I feel. On the same rack, furthur down, is a collection of poetry by a blind poet Jayadevan ² titled Kavyamela (1965) . Like Palunku, this poetry collection also has a chequered history and had been falsely claimed to be written by one Vikraman, before its fatherhood was rightly restored. Kavyamela had won for the author the Sahithya Academy award – but Jayadevan had snubbed the same. Some of the poems in the collection are so eloquent, especially “Swapnangal, Swapnangale”. But, then again, poetry is not exactly what I am in the mood for, right now.
Across the room, in another shelf, rests classics from the past two decades. Jayadevante Krithikal (1986) ³ stands out amongst the others, if you ask me. Jayadevan aka Padmashree Jayadevan (not to be confused with the earlier blind poet), who ultimately won the Jnanapeedam Award was a boon to Malayalam literature- though his untimely death created a big void in Malayalam literature. I have with me Moonnaam Yaamam and Innale – two of his classic reads. Innale proved interesting reading and I finished the same within an hour or so. And when I placed the book back in the rack, I found another hit of the Eighties. The debut novel of poet laureate Rajalekshmi 4 – Shantigramathile Amma (1988) – which narrates the plights of a single mother reduced to penury after an ill-fated marital life. Rajalakshmi Teacher really deserved the Kerala Sahithya Academy Award for this one, no doubt. A quick read- I finished the same in double quick time. Alongside rests another Sahithya Academy winner written by a former jail inmate Ben Narendran 5 titled Sharanalayam (1989) . Advocate Nenmara gifted me this book. It seems Ben Narendran was his client. Ben Narendran is a maverick, a man who welcomes death with both hands- and that shows in his writing.
On similar vein is Aayshmann Bhava (1998) by Sooryan6 , another Sahithya Academy winner. He too seems to be a person eagerly waiting for death to come and take him away. Setunath’s7 Swantham (2007) is another of my favorites, and I urge you to read it. In fact, the book was virtually unknown till its English translation took the world by storm ultimately winning for its author the coveted Commonwealth award. However, Sethu, it seems was not happy with the award as he had no idea who the translator was. But I think Sethu would be the first to confess that the spirit of the book was kept tight and intact during translation.
My attention now shifts to Malavika Varma’s8 Ente Muttathe Nanmaram (2005). This semi-biographic work about a young girl who gets fascinated and infatuated with the “man Friday” of her erstwhile tharavadu won a lot of critical acclaim, and at the same time a lot of flak for the author within her family circles for being too personal. Though not award winners – the highly popular works by Rajani9 including Jalakam, Neelaakaasham, Swapnangal, Venal and Kanneerdalangal take up a good portion of my shelf. These were gifted to me by Nandinikutty and her husband Ravi. Nandinikutty was a big fan of Rajani the author – but when she she said that after meeting him personally, she began to detest Rajani the person. Anway the couple had gifted me these books. Mazhathullikal (2009) by Jnanapeedam awardee Palazhee Shivasankara Pillai 10 is a great read. It’s a magnum opus- and will take some time to read. The evening calls for something light.
I now turned to my large collection of pulp fiction. And I was confused. Which should I read? Got with me three works by Sagar Kottappuram 11 – Akalumthorum Adukkunnavar, Ullaasa Thenmazha and his classic Oru Gazetted Yekshi (circa 1998). I must also mention that I have with me Mandaarapushpangal written by Sagar himself under the pseudonym C.V. Rajamama. I am a self proclaimed Sagar fan. And those who know me would have read my fan mail about his works in the letters page in the magazine “Manchadi” and “Poonkili”. Like Sagar another author whom I like a lot is Varghese Valavil.12 His works include Poocha Karutha Poocha, Oru Balaalsanghathinte Ormaykku and the hit novel Chilanthivalakaley Tata (circa 1990). Valavil has a zany sense of humour- which was a lot appreciated during the late Eighties and early Nineties. However, he has lost track during the past few years.
I believe the creative decline of Valavil became a blessing for Manoharan Mangalodaym 13 the author of hit works like Chekuthaane Snehicha Maalakha, Muscleman Thalarthiya Dambathyam, Kannimaasathile Kamithaakkal and the romantic novel Manassil Oru Kulirmazha (2008). I think Manoharan Mangalodayam will be the in-thing in pulp literature for Malayalam in the coming years. Leaning towards the far-end, I can see Urakkamillaatha Rathrikal by Subhramaniam Thonnakkal 14 and the more recent anthology of Vinayachandran 15 – Chettakkudilile Pranayam and Pathirakozhi. At the risk of pompousness, allow me to show off my complete Pappan collection 16 too. Novelist Pappan has now settled in Spain and is with the Indian Embassy over there. However, his literary outputs continue as strong as ever. Classic works include Koottilaaya Chundeli, Karutha Manasulla Velutha Manushyan and Chessu Kalikkunna Changaathi. So much to read, and so little time ( before sleep, I mean ). I have finally decided to re-read the evergreen semi-biographical classic Chirakodinja Kinakkal by the tailor-novelist N.P. Ambujakshan. 17 A poignant tale of love lost featuring a protagonist tailor and his lady love, the book is surpassed only by Devadas. And no one can read this tragic tale without breaking down. I loved this book.
