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Actor Kamal Haasan and writer Jeyamohan discuss world literature, filmmaking and the power of narrative

Jeyamohan’s new guide ‘Stories of the True’, the translation of his well-known brief story assortment ‘Aram’, will probably be out quickly

Jeyamohan’s new guide ‘Stories of the True’, the translation of his well-known brief story assortment ‘Aram’, will probably be out quickly

Of all the sides of Kamal Haasan — actor, director, screenwriter, dancer, singer, politician and extra — maybe the least mentioned is his engagement with Tamil literature. He has usually collaborated with writers for his movies and has spoken of the numerous literary influences on his life and work. Last week, Haasan caught up with prolific Tamil writer Jeyamohan, whose new guide, Stories of the True , the English translation of his bestselling brief story assortment, Aram , was just lately launched. In a freewheeling dialog at the actor’s studio in Chennai, they mentioned world literature, their philosophical and aesthetic beliefs, the intersection of literature and cinema, and extra. Edited and condensed for size and readability:

Writer-critic Jeyamohan

Writer-critic Jeyamohan
| Photo Credit: Johan Sathyadas

Kamal Haasan: It’s been practically 11 years because you wrote this guide in Tamil, nevertheless it nonetheless rings true. I imagine you needed to put in writing it as non-fiction initially, as a result of it’s about actual individuals. What made you fictionalise it?

Jeyamohan: Around the time I turned 50, I felt like I had misplaced religion in idealism. In an try to regain my religion, I began writing about the idealists I had met till then. I wrote the story, ‘A Hundred Armchairs’, as an essay at first, nevertheless it didn’t work. For me, fiction was more true to the authentic spirit. An essay can solely categorical an thought. It can’t categorical the spirit. So, I selected fiction.

When this assortment got here out, many readers wrote to me about related personalities they knew of. I printed these letters on my web site. So, the total course of of regaining religion in idealism grew to become a collective train.

‘Aram’ by Jeyamohan.

‘Aram’ by Jeyamohan.

I’ve to let you know that I used to be stunned to listen to that you just launched the guide on a well-liked TV present. I instructed my buddies then, that Kamal too appears to be making an attempt to regain his religion in ethics and excessive morality.

Kamal Haasan: That is true. That is why I did  Hey Ram. It was my testimonial to my hero [Gandhi]. He is a hero for the each of us, isn’t he? He is a permanent testimonial for upright dwelling.

Jeyamohan: Are you an idealist? This may sound a bit exaggerated, however I really feel that Tamil individuals have been considerably corrupted by politics. How do you retain your religion in democracy and in idealism?

Kamal Haasan: Democracy shouldn’t be a protected deposit. It’s not one thing we locked away safely on August 15, 1947. That’s not how I see it. Constant vigil is required to maintain democracy intact. Everybody has to participate in that. If you don’t have an effect on politics, politics will have an effect on you. But to know that, I needed to flip 50.

Jeyamohan: So you’re not impatient with the common public?

‘Venmurasu’ by Jeyamohan

‘Venmurasu’ by Jeyamohan

Kamal Haasan: I can’t be. Gandhiji addressed a gathering of the Congress in 1908. It took one other 40 years for his dream to come back true. These issues take time and it might go whichever approach. But that’s objective. I’ve mentioned earlier that you just and Ilaiyaraaja work an excessive amount of. I’d say, chill out, what’s the hurry? But I take my phrases again now. It’s like Salieri telling Mozart that there are too many notes. I feel it may need been envy too. I realise now that it’s not a race. It’s not a winnable race, actually. Especially after  Venmurasu (2014-20), I don’t assume there’s any writer who can compete with you in phrases of output. That tenacity of objective, that in itself, is an moral stand you’ve taken.

Cinema and literature — two sides of the identical coin?

Jeyamohan: A Malayalam filmmaker as soon as mentioned that the period of movies primarily based on literature ended with O.V. Vijayan’s  Khasakkinte Itihasam, as a result of, based on him, cinema and literature had grow to be two very various things. Do you imagine so?

Kamal Haasan: No, I don’t imagine so. I recall a gathering held 44 years in the past. Bridging literature and cinema was at the core of the dialogue that day. We needed writers like Balakumaran and Sujatha to get into movies. Later on, it got here to be believed that the finest of administrators would deal with all three facets — screenplay, dialogue and route — themselves. But to me, cinema is a democratic artwork during which many individuals have to come back collectively. Spartacus — the 1960 movie that introduced collectively Dalton Trumbo, Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas — is so alive even at present. Combinations comparable to which might be rising [in Tamil cinema] solely now.

An area for empathy

Kamal Haasan: Coming again to ‘A Hundred Armchairs’, the depth of your anger and sorrow in that story made me query who you had been.

Jeyamohan: When I first wrote the story in 1992, I stored referring to the essential character as ‘him’. But the story was lifeless. I instructed myself that I couldn’t write it and put it away. Later, after I wrote this assortment, I got here again to that story and rewrote the essential character in first particular person. That’s when empathy entered the story.

Kamal Haasan: Yes, that’s what made me surprise should you had been from the group [of the protagonist].

