Jayakantan, winner of the Jnanpith award this year is one of the writers I’m proud to have read. And read again. And again now, thanks to the internets. And (cliché alert!) yes, the Jnanpith just went up a few notches in esteem.
His writing is minimalist: businesslike, brisk, and shorn of adornments. The content always takes precedence over presentation. Not for him the verbal flourishes of a Marquez or even Le Carre. Writing was but a medium to showcase his ideas – his brilliant, radical and often controversial ideas. He courted controversy, and reveled in shocking conventional sensitivities. He went on to write for a few films, and even directed a couple. Another medium.
A staunch Marxist, he was a fixture on Theekadhir, a red “newspaper” that my uncle used to buy – my first introduction to the man. Later, I read Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal and walked around for a few days swelling with pride – that works like this existed in Tamil and that I had read it.
Jayakantan, however, is much more than the mere aggregation of his inherited traditions. He is, above all, an individual with a sense of the future, one who makes his or her own future, a future which is usually coloured with hints of an optimistic dawn about to happen. His masterstroke is to revisit the past and examine the possibility of different futures…
On another note, why is it that all the artists in my life bleed so red? Le Carre, Jayakanthan. And Illayaraaja who started off his career singing Communist propaganda songs. Sheer chance maybe. Or perhaps, God willed it thus.