View Full Version : Screen-Turners: Chap 3.1 - Something about Sujatha (Naaz)

25th June 2006, 03:16 PM
The Screen-Turners Chapter 3 - Part 1


- Naaz

Goose bumps.
They are not uncommon when you read a novel by Sujatha. But when you have the man, the epoch, on the other end of the line, youve got to be good in math, fast before you think you could die. The goose bumps multiply to the power of a long-distance call between Canada and India. I am you stammer, and the chill of fear is so complete, your skin is a cold, burning page.
Tracking Sujatha and getting him on the phone is a short- story in itself, but Ill leave that for another time. I sent him my questions on Karaiyellaam Senbagapoo, and before you could say hello ganesh, hello vasanth, I had the answers. Made me think: Straight for the jugular.
He said he found the questions to be interesting, and got to it.
Swift. Crisp. No Nonsense.
Everything youd expect from a master of the game.

Heres Sujatha on Karaiyellaam Senbagapoo.
Q. A genesis question: Which came first, your interest in Ethnography (Folklore) or the plot/story for the novel, Karaiyellaam Senbagapoo? Could you share the process of writing this particular novel?

A. Neither. Music director, Ilayaraja, once suggested, why dont you write a village based thriller? The idea interested me. I was then reading a book on Tamil folk songs, Thamizhar Naattuppaadalkal, compiled by Prof. Na. Vanamamalai. I took a line from a folk song as the title and spun a story around a researcher coming to a village.

Q. Another genesis question: Is the novel a modern attempt to excavate a lost, pre-lapsarian time? In a metaphoric sense, the novel opens with the arrival of Kalyanaraman(Adam) in Maempatti (Eden). There is his immediate infatuation with Velli (Eve), and soon after, Snekalatha (Snake) is introduced as the evil temptress. Given this triangle, could one read the novel as a contemporary (biblical) parable/parody?

A. This is an interesting interpretation. I had never intended it to be a biblical metaphor, though I had read the Bible before.

Q. The first impressions of folklore are usually that of innocence, naivet, and untamed (and uncorrupted) goodness. Kalyanaraaman is taken with the sheer unaffectedness of the people and the songs they sing. Yet, in the story of Pazhaiyanoor Neeli, there is such graphic violence. Is this your way of debunking the urban myth of good as gold villagers?

A. If you read the genuine folk songs you are struck by their unaffected simplicity. The Pazhaiyanoor Neeli Kathai is a folk tale of revenge that dates back to pre-Cilappathikaram period. It is elemental in its theme of revenge of a wronged wife, which is also a simple and repetitive folk theme.

Q. The title of the novel, Karaiyellaam Senbagapoo, evokes a vista of colour and abundance. However, the novel pivots on the deadly sins of Avarice, Lust, Pride, and EnvyIs the title a trap/conceit?

A. As I said, the title is a line from a folk song. It was given in before the plot of the story evolved, and no trap or conceit was intended then.

Q. In archetypal terms, Velliamma and Snekalatha are, as you mention, stud(ies) in contrast. But are they, really? Once the rural/urban veneer is removed, arent they both just victims/survivors of a traditional, patriarchal social order? (eg. [tscii:190791f447]" Ţá š즸 츢. ľŢ á šɢĨ Ȣ즸츢." " ." "¡, ţǡ?"[/tscii:190791f447])

A. It is always advisable to have contrasting characters in a complex mystery story. Shades of character are in order in emotional, social stories.

Q. The literary work won high critical acclaim, but the film did not sway the masses. Compared to the cinematic success of Gayathri and Priya, Karaiyellaam Senbagapoo was more than a bit of a letdown. Why do you think the audience rejected the screen version of a book they so unanimously loved?

A. I am not happy with the screen versions of Gayathri and Priya also. Screen versions are never satisfactory to the author and discerning readers. Bibuthibhushan Bhattacharya was very unhappy with Satyajit Rays Pather Panchali. Hemmingway, when asked about the films based on his novels said, take the money and run!

Q. Ilayaraja was born to write the score for a film like Karaiyellaam Senbagapoo. Yet, this was no Annakili. What are your own personal views on the tunes in KS? And were you involved in the selection of music/lyrics?

A. The tunes were ordinary. Ilayaraja had so many assignments and was very busy at that time. I was not at all involved with the lyrics or music for the film.

Q. Dialect and Humour are essential antidotes to the dark proceedings of the novel. Despite a bravura performance by Manorama (Periaaththaa), these features are diffused in the film. Do you think that the literariness of a work such as Karaiyellaam Senbagapoo is anathema to the screen?

A. The director substituted a Coimbatore dialect, whereas I had used a southern Trichy dialect in the book. Dialect was used only for flavour in the novel, and it wasnt fully authentic either. The director was not capable of thriller narration that was the problem.

Q. You are by far the most celebrated cine/author of the Tamil screen. How do you view your commercial success?

A. I view commercial success as a result of cooperative effort. The writer has only a 25% role. The director, the editor, music director, cameraman, casting all contribute to the success.

Q. Do you re-read your own works after a period of time (say five years after publication?)? And when you do, what do you (dis)own in the writing?

A. No. I do re-read with a readers viewpoint, as though it is somebody elses work. Sometimes I am surprised, and sometimes I am disappointed. Put back in their time and compulsions, I am generally happy with them.

