‘King Poet’ Kannadasan at 80

Random Thoughts (part 1)

by Sachi Sri Kantha, July 28, 2017

Thamil Kaviarasu Kannadasan (1997) front cover

Kavi Arasu [King Poet] Kannadasan’s 80th birthday passed by on June 24, 2017.  While serializing the biography of his contemporary MGR in this website, I have long wondered how their friendship, cooperation, conflict and rivalry in both cinema and politics, stimulated their creativity.  Both were strong-willed talents.  In the 38 chapters I have written so far on MGR’s biography, I have yet to focus on this angle — the MGR-Kannadasan dyad. Earlier, I also have had a thought of combining the lives of MGR and Kannadasan, as a dual biography.  Their interaction in cinema, politics and social activism of tentatively three decades (1950-1980) also aligned neatly with my first three decades (I tag it as my ‘salad days’) in Sri Lanka.  I left the island in August 1981.  Kannadasan died in Chicago in October 1981.  MGR died in December 1987.

In a short Tamil book, I published on Kannadasan twenty years ago, Thamil Kavi Arasu Kannadasan (1997), I marginally touched on the MGR – Kannadasan collaboration in Tamil movies in a brief essay.  This essay needs further expansion in the MGR biography series.  Neither Kannadasan nor MGR would have dreamt that their collaborative creativity in movie scripts, movie lyrics, and meaningful inspirational songs to Tamils and the down-trodden tribes would gain revival, wider popularity and new fans with digital media, especially in YouTube format (that was established in February 2005).

The entry on Kannadasan in Wikipedia, leaves much to be desired. For a comparison, check the Wikipedia entries on poets Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) or Philip Larkin (1922-1985). As an Wikipedian, I had experienced the futility in providing reliable citations on Tamil notables and politicians, due to the timidity of narrow-minded ‘fans who want nothing but the best’ about their ‘heroes’. By his own admission and by general consensus, Kannadasan was a flawed person. His weaknesses for liquor, drug and women were well known and he himself had recorded these in his creative works. In fact, I’d suggest that these were the muses for his creativity. So, why one shouldn’t acknowledge his weaknesses in a realistic evaluation of his talent? Thus, in this occasional series, I opt to develop a profile of Kannadasan, which will be an essential alternate to what prevails in the Wikipedia entry on him.

Eleven years ago, I received a gift of an elegant research compendium on Kannadasan (published in 2003) from my high school friend S. Sivakumaran. It was titled, ‘Kannadhasan Aayvuk Kovai’ [a collection of 100 critical essays on Kannadhasan], compiled by Prof. M. Sayabu Maraikayar (b. 1951). To the best of my knowledge, in 756 pages, this seems to be the foremost work on Kannadasan’s creativity. Unfortunately, all the 100 essays contributed by Tamilnadu academics were written in Tamil. Sadly, not much information is available about this research compendium in the internet. As such, I provide below my English translations of the titles of 100 essays on Kannadasan, in the listed order. Some titles make reference to Kannadasan’s works, which I indicate in italics.

