A study in contrast
“Even dabbling in diverse fields is a difficult task. But, Nanjil Nadan manages to render justice to both his roles as a writer and a branch manager of a firm”, writes SUBHA J RAO
HEAVY-DUTY CREATIVITY: The travelling entailed by his work helps author Nanjil Nadan give vent to his creativity. Pic: K. Ananthan.
SELLING MATERIAL-handling equipment and being a force to reckon with in the field of creative writing — that’s an odd combination. But, G. Subramaniam aka Nanjil Nadan has straddled both worlds with ease, managing to rise in the ranks in his workplace as well as make a mark in the world of literature.
A well-known name in the literary field with six novels, five short collections and an anthology of poems to his credit, Nanjil Nadan became a celebrity when director Thangar Bachan translated his first novel “Thalaikeezh Vigithangal” onto the silver screen as “Solla Marandha Kathai“. Being referred to as the original writer of the film irks the author. “At times, I am invited to functions and introduced as the person who wrote the base story of Solla Marantha Kathai. That rankles, for I have been writing for nearly 30 years now.” But, he admits that the movie has brought people back to his writing.
He bristles with indignation at the sidelining of real scholars. “I love cinema, but we have to admit that it tends to glorify even ordinary talent. Popularity is not commensurate with talent.”
Was he happy with the film? Smiling, he says, “I understand the medium is different. A film demands just 10-12 major scenes. As a novelist, I am happy with the way my story was shot. Of course, certain basic changes had to be made to suit the medium. My novel was written in the dialect prevalent in my region. It was just not possible to use that through the movie. I wrote the novel in 1975. The movie was made quarter a century later. So, certain elements had to be compromised. I understood that.”
Ask him if he will allow another novel of his to be made into a movie and he replies in the affirmative.
The writer is happy that this generation is going back to serious writing. “For some time, it was confined to literary magazines, but this generation is showing renewed interest in such literature.”
An author does not normally know who reads his works, but when he sees someone who does, that thrill cannot be measured, he says. “My job entails a lot of travelling and when I see someone on a train reading my work, I feel I have attained the purpose of my birth.”
One of Nanjil Nadan’s short stories recently featured in “Nenjil Nirpavai”, a collection of 60 stories put together by noted writer Sivasankari. “It was a nice attempt and covered almost all the important writers,” he observes. The Branch Manager of W. H. Brady and Co, says his job, which necessitates a lot of travelling, has helped a lot in his writing. “Travelling ensures I have a lot of time to read. I don’t have much to do after I return to the hotel after 6 p.m and I prefer staying home on holidays. My job has helped me see places, talk to people and observe them. Many of my ideas germinated during such travel,” he states.
The public exposure also helps. The writer says he tends to talk to those sitting next to him. And, even there, an urban-rural divide exists. “Villagers are more open, while urbanites are restrained. They look like they are in a pressure cooker. Somehow, their innocence has been lost.”
“We have a lot to learn from our rural and tribal brethren,” Nanjil Nadan says. “I recently spent two days with the tribals in the Anamalais and realised what a lot they can teach us. Our trouble in the South is that our mind is set. We refuse to learn. It is difficult to convince or convert people.”
Nanjil Nadan is now penning a book on his community — the Vellalas of Nanjilnadu. “It basically traces the journey of the community and the lifestyle changes. Take cuisine, for example. My mother knows 50 per cent of what my grandmother knew, my wife half of that and my daughter even lesser. Food has now come to mean rice, rasam, sambhar and beans and carrot poriyal. Regional delicacies are all but forgotten,” he rues.