Click here for more...

(ARCHIVE) Vol. XXI No. 6, July 1-15, 2011
Early modern Tamil novels
(By K.R.A. Narasiah)

In the 1930s, when Tamil novels were becoming popular, the weeklies specialised in serialising them. Major journals were looking for novels that would engage the readers’ interest when serialised and improve the marketability of the journals. Later, famous Kalki specialised in writing historical novels and their serialisation was the main cause for the increased sale of Kalki magazine. Seeing the success of this strategy, many followed suit. The most successful author, after Kalki, was Sandilyan and he improved the circulation of Kumudam.

An early advertisement for a novel.

The 1930s was also when novels were being sought after by film-makers. Following this there also arose problems about copyright. One such incident was about the novel that Chitti Sundararajan wrote, his first and last novel. In 1935, Chitti wrote a Tamil novel titled Padma Saahasam. It was written specifically for being made into a film to be directed by the legendry Ellis R. Dungan. Even the proposed cast was fixed, but the producers started filming without letting Chitti know about it and T.S. Chokkalingam, who was already a well known editor and then writing for Dinamani, told Chitti that to make sure that the rights due to him for his novel were protected, he should immediately publish it as a serial in Dinamani. On May 19, 1936 serialisation began.

Chitti Sundararajan

However, for reasons not known, the film project was given up by the producer and the novel also got very bad reviews. In fact, Chitti was known for writing excellent short stories and one of his best was Andhimandarai which won critical acclaim. Ilangovan, known for his great dialogues in Tamil cinema (such as Kannagi) wrote, “We never expected this revolting writing from the pen that gave us Andhimandarai.” Since Ilangovan was a close friend, Chitti saw the truth in the statement and decided “from that day to give up writing novels.”

Translation of novels from English into Tamil was also becoming popular and Chitti translated Upton Sinclair’s novel Wet Parade into Tamil in 1937 and, as was the vogue, gave two alternative titles to the book, Maragadhavalli and Madhuvilakku Mangai. It was about prohibition and, therefore, had an appeal at the time.

T.S. Chokkalingam

The authors started taking up themes of romance and crime which were real hot subjects in English novels and the public wanted such novels in Tamil too. There sprang up many an author who specialised in writing Tamil romances and crime stories, mostly pitiable copies of the then second grade English novels.

Publishing the novels as books became the order of the day and, following the English practice, publishers started advertising the novels and in some cases keeping even the author’s name in suspense!

An advertisement of that day in the Swadesamitran talks about a novel to be published by a bookseller in Madras. The year is 1930! The bookseller: M S. Ramulu & Co, Royapuram, Madras.

The novel had two titles as was the practice – Ramamani or Lovers bound by love – and the advertisement says there are also pictures! It says the author is an experienced writer (name not revealed) but that he was adopting a new style. It goes on to say, “When you read this novel you will be bound as though by magic by the incidents and the way they are told.” To ensure the reader is impressed, it says, “Already efforts are afoot to make it into a bioscope, for which negotiations are on with a filming company.”

In this issue

Education standards fall in levelling
What will be the fate of the Cooum?
Getting ready for ­Madras (Day) Week ...
Quest for that precious Blue
The artist who designed the State emblem
Early modern Tamil novels
Other stories

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your diary


Back to current issue...