  1. Kannadasan’s view on society
  2. Kannadasan’s Kannan songs
  3. King Poet Kannadasan’s courageous policy
  4. Kannadasan’s ‘View and Path’
  5. King Poet Kannadasan’s ‘Thai Paavai’
  6. King Poet I had met…
  7. Aadalarasan’
  8. Expression patterns in Kannadasan’s movie lyrics
  9. Kannadasan’s commentary on Tirukural’s ‘Kamathu Paal’[Love]
  10. Kannadasan’s ‘Yesu Kaviyam’ – Genesis.
  11. Kannadasan’s linguistic pattern in prose
  12. Kannadasan’s ‘Thai Paavai’
  13. Historical vignettes in Kannadasan’s drama scripts
  14. King Poet’s commentary on ‘Tiruppavai’
  15. Kannadasan – Lover of this Land
  16. Journalist Kannadasan
  17. Poet of the Times
  18. King Poet’s poetry Lightnings
  19. Progressive thoughts in poet Kannadasan’s songs
  20. Social thoughts on Kannadasan’s movie lyrics
  21. Poet Kannadasan’s six commands
  22. Oppressed folks in Kannadasan’s movie lyrics
  23. Kannadasan’s passion for Tamil language
  24. Kannadasan’s thoughts on feminism
  25. Feminism in Kannadasan’s poetry
  26. Caste and society in Kannadasan’s thoughts
  27. Allegorical beauty in Kannadasan’s creations
  28. Mahakavi Bharathi and King Poet Kannadasan
  29. Kannadasan and religious thoughts
  30. Psychological view in Kannadasan’s ‘Sruthi Seraatha Ragamkal’ novel
  31. Kannadsan’s view of love
  32. Social thoughts in Kannadasan’s movie lyrics
  33. Supreme pleasure presented by Kannadasan
  34. Kannadasan’s elegies
  35. Virutham verses among Kannadasan’s poems
  36. Kavimani Sri Krishna Anthati verses of the lover of Kannan
  37. Trends in Kannadasan’s novels
  38. Kannadasan and theistic thoughts
  39. Secret of Kannadasan’s creativity – a study of ‘Pushpamalika’
  40. A view of Kannadasan’s ‘Nambikkaikal’, ‘Vasantha Kalangal’ and ‘Thoughts 1000’.
  41. Bible and ‘Yesu Kaviyam’
  42. Kannadasan’s view of Islam
  43. Kannadasan and greetings
  44. Became a poet because of Kannadasan
  45. Message on Touch
  46. Kannadasan’s multi-viewed thoughts
  47. Kannadasan – a pole star in the poetry sky
  48. Religious Tamil in movie music
  49. Poet Kannadasan’s life experiences
  50. Sri Krishna Anthati and Alvar saints
  51. ‘Muppathu Naalum Pournami’ (novel) – realism and boundary breach
  52. Tone in Kannadasan’s movie lyrics
  53. Kannadasan’s translation talent
  54. Instability in poet Kannadasan’s songs
  55. ‘Mankani’ [Mango fruit] – a love epic
  56. Sayings of Kannadasan
  57. Tamil literary thoughts in Kannadasan’s movie lyrics
  58. Kannadasan’s view of history
  59. Nehru in Kannadasan’s elegies
  60. King Poet Kannadasan’s commentary on ‘Abirami Anthati’
  61. Self predicament and philosophy of King Poet
  62. Poem in Three dimensions
  63. Kannadasan’s lullaby songs
  64. Kannadasan’s thought athletics
  65. Philosophical thoughts in the movie lyrics of poet Kannadasan
  66. Social view in Kannadasan’s movie lyrics
  67. Thoughts on God by Kannadasan
  68. Language purity in Kannadasan’s movie lyrics
  69. Kannadasan’s elegies
  70. All thoughts on Kannadasan
  71. Feminist angle in poet Kannadasan’s songs
  72. Kannadasan’s ‘Aachi’ [Grandma] – an ethnological novel
  73. Theism in Kannadasan’s songs
  74. ‘Kannamma’, viewed by Mahakavi and King Poet
  75. Love in Literature
  76. World view in Kannadasan’s songs
  77. Multifaceted view in the mini stories of great poet
  78. Focal dominance of Kannadasan’s movie lyrics
  79. Kannadasan and ‘Kavithanjali’
  80. His thoughts in a Cup
  81. Philosophical songs of Kannadasan
  82. Body language in ‘Mangani’ [Mango fruit] epic
  83. A literary view of poet’s ‘Aviveka Chintamani’
  84. Kannadasan’s movie lyrics
  85. Poetic depth of Kannadasan
  86. A view of Kannadasan’s ‘Vanavaasam’ [autobiography]
  87. Metaphorical use and dimensions in movie lyrics
  88. Kannadasan’s theistic challenge
  89. ‘Mangani’ [Mango fruit]
  90. Kannadasan’s Commandments
  91. Allegorical beauty in ‘Yesu Kaviyam’ [Jesus epic]
  92. Kannadasan’s philosophical view
  93. Social focus in Kannadasan’s movie lyrics
  94. Kannadasan and Kunangudi Masthan Sahib
  95. Nationalism and integration in Kannadasan’s poetry
  96. Sweetness of a great guy
  97. Poet Kannadasan and felicitation verses
  98. Social thoughts in Kannadasan’s songs
  99. Comparative view of Kannadasan and Milton – Birth of Jesus in their poetry
  100. Grace in King Poet Kannadasan, exposited in ‘Pushpamalika’ essay verses

All these essays were relatively short, 4- 6 pages in length, touching on the versatility of Kannadasan’s creativity. Majority deal with his move lyrics. A few had compared Kannadasan with Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi (1882-1921), John Milton (1608-1674) and Kunangudi Masthan Sahib (a 17th century Muslim saint of Tamil Nadu). A few of the specific poetry and prose works of Kannadasan, such as Mangani, Thaipaavai, Yesu Kaviyam, Aachi have also been studied. One of the best contributions which appear in this compendium was some reminiscences of Kannadasan’s publisher Vanathi Thirunavukarasu (who died last year at the age of 88). In this essay, Thirunavukarasu had observed that basically, Kannadasan was a nocturnal creature, and his creativity peaked between 6:00 – 9:00 pm.

I also note that NONE of the 100 essays had touched up on themes which were dear to me; (1) Kannadasan’s popularization of natural science in movie lyrics, (2) Kannadasan’s take on the Eelam Tamil conflict with the majoritarian Sinhalese government. In my book, published in 1997, I had covered these themes. For reference, I provide below a PDF file of one of my essays on Kannadasan’s popularization of natural science in Tamil verse form. When the original essay was published in 1982 in the Ootru (a science magazine, from the University of Peradeniya), I could refer only vol.1 of Kannadasan’s movie lyrics, for reference. Now, this essay need a revised update, as 5 volumes of Kannadasan’s movie lyrics have appeared. The second theme, which I mentioned above, about Kannadasan’s treatment of Eelam Tamil conflict also deserves an update. In fact, Kannadasan’s Tamil verses on this theme also need to be translated into English, for wider recognition.

‘Scientific thoughts on Kannadasans movie lyrics (1982) by Sachi

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