Friday, February 29, 2008

Srirangathu sci-fi mama

Sujatha @ Rangarajan

It happens that I am paying a tribute again. This time to a writer.
Sujatha is a familiar name in the Tamil country. Of course, the girly name has its own phonetic beauty and I always thought that girls withthis particular name were beauties as well. I remember readingsomewhere that it was a girl named Sujatha who first fed the enlightened as he walked through the paddy fields in Gaya afterself-realization under a peepal tree two millennia ago.So, the name is as ancient as the Buddha but the man who popularised it is no more. S Rangarajan has achieved something that no otherwriter has even dreamt of in the language primitive than the Buddha.
In fact, by the time Buddha was born, Tamil text had its own set ofsyntax.Yet for two millennia, it was a language rich with literary, musical, poetic and philosophical notes. It was this writer who popularised science to the masses. He introduced his language-loving countrymenrobots and holograms. Not to forget the haiku.
I was fortunate to be introduced to his writing in my boyhood itselfwhen he was at the peak of his writing career. My *chithappa* was abook seller and my *chithi* would gobble anything and everything in print and had in binding all the serialized novels appearing inpopular weeklies. It was at her home-bound library, I took to books ina big way. After Kalki, it was Sujatha who delighted me with his intelligent and tehno-rich writing. Holding my breath on most occasions, I would flip pages waiting for the young lawyer duo of Ganesh and Vasanth to unsolve one mystery after another.
To say the truth, a studious and legal genius in Ganesh and a flirty and intuitive Vasanth, went on to capture the imagination of a young generation. I'm sure that girls of 70s and 80s were in love with either Ganesh or Vasanth. The good ones with the formers and the liberatred with the later. It is sad that till now no one, including the writer himself, has translated the spirit of his writings in screen, may be with the exception of *Karaiyellam Shenbagappu*. In the small screen,Ganesh and Vasanth have been captured quite a few times but mostlydisappointing and at times disgusting.
Afterwards, whenever and wherever I came across the name Sujatha, I spent time reading with my whole intellect hooked. Otherwise, Sujatha could be difficult to understand, more so for a person with unscientific temper like me. Even now, I remember vividly the serialized novel in which Nila, a young girl as the lead character,with a small dog as advisor, dethroning a dictator in the age ofrobots. Sujatha possessed quite an extra-ordinary imagination and hissuccess lied in translating the technical jargon in simple language.
It was he who introduced archaeology and space science, aesthetics and appreciation, haiku and holography, romance and robots, folksongs, fiction and a whole range of subjects to millions of middle class boysand girls growing up in small towns across the State. Most of them had the habit of abandoning books mid-way as most of the literature wasserious then. Perhaps, Sujatha was the first fiction writer in Tamil to have hooked to the masses. He was the man who opened the windows ofthe small minded showing them new vistas in the realistic frontiers of science and technology, all the time stretching the horizon.
He must have been a man with an in-depth and rare knowledge of theTamil language. He was also the master of modern prose. Combining them eloquently and evocatively, he captured the imagination of hisreaders. His simplified answers to scientific questions for years havebeen the cornerstone of science education in the state. He was awardedby the Centre for such a special contribution.
Soon, I went to college and graduated to RKN, Ayn Rand, Tagore,Dostoevsky, Gibran and Gorky among others and by this time Sujatha had stepped into screenplay devoiding a new generation the pleasure ofreading his fiction. Working with many of the big names and best mindsin the industry, he wrote both the screenplay and dialogue. He couldsense the pulse of modern middle-class families and came up with crisp, chirpy dialogues. It was an extension of his experience withrealistic theatre with lively dialogues. He was one of the rarewriters to establish firmly in celluloid. Director Shankar's *Robo*will be his last contribution to the film world.As an engineer, Rangarajan has had a distinguished career. A formercolleague of him says that he has quite a few inventions andinnovations to his credit. The Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs), thetouchstone of Indian democracy was developed under his leadership at Bharat Electronics Ltd. Not many know his engineering skills but itwas while working in his office room in Bangalore in the earlyseventies, Rangarajan took to writing in the name of his beloved wife Sujatha. In these thirty years, that name has become his.
In his autobiograhpy of his boyhood, Rangarajan fondly remembers thefirst time his name appeared in print. Playing cricket in the holytown of Sri Rangam where he grew up, he scored a twenty whereas at theother end his friend scored a whirlwind ninety or hundred. Both the names appeared in the ``prestigious paper''. ``I have seen my name(Sujatha) thousands of times, but I will always cherish the first timeit appeared,'' he would recall fifty years later. In the last literarymagazine he edited, Sujatha predicted a golden age for writers inTamil. His friends reveal that he continued to write in the hospitaltill his death.
It is sheer coincidence that the missile man, APJ Abdul Kalam, studiedwith him in college in Tiruchirapalli. After a distinguished service,Kalam, as Peoples' President went on to ignite millions of young mindsto science and technology throughout the nation two decades later.Unfortunately, the two great men were not great friends at college butboth went on to accomplish their mission, of popularising science, with utmost sincerity and devotion, in their respective ways.
Sujatha will be special. For, he will be lying in print, littered orhidden, somewhere in the cupboards and bookshelves of millions ofhomes in Tamil country. Someday, in Space Age, some boy or girl mightpick up the book and begin to read with ease. I am sure, they will straightaway identify with the sci-fi writer from the age of primates.

1 comment:

Matangi Mawley said...

i confess.

i nearly broke into tears whn i learned abt sujatha's death!

I literally grew up listening to his stories read to me by my mom.. i simply used to awe the duo ganesh, vasanth solving their cases.. this was ages b4 i started to read books.. i h heard so much frm my dad abt his dramas too.. 1 of my personal fav was the 1 where poornam vishwanathan gets to see an alien.. jo or smething dont remember the name! so hillarious!
his dialogues in movies were awsome too! it s indeed a gr8 loss tht Sujatha has left us!

Stories From The Soul Town

There lies a magical land. Surrounded by the green ghats to the west, gurgling great rivers on the east, the valley with the very blue sky. A temple town of the tamils. Sitting on the dancing rock on the highland overlooking the valley, the writer procreates the lives of the people of this lesser known south west. Full of strange yet simple souls.