Creative modern writer
NEELA PADMANABHAN PADAIPPULAKAM NEELA PADMANABHANDE SRISHTI PRAPANCHAM (Tamil-Malayalam): K. M. George Chief Editor; Bharathi National Forum, TC/21/472, Karamamana, Thiruvananthapuram-695002.
NEELA PADMANABHAN (born in 1938) has won renown as an innovative fiction-writer with an uncommon inspiration and exciting techniques of story telling. Working as an engineer in the Kerala Electricity Board till his retirement in 1993, he has also pursued his writing career for over four decades, publishing his works from time to time and enlarging his circle of readers, admirers and literary friends.
Though little noticed at the beginning by the establishment in Tamil Nadu as a Kerala-based writer with a dialectal bias, discerning critics soon realised the emergence of a powerful creative artist in his writings, as they appeared over the years; they attracted the attention of a variety of readers and were criticised, applauded, and discussed in many ways in many contexts like reviews in periodicals, prefaces to the works themselves, independent letters, seminars, study-groups, and latterly in university dissertations for research degrees as well.
These varied responses to Padmanabhan's works over a long period of time, appearing in Tamil, English and Malayalam (besides the one in Hindi) have been assiduously collected in this sumptuous volume of 1128 pages (excluding prefatory matter of 468 pages).
There are a total of 365 contributors extracted here, of whom 51 are in Malayalam on translations of the author's Tamil works, besides a few publications of his as an independent Malayalam writer.
Among the contributors in this volume we find well-known professors and vice-chancellors, peer fiction-writers, foreign Tamil scholars, journalists, freelance writers and interested members of the public.
Padmanabhan's two famous novels Talaimuraigal (featuring three generations of a Hindu family with their divergent attitudes to life and related by the grandson as back flash narration) and Pallikondapuram (setting down the autobiographical reflections of a resident of Thiruvananthapuram on his city's temple and palace with which his life's rise and fall of fortune are bound up, and his wife too beautiful for him to manage, using the stream of consciousness technique to bring out the very soul of the great city of past regal splendours) receive greater coverage than other equally good novels and short stories.
The perceptive critic, Ka. Naa. Subramaniam, translator into English of Talaimuraigal (The generations) acclaims it as one of the best novels of the century; a Malayalam writer, N. V. Krishna Warrier, says that though writers in his language have described Thiruvananthapuram, none of them has been able to recreate its very soul as this Tamil novelist has done. Padmanabhan has distinguished himself not only in fiction writing but also as a provocative poet and essayist reminding us of Pudumaippittan (whom he admires) in his reflections on life and literature.
The excellence and the novelty of the fictional art of Padmanabhan, on which we have a consensus of opinions in this book in spite of criticisms of many details, are noteworthy.
In his choice of themes he does not run after sensation or surprise and confines himself to what he has realised and deeply felt in his own daily life, spreading out, so to say, his own inner self in his work transparently and truthfully; he has recourse to expert techniques of impressive expression, comprising narration, highlighting human situations in their in-depth dimension, and exposing them with a "Cathartic" value; and last but not least, he has recreated human situations in all their rich local colour, speaking their actual living speech, regardless of "purist" considerations which have made much Tamil fiction writing wooden and artificial.
These plus points are enough to mark him out as a path-breaker in modern Tamil fiction.
It is fitting for Kerala-based Tamil intellectuals to recognise and honour a Tamil author of acknowledged merit with a volume highlighting his achievement and serving as a handbook to the study of his works.
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