History & Culture

Portrait for posterity

T.N. Ramachandran. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj   | Photo Credit: B_VELANKANNI RAJ

Ravi Subramanian, Tamil poet, short story writer and documentary filmmaker, has brought out the extraordinary qualities of the lawyer-turned Saiva siddhantha scholar T. N. Ramachandran (TNR) of Thanjavur, in a 90-minute documentary.

Ravi has produced documentaries on Jayakanthan and Indira Parthasarathy earlier, spending years on research.

“This is quite different!” says Ravi. “It is difficult to make a documentary on a person like TNR, whose work on propagation of bhakti literature, especially of the Saivite saints, is unique. Many knew him as one who translated all the poems of Mahakavi Subramania Bharati in English and as an orator of Saiva philosophy. His thoughts on religion and literature are of great value. He loves poetry, both English and Tamil, and he is a scholar in both the languages. I was awestruck when I saw his huge library at his home.”

Veterans featured

Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan and Neyveli Santhanagopalan have been featured in the documentary. While the former speaks highly of the scholar, the latter has rendered a few songs, apart from other budding young artists, who have lent their voices to certain hymns. Young Injikkudi Subramaniam’s nagaswaram is another plus point of the documentary. The music score has been handled by Sadanandam and is quite apt.

Jaffna University has honoured TNR with a doctorate for his outstanding contribution to Tamil literature. Produced for Aambal Trust on behalf of Deiva Sekkizhar Saiva Siddhantha Patasalai, the documentary is prized at Rs.250 in terms of commercial value, but is priceless when the viewer sits back and enjoys the commentaries of TNR to the sharp and incisive queries raised by the filmmaker.

The filming by C.P. Saravanan, Velavan and Badakara Mohandas is visually pleasing. The scenes of TNR’s visits to temples, his discussion with young men on Saivite literature, his replies to questions on a swinging oonjal, his favourite betel leaves box by his side, the surging Cauvery waters, the views of scholars such as Swaminatha Athreya, Kudavayil Balasubramaniam and Dhenuga among others, his wife preparing lunch in the kitchen so that he can hold a book in his left hand and read while eating, are crisp.

Ravi uses minimum words but allows the scholar to give convincing answers. A fine job is done by Manohar, whose editing is sensitive and sensible. In a few instances, the protagonist’s voice is carried to the next frame, without a cut. Yet, it does not disturb the flow and sounds natural.

“A few criticise me for spending money and time on such ventures glorifying bhakti literature and its influence. I am not bothered by it. Scholars such as TNR are rare and we would only lose their wisdom if we do not archive their profiles for posterity. I am delighted that I could be the curator of this project and document TNR’s erudite work. If only people with money to spare aided such ventures, I could devote my life to bringing out such worthwhile products!” says Ravi.

(Ravi Subramanian can be contacted at 99400 45557 and TN Ramachandran at 4362 236842)

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 7:12:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/portrait-for-posterity/article4676194.ece

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