- * - *

Part II will analyze the story, movie and the songs.

Author (C) 2006

[tscii:190791f447]̓ - æġ
Ҿ : 16 ( : 55)

- 600 017.[/tscii:190791f447]

Sujatha Karaiyellaam Senbagapoo
Visa Publications
New No. 16 (Old No.55)
Venkatnarayana Road
T. Nagar
Chennai 600 017

12th July 2006, 12:24 PM
Surprised that you could have goose bumps! That apart Karayellam shenbagapoo was a well written story - not particularly path breaking but a good read. The mental picture of "snakes" took a beating with Sumalatha on screen. of course she had the curves of a scenic railway- or may be because of that! PP was passable as Kalyanaraman. G N Rangarajan found "Kalyanaraman " the Kamal pic too heavy a burden to get rid off!
Sujatha was being charitable when he says the writer has a 25% contribution. The way priya shaped up I thought he had a 5% role at the max.
Vasanth characterai kotthu kari pottathu pol veru entha oru characteraium seithirukka mudiyaathu! How many , V A moorthi in Gayathri and some nameless chap in Priya !
I still feel Sujatha was magnanimous in tolerating such nonsense!

12th July 2006, 07:54 PM
vengayam -

Like your monicker is deigned to do, this first response to the interview had my eyes misty. Given the few and far between posts to this TST venture, I was beginning to feel a bit underwhelmed. Your response pulled me back from the brink of depression.

About the goose bumps thing...what surprises you? That thick-skinned, cynical me can actually experience goose bumps? :P Or that Sujatha's writing can induce goose bumps? Or that I had goose bumps when I had Sujatha on the line? With me, you should know by now, context is everything. Care to clarify?

Personally, I must admit that I was a bit spooked by Kolaiyuthir Kaalam (which I never fully read.) I have only read 3 works by Sujatha - KS, Pirivom Sandhippom and Nylon Kayiru (and maybe a maadha novel or two, names of which I don't recall rightaway.) I was hoping others here would enlighten me on the works I have missed (only must-reads please! :) )

I won't steal my own thunder. You'll just have to wait for my take on Karaiyellaam.

13th July 2006, 09:41 AM
I know I know only too well!
make it 6:3:1! thick skin: sujatha's writing: sujatha on the line.
I liked Kanavu thozirchalai ( on the film industrty), en iniya iyanthira. His version of " Death of a salesman" was also engaging. I don't remember the name. some of his srirangathu thevathaigal and madyamar stories were also good.
Bur in the past decade his best writing has been "katrathum petrathum" a weekly column which comes on and off in A Vikatan!

20th July 2006, 09:48 AM
Dear Naaz,
Good QUES and Nice answers !!!! Great Man !!

Bharathiyar ku equal aga Sujathavai enni kolven !!

Bharathiyar -- Social Development patri --- Ulagam andha padhaiyil sirndhum illadha podhu, adai patri adhiga padiyaga sindahanai seidha oru Mamanidhan !!! Avai ellam inru unmaiyaga agi varum podhu, avarai niraiyavae ninaithu kolgiren!!!

Adhe pol,

Sujatha --- Vinyana valarchigal patri , niraiyavae sindhanai seidha oru mamanidhar!!! Adhilum computer patri niraiyavae !!!

Naan indha computer il ovvoru murai utkarum podhum Sujathavai niraiyavae ninaithu kolgiren.

India valarchi adaindhu, enaku oru vasadhi vandhu, ippadi indha pc yai parpten enru kanavilum ninaithu parkavillai.Nadandhu vittadhu !!!

Computer patri sonna athanaiyum,unmaiyagum naalai avaludan edhirparthu kondu irukiren.
Future il computer nammai interact seiyum enru solli irukirar!!! Parka vendum andha nannaalai !!!

Avarudaiya "Vinyana Sirugadhaigal" Padithu irukeergala?

25 varudangaluku munbu, avar predict pannina -- niraiya vishayangal unmaiyagi vittadhu.Unmaiyagi kondu irukiradhu !!

Adhil oru kadhaiyil, Bus stand ku povardharku permission ku wait pannuvadhai pol varum.Adhuvum 2 min, like that. Adhaiyum Pc yil parthu theirndhu kolla vendum . Ippadi pogum andha kadhai. Adhu unmaiyagum padhaiyil dhan inru ulagam serndu kondu irukiradhu !!

Indha Genious ai inru ninaika vaitha -- Ungaluku Nanrigal pala !!!

With Love,
Usha Sankar.

20th July 2006, 10:06 PM
Usha Shankar -

Nandrigal Ungallukkum Pala!

My reading of Sujatha's works is scant and unimpressive. Padippadharkku Anega Puththakangal Irukkindrana...Naeram Dhaan Illai! Writing this series is one (self-imposed) way to get to these texts...and I am richer for the commitment. I will do my best to read your recommendations.

There is one quality about Bharathi which is also part of Sujatha: Iruvarum Elimaiyaana Puratchchi Manithargal - Ezhuththilum Gunaththilum. Pen is Mightier than the Sword - enum sollai nangu arinthavargal. I would never have thought of such a comparison if your post hadn't prompted me!


29th July 2006, 02:10 PM
I've read most of Sujatha's writings. He is a BIG favourite of mine. But, I think, comparing him with Bharathi is stretching it too far.