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C.S. Lakshmi

By Indira Parthasarathy
Puthakalayam, Madras, 1975, pp. 234, Rs. 7.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 1 July/August 1978

A Tamil proverb says that a half-nosed  person is the king among  noseless persons, This proverb can be applied with precision in the modern Tamil literary sphere where anything vaguely resembling political writing and every­thing that is made to seem revolutionary is hailed. The mere mention of a wor­ker, revolution, Lenin or Mao is enough to set up the writer as a revolutionary one. How does one distinguish a genu­ine literary work from these vulgarized attempts to make revolution seem like a saleable commodity? Maybe one could usefully recall what George Lukacs said about the novel genre having a caricatural twin with identical formal characteristics, only the caricatural twin is based on nothing. Let us see what lies beneath Kurudhi Punal, winner of the Academy Award in Tamil this year. It is generally believed that this novel is based on the incident of an entire Harijan basti being burnt down by a landlord in Kizhavenmani, in South India. In actuality, the novel is nothing but the ego trip of an intellectual by name Gopal from Delhi who has a doc­torate in Sociology. After this horrible incident Gopal imagines himself to be the epic figure Parasurama who swore that he would bathe in the blood of the Kshatriya kings, Gopal is the hero of this novel. The exploited Harijans and the politically committed persons in and around the village do not qualify for this exalted position of hero. Their characterization is done in such a way that they become shadows behind Gopal. Gopal’s friends Shiva (another Delhi intellectual who does such meaningful thinking as finding a psychological connection between the breast-fetish of the Tamils and their social conscious­ness) is something like a side-kick who occasionally overshadows the hero but remains consciously within the role of a sub-leader, Their egos clash here and there, and then emerges Gopal, Parasurama, who is going to avenge the death of the Harijans. This donning of a new image takes place not with any ideological help from Marx, Lenin or Mao but with full blessings of Freud. The most impor­tant motivation is not economic or social—but manliness. The social divi­sion in the novel is one between haves and have-nots, not in the economic sense but in a sense which even the most imaginative fabricator of facts would be hard put to conceive—in the sense of physical ...

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