Tamil Writer Jayakanthan Biography
Jayakanthan was born in 1934 in a family of agriculturists in Cuddalore, in the South Arcot district of Tamil Nadu. Jayakanthan quit school after completing grade 3 Education. Jayakanthan was then considered a problematic child. Jayakanthan was close to his mother and grandfather. Jayakanthan had a rocky relationship with his father.
Unable to bear the harsh treatment meted out to him at home and in the village, Jayakanthan ran away from home at the age of 12 to Villupuram. There, Jayakanthan grew up under the aegis of his uncle from whom he imbibed communist ideologies and was also introduced to the works of Subramanya Bharathy. At this stage, his mother took him to Chennai and requested a friend / family member associated with Communist Party of India ( CPI ) to bring some sense to him for she was frustrated that he was a school dropout.
It was here where Jayakanthan first worked as a minion in the CPI Party Office. Jayakanthan has written a lot about his days in the office and seems to cherish his boyhood days there. During this period, Jayakanthan became acquainted with some great CPI Leaders of Tamil Nadu such as Mr. Jeeva Jeevanandam and Mr. Baladandayutham and many others. Thus, the CPI office in Chennai became his primary school, the members of the Communist Party his immediate family.
Jayakanthan grew up listening to the discussions of these leftists during his formative years. It can be seen that this had a serious impact on his outlook and literary works. Jayakanthan once wrote that Mr. Jeeva was horrified to read his Tamil with full of grammar mistakes. This led to Jeeva offering the fee needed for proper education under a Tamil Pandit. Thus Jayakanthan learned proper Tamil from a Pandit. Later he moved around in various jobs forced by circumstances.
Jayakanthan worked in the party’s printing press and spent his evenings selling the magazine JanaSakthi on street corners. But in 1949, unexpected political developments resulted in extreme restrictions on the activities of the CPI. Jayakanthan was forced to work in a shoe shop in Thanjavur for a short period of time, after which he came back to Chennai.
This period was an important phase for Jayakanthan as he found more time to think and read. During this period, the CPI also was eclipsed by the emergence of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam ( DMK ) and the DK, whom Jayakanthan termed “fascists”.
Internal rifts within the CPI and his difference of opinion on many political issues forced him to gradually withdraw from CPI and active politics. His frustration with CPI can be seen through his short story “Karungali” ( The Traitor ). Equally Jayakanthan broke ranks with his fellow Tamil Writers in opposing E.V. Ramasamy Naicker ( a noted rationalist Movement Leader in Tamil Nadu ) and his view of Brahmanism in Tamil Nadu.
Only a personality like Jayakanthan who could have the courage and wisdom to oppose Mr. E.V. Ramasamy openly in a public forum. Jayakanthan was greatly praised for his public speech in Tiruchi. Before this, Jayakanthan also tested waters in other political philosophies including Congress. Jayakanthan was fascinated with the former Chief Minister and Congress Party Leader Kamaraj and briefly served as a member of that party and actively compaigned for him and his party members during election time. Jayakanthan also served as the editor of “Nava – Shakthi” a daily with leanings towards Congress Party Philosophy.
Jayakanthan himself has accepted that he had no patience to do a systematic research and do a complete work. It was this lack of scholarly approach to his work led to more short stories than fiction writing. It was only later Jayakanthan matured enough to write fictions. Once Jayakanthan wrote that all his true friends lived in Soviet Russia. Of course Russia loved it and invited him as a state guest and gave him a “Nehru Literary Award”.
His lack of scholarships in matters of religion can be seen in his writings. Jayakanthan started his literary work at a young age. Jayakanthan started writing from around 1953 in Tamil magazines such as Saraswathi, Thamarai, Grama Uzhiyan and Anantha Vikatan. He called himself “the first Tamil Writer to earn a living by writing”.
Jayakanthan went on to become one of the most prolific and powerful Tamil Writers of the twentieth century. Jayakanthan also had a stint in Tamil Cinema and tried his hand at making films. Jayakanthan made a film based on his novel, Unnaippol Oruvan, which became the first Tamil Film to get an award at the national level in India. It was awarded the President’s award ( third prize ) in “The Best Regional Film” category.
It was then that Jayakanthan developed a relationship with a stage actress. Jayakanthan was already married to his uncle’s daughter. This chapter in his life was fictionalized in the novel Oru Nadigai Naadagam Paarkkiral ( An actress witnesses a play ).
His stories are vivid portrayals of life as he sees them and they embrace humanity as a whole. His later works also witnessed a strong dose of his philosophical musings. Jayakanthan is considered as one of the most influential Writers Tamil Literature has ever produced.
Jayakanthan is infamously known for his arrogance and his multi – dimensional personality. Significantly, his personality became ideal characters of a writer – many movies and writers later adopted such characters as protagonists for their creations.
Though Jayakanthan is not a brahmin, he orated “Why I am a Brahmin”, explaining why Brahminism was a concept.
Works of Jayakanthan
- Oar Ilakkiyavaadhiyin Arasiyal Anubavangal, October 1974.
- Oru Ilakkiyavaadhiyin Kalaiyulaka Anubavangal, September 1980 L.
- Vazhavaikka Vandha Gandhi 1973 ( Translation of Romain Rolland’s French biography of Gandhi ).
- Oru Kadhasiriyarin Kadhai May 1989 ( Life of Munshi Premchand ).
Jayakanthan Short Stories
- Oru Pidi Soru, September 1958.
- Inippum Karippum, August 1960.
- Dhevan Varuvaar, August 1961.
- Maalai Mayakkam, January 1962.
- Yugasandhi, October 1963.
- Unmai Sudum, September 1964.
- Pudhiya Vaarppukal, April 1965.
- Suyadharisanam, April 1967.
- Irandha Kaalangal, February 1969.
- Gurupeedam, October 1971.
- Chakkaram Nirpathillai, February 1975.
- Pugai Naduvinile… December 1990.
- Kansimittum Vinmeengal.
- Bharathi Paadam
- Imayaththukku Appaal
- 2009 – ‘Padma Bhushan’ – Very first time for Tamil Literature was given to Mr.D. Jayakanthan.
- 2002 – Jnanpith Award : The 2002 Jnanpith Award was announced for D. Jayakanthan. His works were described as one that delicately unveiled every depth of human emotion and equations. Announcing the Jayakanthan Award, L. M. Singhvi said “Jayakanthan has not only enriched the high traditions of literary traditions of Tamil Language but has also made outstanding contribution towards the shaping of Indian literature. His literature presents a deep and sensitive understanding of complex human nature and is an authentic and vivid index of Indian Reality.” ( The Hindu ).
- 1996 – Fellow of Sahitya Akademi ( Sahitya Akademi ).
- 1972 – Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize : Jayakanthan awarded Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize in 1972 for his work on Tamil Novel Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal. ( Sahitya Akademi ).