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Novel tips

M. BALAGANESSIN gathers tips from Ponneelan on novel writing.

HE HAS a wider definition for novels and holds a broader vision for role of novelists. He himself is a progressive Tamil novelist of international repute.

He is none other than Ponneelan, who feels happy to find a galaxy of young novelists emerging from Tamil Nadu in recent years. But, he warns them against using - or rather misusing - the art of novel writing for commercial purpose.

For budding novelists

``A novel is a harmonious blend of drama and poetry based on lives of nation builders,'' he says. His tip to budding novelists is simple and straight: First identify a micro issue in a remote corner or concerning a small group. Then present the issue in such a manner that it attracts the entire country or the world.

As an example, he cites the film Thanneer Thanneer, which is about scarcity of drinking water in Kovilpatti. ``It can be viewed as a micro issue pertaining to a particular village, but the theme assumed a macro significance given its relevance in every nook and corner facing a similar crisis.''

To achieve this goal, a novelist has no option but to work hard with a double-pronged strategy. Young novelists should be familiar with various issues concerning society, its life-style and gain an in-depth and authentic knowledge about the place and the people. Tribal issues, in his opinion, are a good option.

Reading a wide range of novels and understanding the style of handling of the issue by different novelists prepares a budding writer. Then comes the important quality indispensable for a successful novelist. ``I term it as framing a `form.' I find many novelists familiar with issues but unable to present it proportionately, making the entire novel short of content. This happens because they fail to develop a `form' of their own. A novelist can achieve a form, if he carefully blends the content chosen and knowledge possessed.''

A novelist without a particular form would do more harm to society, warned Ponneelan, while addressing a group of Tamil literature lovers at a function organised by `Ilakkiya Chutram' here recently.

Ponneelan strongly believes that novelists should not exert any forceful tactics and attempt to make the society accept a theme under duress. The society would not only summarily reject the force but would disregard the writer altogether. ``Commercial novelists are bound to lose their identity within a short span of time, '' he forewarns.


An awardee of the Sahitya Akademi, Ponneelan, emphasizes the role of lyricists in social and cultural development and nation-building process. ``Till the era of `Pattukottai' Kalyanasundaram or `Kaviarasu' Kannadasan, lyrics played a crucial role in films.''

He sees a simple reason behind the influence of their lyrics. During yesteryears, lyricists, with their social concern, were more powerful than music directors. But, of late blaring music has given way to lyrics. However, he is confident the trend would change in course of time. ``The day is not far when a forceful lyric capable of addressing people's issues will emerge bypassing the blaring music'' - is his hope.

Suggestion for novelists

Ponneelan has yet another suggestion for novelists: a particular event in the life of leaders and poets Bharathiar or Bharathidasan could be chosen as a theme for a novel. Not much effort has been taken in this direction, he feels.

The declaration of Tamil as a classical language has brought cheers to him. ``But, it has not achieved the desired objective fully and remains a work half-done,'' he points out.

The Union Ministry of Culture has been entrusted with the responsibility of looking after the affairs associated with the Tamil classical language. ``On the other hand, it should have been brought under the ambit of the University Grants Commission which has the capacity to facilitate adequate funding projects for the development of Tamil language,'' he opines.

To make Tamil novels popular

For making Tamil novels popular in the national literary scenario, he calls for more efforts in translation of Tamil novels into other Indian languages. ``Many Tamil writers have been honoured with awards. But their popularity is just confined to the State.

``On the other hand, novels from other Dravidian languages, like Kannada, Telugu or Malayalam have reached out to remote areas, as they have been translated into Hindi.'' It is high time the Sahitya Akademi conducted periodical national symposiums of writers and novelists in order to promote and popularise works of different languages.

Ponneelan's another grouse is that although the State Government had initially instituted awards to honour Tamil writers, successive governments withdrew the same.

``This is purely political but at the cost of writers. Honouring writers should be apolitical and above personal interest of those in power. ``Finally, he winds up with a specific appeal to colleges and schools in Tamil Nadu. Students should be motivated to develop the habit of reading. A small State like Kerala provides better patronage to novels and books. ``The number of books sold in Kerala are tenfold compared to Tamil Nadu.''

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