Jeyamohan:  Piridhin noi thannoi pol potrakadai. Feeling the ache of one other soul as if it had been your personal — that’s elementary to literature. If that’s not doable, literature will undergo. If I can’t really feel the ache of Ukraine, then I can’t really feel the ache of my neighbour too.

Protesters at an anti-Russian demonstration outside the Russian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland.

Protesters at an anti-Russian demonstration outdoors the Russian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Also, so far as writing is worried, from the starting, I believed in two issues. Firstly, in story. I feel the artwork type of story is one of the best innovations of man. Therefore, I used to be clear that I needed that in my works. Secondly, emotion. I make no compromises on that rely. [After the wave of modernism], I really feel these are the two facets I dropped at Tamil literature.

When I wrote this guide, I realised one other factor. Those I take to be my lecturers… Sundara Ramaswamy, Ashokamitran… they might not eulogise one other character. They offered themselves of their writing. The ‘I’ Ramaswamy wrote about, was himself. I’d say that about myself too, to some extent. But simply as Kabilar sang about the king, Paari, and recorded him in historical past, I’ve set down ‘Elephant Doctor’ [and others] in writing. I really feel that it’s a writer’s obligation to take action. An idealist lives his life a sure approach. It is the accountability of a writer to file it for posterity.

Kamal Haasan: You say Sundara Ramaswamy was your trainer. For me, even these I’d by no means seen had been my lecturers. Let’s take Saadat Hasan Manto, for example. When I wrote the scenes that includes Saketh Ram [in  Hey Ram], I felt like Manto was respiration down my neck, as if he was watching me write. Manto had such a robust affect on me. I’m not so influenced by O. Henry, for instance. Because what Manto talks about is my nation, my story, I do know the topography, it’s the land my father tread on…

Kamal Haasan and Vasundhara Das in ‘Hey Ram’.

Kamal Haasan and Vasundhara Das in ‘Hey Ram’.

Adaptations and problems

Jeyamohan: Have you ever tailored a literary textual content right into a screenplay? What form of problems can diversifications pose?

Kamal Haasan: I wish to share this instance [of a role reversal]. The screenplay Trumbo wrote for  Spartacus was a novel in itself. I used to be so in awe of it, I went and learn Howard Fast’s novel [on which the movie is based]. It begins in reverse! And it reads like a screenplay. There had been no takers for the guide when Fast wrote it in the 50s. Until Kirk Douglas got here ahead, nobody dared to make a film on it. U.S. senator McCarthy’s tyranny was at its peak and Trumbo had fled the nation. But even throughout these troubled occasions, Douglas credited Trumbo for  Spartacus. That’s how troublesome issues could be.

Back dwelling, Jayakanthan himself oversaw the movie primarily based on his guide to verify it was heading in the proper route… It needed to be achieved that approach in these occasions. In Malayalam, as , the writer-filmmaker relationship is nicely established. In reality, I’d say, that in Malayalam, filmmakers are tremendously influenced by writers.

Malayalam novelist and filmmaker M.T. Vasudevan Nair.

Malayalam novelist and filmmaker M.T. Vasudevan Nair.
| Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

Jeyamohan: That, I’d particularly credit score to M.T. Vasudevan Nair. He laid the path for writers in [Malayalam] cinema. He was really in a position to affect the success of a movie.

But there’s a unique downside now. The affect of visible media on writers has, to be sincere, introduced down the high quality of literature somewhat than elevating it.

Kamal Haasan: Definitely.

Jeyamohan: Aesthetics of language is the basis of writing. Today, describing what you see, with out contemplating linguistic magnificence, appears to be a development. ‘Zero narration’. The type of saying so and so occurred as if summarising a scene.

Kamal Haasan: That got here in cinema too. Anti-narrative.

Jeyamohan: There’s a scene in my story ‘Elephant Doctor’, the place worms eat into the carcass of an elephant. In the Malayalam translation, which I wrote, the physician holds the worm in his hand and says, “So, you want a whole elephant for a meal?” It could also be tiny nevertheless it does eat an elephant… That is fiction’s second. It isn’t just visible element.

Language problem

Jeyamohan: Do you assume you may mirror each highly effective evocation of a literary work in cinema, to the identical extent?

Kamal Haasan: Cinema is a unique language. Just as an English translation is a unique expertise, cinema too is completely different. If Shakespeare had been to get into movies at present, he must attend a screenplay workshop. Kamban too. Like dialect could also be misplaced in the translation of a guide, there could be some loss whereas making a movie adaptation too.

Jeyamohan: But you acquire one thing else…

Kamal Haasan: Yes. There’s a scene in Michael Ondaatje’s  The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, which is strictly the identical as a scene from  Kalingattuparani, of a vulture flying away with the intestines, and the protagonist drawing it again. That astounds me. I don’t know the way it acquired there… Perhaps he learn a translation of the Tamil work. Like you heard about the Elephant Doctor’s love for Lord Byron, we by some means hear these tales. Even our dialog at present might have an effect on a writer someplace.

The interview has been translated from Tamil by Priyamvada Ramkumar, who’s the translator of Jeyamohan’s Stories of the True  (Juggernaut, 2022).

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