Great Tamil Writer Pudhumaipithan Biography
Pudhumaipithan also spelt as Pudumaipithan or Puthumaippiththan is the pseudonym of C. Viruthachalam ( April 25, 1906 – May 5, 1948 ), one of the most influential and Revolutionary Writers of Tamil Fiction. His works were characterized by Social Satire, Progressive thinking and outspoken criticism of accepted conventions.
Contemporary Writers and critics found it difficult to accept his views and his works were received with extreme hostility. Pudhumaipithan as an individual and his works have been extensively reviewed and debated for over sixty years since his death. His influence has been accepted and appreciated by the present day writers and critics of Tamil Fiction. In 2002, the Government of Tamil Nadu nationalized the works of Pudumaippithan.
Pudhumaipithan Life and Career
Pudhumaipithan was born in Thiruppadirippuliyur ( Cuddalore ) in a Saiva pillai family. His early education was obtained in places like Gingee, Kallakurichi and Tindivanam. Pudhumaipithan completed his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Tirunelveli Hindu College in 1931. In the same year he married Kamala and moved to Madras.
His career as a writer began in 1933 with an essay “Gulabjaan Kaadhal” ( Love for Gulab Jamun ) published in the magazine Gandhi. His first short story “Aatrangarai Pillaiyaar” ( Pillaiyaar on the River Bank ) was published in 1934 in “Manikodi” and from then on his short stories appeared regularly in it.
His short stories appeared in a number of magazines like Kalaimakal, Jothi, Sudantira Chanku, Oozhiyan and Thamizh Mani and the annual issue of Dina Mani. Pudhumaipithan worked briefly as a sub editor at Oozhiyan and later at Dina Mani. In 1943, Pudhumaipithan left Dina Mani to join Dinasari.
In 1940, his book “Pudhumaipithan Kadhaigal” ( The stories of Pudhumaipithan ), an anthology of his short stories was published. Pudhumaipithan slowly ventured into the world of Tamil Cinema and worked as a scriptwriter in the films Avvaiyaar and KaamaValli.
In 1945, Pudhumaipithan started “Parvatha Kumari Productions” and made an abortive attempt at producing a film called “Vasanthavalli”. While working for the movie “Raja Mukthi”, in Pune Pudhumaipithan contracted tuberculosis. He died on 5 May 1948 at Thiruvananthapuram.
Pudhumaipithan Works and Themes
Pudumaippithan’s active writing period was less than 15 Years ( 1934 – 46 ) in which Pudhumaipithan wrote nearly 100 short stories, an equal number of essays on a variety of subjects, 15 poems, a few plays and scores of book reviews. His writings gave him a reputation as a maverick.
The subjects he wrote on and the characters he chose to portray were completely new to Tamil fiction. Pudhumaipithan felt that Tamil literature had been crippled by unspoken conventions and openly criticized those who adhered to them. In one of his essays he expressed his displeasure as :
We have been having a notion that there are certain things that can be said and certain things that cannot be said in ( Tamil ) literature; and we have lived with that philosophy. But that is not the truth.
For nearly two hundred years we have lived a life of parasites. We don’t even dare to see issues straight on the face and that is why we have been providing excuses for ourselves. If literature can give birth to the malicious Ravana, blood sheds and sinful allegories, why can’t it give a place to the poor prostitute? The society doesn’t rust because of that. Moreover, there is no way to preserve an antique that has already rusted.
Pudhumaipithan was unfazed by the hostile reception that his works received from contemporary writers and critics alike. Dismissing his critics, Pudhumaipithan wrote :
Just like God is not bound by theologians, my creations are not bound by your conventional standards. I am not responsible for that and neither are my creations. I would like to point out it is your standards you are using to judge my creations.
To voice his views he used a wide range of characters, both common – husbands wives, students, children, rickshaw pullers, villagers, beggars, whores, oppressed people, saints, revolutionaries; and uncommon – God, ghosts, monsters, hospital beds. Some of his favourite themes were – conflicts between emotion and reason, Hindu religion – its rules, rituals and laws, caste system, struggles for survival and oppression of women in the Indian society.
Pudhumaipithan Short Stories
Pudumaipithan is primarily known for his short stories. Of the 108 stories that have been identified as works of Pudumaipithan, only 48 had been published in book form during his life time. Most of his works were published in magazines like Manikodi, Kalaimakal, Jothi, Sudantira Chanku, Oozhiyan, Thamizh Mani, Dina mani, Dina Sari and Nandan.
The rest have been published posthumously in various anthologies, the latest one being in 2000. Pudhumaipithan belonged to the Manikodi movement ( named for the magazine ) which flourished in 1930s. Ku. Paa Rajakoopaalan, B. S. Ramaiya and Va. Ramasamy were his contemporaries in the Manikodi movement.
Pudhumaipithan was also a prolific translator of literary works from other languages into Tamil. Pudhumaipithan translated around 50 short stories, including the works of Moliere, Kay Boyle, Maxim Gorky, Sinclair Lewis, Ernst Toller, William Shakespeare, E. M. Delafield, William Saroyan, E. V. Lucas, Moshe Smilansky, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bret Harte, John Galsworthy, Aleksandr Kuprin, Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka, Ilya Ehrenburg, Guy de Maupassant, Valery Bryusov, Anatole France, Leonid Andreyev, Henrik Ibsen, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Murray Gilchrist, Frances Bellerby, Bjornstjerne Bjornson, Leonard Strong, Jack London, Peter Egge, Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov, Thomas Wolfe and James Hanley.
Pudhumaipithan had strong views on doing translations and adaptations. Pudhumaipithan equated adaptations to literary theft and held the view that translation was the proper way to bring literary works of other languages to Tamil.
In 1937, Pudhumaipithan was involved in a literary feud with Kalki Krishnamurthy on the issue of translations vs adaptations.
Pudumaipithan wrote about fifteen poems in total. His first published poem was Thiru Angila arasanga thondaradipodi azhwar vaibhavam, which appeared in 1934. Most of his poems were written as letters to his friend T. M. Chidambara Ragunathan in the form of Venpas. The fifteen poems were published posthumously in 1954.
Like his short stories, his poems are full of wit and satire. The most famous of his poems is the abusive limerick Moonavarunasalamae written in review of a book on Tamil prose, which failed to mention the Manikodi movement.
Pudhumaipithan Political Books
Pudumaipithan’s political orientation was socialist. Among his political essays and books, four are considered important – Fascist Jatamuni ( a biography of Benito Mussolini ), Gapchip Durbar ( a biography of Adolf Hitler ), Stalinukku Theriyum and Adhikaram Yarukku ( both endorsing communism and policies of Joseph Stalin ). All the four books contain scathing indictments of fascism and a general agreement with Stalinist policies.
Pudhumaipithan wrote under different pseudonyms, but the name “Pudhumaipithan” was the one that became famous. Pudhumaipithan himself preferred the name as he felt that this name was partially responsible for the appeal of his stories. Some of his other pseudonyms were So.Vi, Rasamattam, Mathru, Koothan, Nandhan, Oozhiyan, Kabhali, Sukraachari and Iraval visirimadippu. For publishing poems Pudhumaipithan used the pseudonym Velur Ve. Kandasamy Pillai.
Due to the accusation of plagiarism his pseudonyms have been extensively researched. T.M. Chidambara Ragunathan in his Pudhumaipithan Biography Pudumaippithan Kathaigal : Sila Vimarsanangalum Vishamangalum, has advanced the theory that all the works published under the name of “Nandhan” are adaptive works rather than original ones.