Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Writer Sujatha & principle of "Management of the Absurd"

I have been recently reading a lot of Sujatha. For the uninitiated, Sujatha is the pen name of a successful Engineer of yesteryear turned successful writer - novelist, screenwriter in various capacities including screenplay, dialogues for various successful movies including "Roja", "Mudalvan" (Nayak), "Indian" (Hindustani). His other brownie points include being a classmate of APJ Adbul Kalam and supervising the design and production of the now successful Electronic Voting Machine. More details @ Wiki

In his famous collection of essays in Tamil "Katrathum Petrathum" he discussed a book called "Management of the Absurd" by Richard Farson in which Sujatha summarized the paradoxes in leadership that shaped and changed the world. He quoted several examples from the book that made for very interesting reading! For example, the first of Abolitionists - people who voiced equality of African Americans in the US - were non-African Americans; Child-rights activists are almost universally adults; some of the most successful divorce lawyers are happily married!

Sujatha drew parallels in the Indian context. Indian National Congress was instituted by A.O. Hume, a non-Indian. Some of the most ardent pro-Tamil activists had a mother-tongue that is not Tamil.

In fact ironically enough, I think Sujatha himself fits into this paradox if you will. I started reading Sujatha's creations after his death on February 2008. I have known Sujatha before that more for his novels and back-stage involvement in the film industry than for his essays. I have read some of his novels for which he was very famous, including "En iniya iyandira", "Aryabatta" and a few others that didn't find as much mention, like "Niramatra vaanavil", "ilamayil kol" etc. To my surprise, I was disappointed with the lack of quality in all his novels, famous or otherwise. Drifting storyline turns out to be the common denominator in all his creative writings, though the famous ones did have some substance that allowed me to stick with the book till the end.

Ironically, I found his series of essays in "Katrathum Petrathum" as the best of his creations that I read so far. This book truly highlight his unique ability to discuss complex scientific concepts like "uncertainty principle" (yeah.. that wretched concept that we used to memorize in our 11th grade!) in ridiculously simple Tamil, his off the cuff wits, and most of all his well-known versatility in areas as unrelated as creative writing and science.


Sumi Raghavan said...

Hi Badhri,
am a great fan of Sujatha, like my family members..I still remember the story through which I got introduced to Sujatha. (guess in my 6th or 7th std) It is "Karuppu kuthirai"...based on cricket match fixing...was also a regular of "Katrathum petrathum" in Anada vikatan..Our Servant maid was working in Suajtha's home in Mylapore..I was even thinking of meeting him thro her..but didn't happen...
As u said, he explains the much complex scientific concepts in very simple tamil...well, I wanted to say "Keep ur Sujatha books safe...coz I will lend them from u when we come back " :-)

Badhri said...

I will remember "Karuppu Kuthirai". It is especially interesting since it seems to have predicted what is now a truth - match fixing.
I read "en iniya iyanthira" with a lot of expectation, but somehow the novel turned out to have fallen short of it, in spite of the evident creativity. I found Aryabatta was ok too, but was a bit cinematic (pardonable!). I think I am at a disadvantage of reading his work after his time.

I will preserve his books and give it to you! Don't worry.

Maayaa said...

I kindaa agree with most of what you said - esp. about the disapointment from his novels..I recently read his rattham orae niram. It was okay- just okay i mean. may be our minds are comparing it to kalki :)
I never READ en iniya iyandira and other works... almost i vaguely remember watching them as serials..
interesting to know abt "mgmt of the absurd"

Badhri said...

I hear, his best work is Srirangathu devathaigal. Tried to get it sometime ago, but it wasn't available. But guess what, I searched the web just now and the pdf is available (but it is protected by copyright. So can't share it here!) :D