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This year marks the birth centenary of writer P.V. Akilandam, aka Akilan, who was the first Tamil writer to be honoured with the Jnanpith Award in 1975 for his novel Chithirapavai, Akilan was born June 27 in 1922 in Karur, his mother’s hometown. His father was from Perungalur of Pudukottai district.

As a young man in pre-Independence India, Akilan organized youth groups that launched anti-liquor campaigns and the boycott of foreign cloth. Akilan worked first in the land registration department; in 1958 he moved to the Railway Postal department. And starting 1966 he worked at the All India Radio in Chennai until 1982. He passed away in January 1988.

In 1963, Akilan was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award.for his novel Vengaiyin Maindan. Several of his novels were made into movies —  Pavai Vilakku, Kayalvizhi was shot as Maduraiyai Meetiya Sundarapandian and Vaazhvu Engey became Kulamagal Radhai. His prolific literary output spanned a wide range – from short stories, novels and plays to children’s literature, travelogues and translations.

He said that whether it was his first story or the last one he was going to write, they were all based on reality. His feelings were conveyed through imagination but the ideas were rooted in truth and reality. On one side is the natural world that is beautiful and fecund. On the other are human beings filled with hatred and differences. This was the underlying theme of his works, he said.

In 1963, Akilan was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award for his novel Vengaiyin Maindan. Several of his books were made into movies —  Pavai Vilakku, Kayalvizhi was shot as Maduraiyai Meetiya Sundarapandian and Vaazhvu Engey became Kulamagal Radhai

Here we are reproducing an interview with Akilan in the May 1968 issue of Mullaicharam. a publication brought out by poet Ponnadiyan.

Many publications are putting out poor quality stories in the name of novelty but which contribute to cultural degeneration. What do you think?
In my opinion, Tamil culture is largely for bloviating on public platforms. If we carefully look at each facet of life, we will see that there is a big gap between what is said to be our culture and what actually happens. It is true that stories in publications and songs in films are part of a degeneration. Doing good to others has become a business. To live by destroying others’ body, mind and spirit is equal to prostitution.

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Filmmakers are saying there is a paucity of good stories in Tamil Nadu.
This only means they have not evolved to read and understand good literature. If what they are saying is true, then how is it that so many good stories are being stolen and made into films?

Do you support love marriage and inter-caste marriage?
My stories answer this.  My novel, Vaazhvu Engey is based on this. I don’t just pay lip service that castes should be destroyed. I actively work for it.

What do you think of the narrative style being adopted in the literary world today?
There is Tamil prose in general. And there is a style of individual writers. In English the two words, prose and style, are different, while in Tamil the same words are used. You are talking about individual styles. This differs from writer to writer. Life experiences, creative talent, worldview and the author’s ability to use words and craft contribute to his individual style. The ups and downs in the university of everyday life are the source of a writer’s words. Changes in life inevitably lead to changes in the writing style of writers too.

Stories written 30-40 years ago don’t carry too many Sanskrit or English words. The reason is that our spoken Tamil itself has changed much. The writing style has changed in keeping with this. If we want to expound on writing styles, it would take a book. Just a set of Tamil words doesn’t make a style. The life in the words, the feelings they convey, and the depth of ideas they convey should all be analyzed.

A word in the lexicon is just a tool. In the hands of a a good writer or poet, it is a living being.

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