Fiction Books

PVR — readers’ delight, editors’ favourite

A friend, who preserves collections of authors of a bygone era, recently gave me bound copies of some novels. They were all by PVR. “You love old writers. Not many are even familiar with their names today. So enjoy,” he said ruefully. One look at those leaves of old journals and memories cane flooding back. The unsung PVR, whose finger never left the pulse of his readers because human nature and emotions were his canvas. But he belonged to the club of authors, who didn’t quite make the intellectual grade. But who cares? In PVR’s characters, readers found their kith and kin, friends and often themselves.

PVR

PVR   | Photo Credit: Kalki Archives

Prolific, PVR — P.V. Ramakrishnan, an A.G.’s office employee — was busy from 1960 to 80, (I feel it is quite a long period!). He was favoured by all the Tamil magazines — from Anandavikatan, Kalaimagal, Kalki, Kumudam, Dinamani Kadir, Amudhasurabi to the later arrivals such as Kungumam, Devi, Dinamalar etc. It was not just pulp that he wrote. He picked up many awards. His novel ‘Manakkolam’ was Third Prize Winner in Kalki Velli Vizha Novel Competition. He won the Kalaimagal Narayanaswami Iyer Novel prize for his ‘Neerottam.’ If my memory is correct, he was the one author (or the only author other than Sujatha) whose serials were published in three popular Tamil magazines at the same time — Kalki, Vikatan and Kumudam. No other Tamil writer during that period had that unique honour.

Scene of action

He serialised a novel with the Madras Central Station as the place of action under the title ‘Central’ in Kalki. The story revolved round the Station Superintendent who had a dozen children. His daughter Mangala is the protagonist. The story opens with her going to receive her friend Renuka arriving from New Delhi by the Grand Trunk Express. The supporting characters as well as the hero casually enter the narration and soon the story picks up pace with twists and turns.

Mankakolam for PVR story

Mankakolam for PVR story  

Kedaram, the hero, Mani, a pickpocket, Rozario the aging Guard and his family all take the interesting novel forward. PVR recreated the Central Station mood through some catchy tidbits like the Station Superintendent quarters was in the first floor of Central Station with seven rooms (probably at that time!) and the number of trains arriving and leaving. The novel was such a hit that PVR went on to make places as themes for his works — ‘Milad’ about Madras High Court, G.H. around General Hospital and ‘Guindy Hold On’ with yes the Madras Race Course as the field. In fact, it is difficult to identify a novel of PVR without a specific place of action. So the reader is bound to visit Chennai, Delhi, Coimbatore, Palghat and Kalpathi to name a few.

PVR’s characters were colourful, especially his heroines and some of the supporting cameos. As he was a native of Kerala, he used ‘Palakkatthu Tamizh’ judiciously in his narrative. For instance, his novel for Amudhasurabhi, titled ‘Vanamellam Aasai Katradi,’ is almost full of Palghat Tamil. Delhi girl Bharati has to move into a rich family in a village near Palghat thanks to circumstances. Bharati, who nurtures a dream of going for research and getting doctorate, finds stout opposition from her in-laws. The story is about how Bharati, the typical intelligent and individualistic PVR woman realises the distinction between ‘desire’ and ‘dedication.’

‘Manakkolam’ was the prize winning novel in Kalki which was serialized. It was the tale of three sisters — totally different dispositions — with a widowed mother. They are left to face a financial crisis, their only male support being a young man Santhanam, their helpful tenant. For all the three girls matrimony is a distant dream. Seetha, the eldest is a quiet person while the middle Jaana and the youngest Kamala are temperamentally opposite. Jaana is depicted all along as a self-loving but turns the saviour by making an unusual sacrifice.

Thaila of ‘Milad‘ (Kumudam) and Radhika of ‘Odum Megangal’ (Kalaimagal) are docile but with a vision and mission. PVR created a protagonist out of an absolutely mundane girl Thulasi for ‘Aadatha Oonjal’ (Vikatan). His milieu was invariably middle and upper middle class (read affluent). The details regarding the characters’ lifestyle brought them close to the reader. Even the food they ate made for an interesting read. PVR’s novels were thickly populated but there was no confusion, what with each having distinct characteristics. And he favoured conversation to description.

In his tribute to PVR, who passed away in 2007, Amudhasurabhi editor Thiruppor Krishnan mentioned about his perfect cooperation with editors and his deadline discipline. He observed that his contribution could not be under-estimated and that he graced ‘parallel literature’ with an elegance, which had gained wide acceptance.

V.R. Krishnan, an avid admirer of PVR preserves almost all the stories and novels of the writer. He said he became a PVR addict after reading ‘Central.’ So what according to Krishnan are his favourite author’s strengths? Breezy style that moved the narration through fluent conversation. “The exchanges are also crisp, witty and enjoyable. And in all his stories justice is always done — Bad never wins,” he expands. Krishnan has a regret. “I don’t have his beautiful serial ‘Koondalil Oru Malar,’ which he wrote for Kumudam I have read that serial and liked it. Krishnan even remembers the heroine’s name as ‘Manjula’ and the main thread of the story.

Can there be a better recognition for a writer than this?

What editors say

Seetha Ravi

(Former Editor, Kalki)

I have read his works, although our inter-action was limited. He served as judge in our short story contests and we exchanged pleasantires on such occasions. He had this peculiar way of writing on small sheets of paper, content closely packed. The style was crisp and hence needed little editing, so it was alright. And he was punctual in delivery. A novel gathers pace only with description, conversation and also the writer’s intervention. PVR gave it all in the right measure. A la Arthur Hailey, he centred his stories on popular places such as Central, GH, High Court and Guindy Race Course. He served as judge in our short story competitions and my acquaintances with him were just limited to exchanging pleasantries.

Thiruppur Krishnan

(Editor, Amudhasurabi)

Simple and direct, PVR worked with a kind of discipline, which was extraordinary. He preferred to write on quarter sheets so that it would be easy for him to make corrections. A prolific writer, he infused variety in his themes and always had the regret that he was not considered a litterateur. He was elated and thankful when I agreed to speak at a function organised to felicitate him, since I had been associated with literary giants like Jayakanthan and Na.Pa. Of his stories unforgettable for me is the one about a man, who deserts his wife and children for a few lakh of rupees and returns after fifteen years. The twist was in the wife’s response.

Kizhambur

(Editor, Kalaimagal)

I remember PVR as a simple and soft spoken person. I was quite young but we maintained a good rapport. He always advised us to read both previous generation and contemporary writers to get the right perspective about society and writing styles. Most of the novels he wrote for Kalaimagal were family-oriented. Although he was popular and busy, he found the time to read and select stories for the magazine. He was a regular at the Mylapore Club, where I watched him he play tennis. After the game, we would savour ‘Morkali,’ the tangy South Indian delicacy.

Priya Kalyanaraman

(Editor, Kumudam)

I was too young to interact with PVR when he was writing for Kumudam. But I knew him as a friendly and soft-spoken person. And he always dropped in at the office to give his manuscripts personally and interact with Ra.Ki.Ra, Ja.Ra and others. Invariably, he would stop at the Desk to chat with the young sub-editors to get our feedback. He wrote many novels for our magazine ‘Malaimathi.’ Last year, we published his novel, ‘Ennai Tharukiren, Unnai Tha,’ which received a positive response from the readers. We have planned to release a few more in the future.


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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 10:33:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/pvr-readerss-delight-editors-favourite/article23835774.ece

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