Juggler of genres, spinner of stories, Mukundan rages on

March 27th, 2008 - 11:08 am ICT by admin  

By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, March 27 (IANS) In his own words, Sahitya Akademi award winning Malayalam author Maniyambath Mukundan “is never happy with his work”. However, 30 books and numerous awards later, his passion to experiment with different genres still rages. His latest book “Dance”, to be released this month, is an example of that.

Translated into English from Malayalam, “Dance” is a journey of a kalarippayattu dancer - practitioner of an ancient martial art form of Kerala - into mastering various other modern dance forms.

The book, which also touches upon the subject of homosexuality, was initially released in 1996 in Malayalam, titled “Nrittam”. Delhi-based Mukundan said his book, a work of fiction, is a tribute to different dance forms.

“‘Dance” is a peep for the ordinary Malayali living in a village in Kerala into different dance forms across the world. Of course, I had to do a lot of research before delving into this topic, but more than that, I had to learn dance myself,” Mukundan told IANS in an interview here.

“Simply research sans any experience does not do full justice to a subject.”

His passion for his subject, therefore, had made him learn various art forms - theatre and music, for instance.

“When you are honest to your subject, it reflects in your writing. Before ‘Dance’, I had written a book on theatre, which was so widely appreciated that the National School of Drama staged a Hindi play based on that storyline,” the bespectacled, 66-year-old author said.

So passionate is he about his work that as a young man of 20 when his first book “Roads” was rejected by a publisher, he actually contemplated suicide! It’s a different story that years later, he went on to win an award instituted in the same publisher’s name after his death.

While he has now retired from the French embassy where he worked in the department of culture for a good 30 years, Mukundan said it had not been easy continuing to write while working full time all these years.

“Writing is a passion that can’t be extinguished so easily. When I was working with the French embassy, I used to wake up at four in the morning to write for my book.

“Four years after retiring, I still wake up at four to write,” he laughed.

Although he writes only in Malayalam, six of Mukundan’s books have been translated into other languages.

One of the first books that he wrote, “Mayyazhi Puzhayude Theerangalil” (”On the banks of the river Mahe”), was not only translated into regional languages like Tamil, Bengali and Hindi but also into English and French.

“I was 25 when I wrote ‘On the banks of the river Mahe’. It won me the Crossword award along with Vikram Seth. Other than ‘God’s Mischief’, another of my books, this book remains one of my bestsellers till date,” he said.

Three of Mukundan’s books have been made into films. “God’s Mischief” is one of them, whose script Mukundan wrote himself and it went on to win the state award.

But he confessed: “I don’t enjoy making movies out of my books.

“I am very possessive of my books. After the film on ‘God’s Mischief’ was released, the story came to be known as the director’s story, which, of course, I didn’t like.

“Besides, I strongly feel that a movie restricts your imagination, unlike a book. In a movie you will see a character from the director’s perspective while a book gives you the freedom to imagine,” the grey-haired Mukundan said.

His next book will be on the subject of expatriate Malayalis.

“Almost one-third of the Malayalis live outside their home. Most of them are abroad. My next book will be on them. It will need a lot of research and time, but I will do it some time soon.

“Generally I don’t take more than six months in writing a book. It’s after that, when I sit on it, re-reading it and polishing it up, that I spend the maximum time,” he said.

Besides the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award, the French government also conferred on him the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 1998 for his contribution to literature.

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