Ra.Ki. Rangarajan, a journalist, novelist, short story writer, essayist, translator and writer of self-improvement works known for coming out with timely publications to suit market conditions, died here on Saturday. He was 85.
Born in the temple town of Kumbakonam, which has produced many outstanding writers, to Sanskrit scholar R.V. Krishnamacharya, Rangarajan started writing at the age of 16. He first joined Sakthi , a literary magazine run by V. Govindan. His write-up on freedom fighters Mangal Pandey, Rani of Jhansi and Nana Sahib has been included in the compilation of writings from the now-defunct magazine.
Later, he worked for another journal Kalachakkaram . His association with the magazine Kumudam began in 1950 and initially, he worked for Jinkili , a child magazine run by the group. His name became synonymous with Kumudam and the middle letter of A-ra-su Pathilgal, a popular question-answer section jointly administered by three writers, was a reference to him. He was later appointed Deputy Editor of Kumudam .
V. Srinivasan of Alliance Publishers narrated an incident that bore testimony to Rangarajan’s instinct for his timing in coming with books.
“Late Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai was reading The Master Christian by Marie Corelli when he was in the Cancer Institute, Adyar. He requested doctors to let him finish the book before he was taken into the operation theatre. When it became public knowledge, Rangarajan lost no time in translating the novel and serialising it in Kumudam . The translation, Veera Thuravi , was a huge success.”
Similarly, when pugilist Muhammed Ali was in the news, his came up with Jeyithukondey Iruppen, based on the Ali’s autobiography, which was lapped up by a large number of the boxer’s fans in Tamil Nadu.
“He read every single work of Anne Besant before writing the novel Thirakkakoodatha Kathavu , which contained many ideas associated with Besant, says Mr Srinivasan, whose publishing house has brought out most of Rangarajan’s works. Rangarajan wrote around 1500 short stories, 50 novels and innumerable essays and translations.
“Rangarajan used many pen names. ‘Mohini’ was the name he used while writing historical novels, Sundara Bhagavathar for comic writings, Surya, Krishakumar, Hamsa, Malathi and Avittam for other genres. But each genre would have a style of its own and you could not even remotely guess that all these works have been written by the same person,” said senior journalist R. Sivakumar.
A few literary works captured in detail the old Madras as his serial novel Adimaiyin Kadhal. It is a favourite of actor Kamal Haasan, who wrote the foreword for it. “I was filled with wonder that my Madras once looked like this,” wrote Kamal Haasan. “Whenever I go for a walk near Santhome, the image of a Christian Missionary walking on the streets with his pet chameleon on his shoulder continues to haunt me,” recalled the actor in the foreword, while acknowledging the role played by Rangarajan in shaping the film Mahanadi.
Journalist and writer Maalan says Rangarajan’s translation of Papillon , the memoir of Henri Charriere, a convict who describes his escape from a penal colony, as Pattaampoochi hooked readers to the magazine for four years. “His command of language was great and he had a racy style. I had the opportunity to work with him for a while. He was a lively person and though his comments could be very sharp, he delivered it in such a way that a person did not feel its sharpness,” says Mr Maalan.
Mr Srinivasan said while many writers from Kumbakonam achieved great heights in the field of literature, Mr Rangarajan nurtured a sense of regret that he could not get the kind of recognition that he considered was his due.
“He also wanted to see Adimaiyin Kaadhal in book form. Unfortunately, he died before it,” said Srinivasan.
Some of his stories were made into films, a notable one being Sumai Thaangi. He is survived by two sons and three daughters.