My attention now turns to the detective – horror novels and whodunits. Manthrika kuthira by lawyer novelist Sunny Kuruvilla 18 is a hot favourite. Shikari is another hot favorite in this genre – but the copy I have is a tattered one – the last few pages are missing. The author is one Gopalakrishnan Pillai 19 who had settled somewhere in Karnataka. My friend Keshu 20gifted me a copy of his father’s unpublished novel Currency. It’s a thriller of the first order- and I wonder whether Keshu has taken an idea or two from the book – there is something fishy about him nowadays. But the icing in my collection of thrillers is Varikkuzhiyile Kolapaathakam by Hitchcock Kanjikkuzhy. 21 Haven’t you read it? Ace business tycoon Tony Kurishinkal and politician Kumbalam Hari have all raved a lot about this murder mystery. In fact Kanjikkuzhi had a plan to make a movie out of the book with Mammootty in the lead. But the project has not materialised till date.
How about reading some good poetry of the last twenty odd years Yuvajanotsavam by Maya 22 is a great collection of poetry centred around college campus life. Vibyor, a collection of poems in English by Susan Mary Thomas 23 is also good and so is Mayookham by Indira Balakrishnan. 24 Chandrahasante Kavithakal by the young poet Chandrahasan 25 is also an interesting read. I remember catching a musical adaptation of his poems at the local bus station, where two blind men and their sister rendered a beautiful, memorable version. I assume you are also not that averse to abstract and ultra-modern poetry, are you ? The ones like Manjil Virinja Pookkal Vaadiyappol by O.P. Olassa. 26 Who can ever forget his :
“ഭീമനും യുധിഷ്ഠിരനും ബീഡി വലിച്ചു
സീതയുടെ മാറ് പിളർന്നു
രക്തം കുടിച്ചു ദുര്യോധനൻ
ഗുരുവായൂരപ്പന് ജലദോഷമായിരുന്നു അന്ന് !”
Kavi Kunji, 27 of “Kallu Kudichal Pallu Vilikkum” and “Kadalu Kada Kandu” fame, is another favorite. If you have not read the same- you should read it. Amazing to say the least. I also read Promethues by Chandradas. 28 The blurb of the book makes interesting reading. Critic Raghavan had given a resounding review when it came out, I still recall – “മലയാള കവിതയ്ക്ക് കിട്ടിയ വരപ്രസാദം .ഒറ്റ കൃതി കൊണ്ട് മലയാളത്തെ ഞെട്ടിച്ച പെരുന്തച്ചൻ ”.
My attention now turn to the drams in the shelf. I see in my shelf Thuni Kettiya Sathyam and Arival Chuttika Lathi by S.K. Pallipuram. 29 The first drama was staged at Paleri sometime during the late Fifties. I also have with me some new age dramas written by Shakespeare Pavithran. 30 Amma Oru Kovil and Prakasham parathunna penkutty are his most famous works – the latter becoming the best-seller of the year, if I remember right.
Now my eyes go through another section of the shelf- a few English works. They include My Bloody Mistakes (2012) by Sreedhar Krishna 31 and Seasons (2009) by Sharath. 32 Of these, Seasons is the better one. It’s about love lost, fragile friendships and how some relations always stand the test of time. Sreedhar Krishna though scored big with his debut work- lost esteem before his adoring fans after trying to pass off another novel Jailile Ormakal as his own. However, he soon rectified his mistake. Dhwani Nambiar’s 33 graphic work Trivandrum Lodge (2012) also occupies pride of place in the section. The book is heavy in illustrations and is a coffee table book. But I was in the mood for a thriller. So I finally read Dam 999 by Captain Frederick Brown. 34 A chilling read- a work which hits you close to home if you are living in and around Mullaperiyar.
If you think you have had enough of poetry and novels, how about I quickly take you through some inspirational reads before your retire ? Mathruka Manushyan (1972) written by Vishwanathan Thambi 35 is my personal favourite. Thambi has taken care to imbibe into his personal life his teachings and concept of life. A more modern work is Gandhiye Ariyaan by Prabhakaran 36– a self-confessed Gandhian and idealist. I also have with me a lesser known work Bhumikku ethra prayamaayi, Jathikku ethra vayassayi. A pity this book has not been reprinted. The new generation ought to read and enjoy Mathruka Manushyan.
Now to mention some books which sadly I missed out. Publisher Shivadasan of Kilipattu Books of Kozhikkode had promised me a copy of debutant novelist Balachandran’s 37 novel. But unfortunately the author and the only available handwritten manuscript got lost forever in a bomb blast at Kozhikkode. G.K. Raja 38, if you recall, was a famed detective novelist of repute. He was eccentric and I remember him checking all four sides of a room and lobby in a hotel. Don’t remember the name of the hotel- but it was at the time a murder took place- where a young lady was drowned to death. Suspicion had initially fallen on the swimming instructor of the hotel- but the real culprit proved to be a 12 year old boy. Raja was on work on the novelisation of this event.
Anyway hope you all of you have a chance to read these books. Most of these books are available at that bookshop run by Shyamala Panicker. 39