SEARCH

Cities » Kochi

Updated: July 13, 2012 11:16 IST

A multidimensional portrait of Gundert

S. Anandan
Comment   ·   print   ·   T  T  
A poster of the film 'Gundert: The Man, the Language.' Photo: By Arrangement
The Hindu A poster of the film 'Gundert: The Man, the Language.' Photo: By Arrangement

In 1986, Scaria Zacharia, linguist, and Albrecht Frenz, scholar, who is married to Gundert’s granddaughter, visited libraries at Stuttgart, Gundert’s birthplace, and Basel in Switzerland in search of the manuscripts before giving it one last try at Tubingen University in Germany.

The “Thalassery Manuscripts” — Herman Gundert’s works in his own long hand during his two-decade stay in Illikkunnu Bungalow in Thalassery — were discovered from the Tubingen library by accident.

In 1986, Scaria Zacharia, linguist, and Albrecht Frenz, scholar, who is married to Gundert’s granddaughter, visited libraries at Stuttgart, Gundert’s birthplace, and Basel in Switzerland in search of the manuscripts before giving it one last try at Tubingen University in Germany.

As they rummaged through Tubingen’s archives, ancient manuscripts ranging from the oldest handwritten copy of the Vedas to Guttenberg’s Bible tumbled out. But not their object of desire, handwritten copies of Malayalam’s greatest inheritance such as the Gundert dictionary.

As they were about to step out in disappointment, a pair of sacks carelessly stacked away in a corner caught their eye. That is how we stumbled upon the Malayalam manuscripts of Gundert, Mr. Zacharia recalls in the documentary Gundert: The Man, The Language directed by Thrissur-based Sanju Surendran.

The reflective documentary, filmed early this year, is a tribute to the missionary-turned-cultural-emissary of Kerala who modernised the Malayalam script, explained its grammar and documented the ancient social and cultural history of the land.

The film opens and ends with the Nobel laureate Hermann Hesse’s words written in memory of his grandfather Gundert, whom he remembers as a humanist, linguaphile, visionary and doting grandpa.

M.G.S. Narayanan, historian, places Gundert in context, emphasising the historicity of cross-references in Gundert’s dictionary, which “treated words with elaborate significance and made it a point to incorporate dialects, folk songs and language patterns making it a rich record.”

As for the language, he radically altered the writing by punctuating and modernising it, Mr. Narayanan says.

Mr. Frenz talks about Gundert the humanist and his special relation with his grandson Hesse, while sculptor Jeevan Thomas, maker of a Gundert statue, talks about Gundert the enquirer and teacher.

Moving gently across Gundert manuscripts, ancient photographs, copies of the first Malayalam newspaper Rajyasamacharam that he brought out and the broad verandas and thinly lit corridors of the Illikkunnu bungalow, the film offers the viewer a peek into the towering personality.

“It will be screened at Stuttgart during his 200th birth centenary celebrations in February 2014,” says Mr. Surendran, a Film and Television Institute of India graduate with documentaries such as Theeram to his credit. The signature film of the International Film Festival of Kerala, 2009, was his.

The documentary touches upon Gundert’s contributions to the Church, his efforts at introducing children to the world of letters and his role as a historian and chronicler of Kerala society. The Films Division has produced the documentary.

More In: Kochi
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram

Kozhikode

Kochi Connect Newsfeed


O
P
E
N

close

Recent Article in Kochi

A view of Dakshin Bharath Hindi Prachar Sabha building in Kochi

Controversy over ‘illegal’ shifting of ballots in Kochi

The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed that ballots for elections should not be dispatched from Chennai while issuing a notice to the Central Sabha. »