Chennai

Bharathi, the first poet whose works were nationalised

Subramania Bharathi  

The honour eluded Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, and it still eludes Jawaharlal Nehru. As early as 1949, national poet and freedom fighter Subramania Bharathi achieved a rare distinction of his works being nationalised by the State government.

“He is probably the first writer in the entire world to win the honour. The process, however, took five years and four Chief Ministers, to complete,” says Prof A.R. Venkatachalapathy of the Madras Institute of Development Studies, whose new book “ Bharathi : Kavignanum Kaapurimaiym ” (Kalachuvadu) has shed new light on the subject.

The demand for nationalising the work began in 1944. A resolution in this regard was moved by A.V.R. Krishnasamy Reddiyar at the Tamil writers’ conference in Coimbatore. Communist leader P. Jeevanandam made a powerful speech in support of the demand in 1947 on the occasion of the inauguration of Bharathi Mandapam at Ettayapuram.

Even though a lot of freedom fighters and Bharathi scholars, including Narana Duraikannan, A. Srinivasaraghavan, T.P. Meenakshisundram, fought for nationalisation, Mr. Venkatachalapathy feels the role of Avinashilingam Chettiyar, the then education minister in the Omandur Ramasamy Reddiyar’s Cabinet and theatre personality T.K. Shanmugam was far more important.

On the request of T.K. Shanmugam, who had a legal fight over use of Bharathi’s songs with A.V. Meiyappa Chettiyar, who had the recording rights then, the State government initiated the steps to get the publishing rights. Meiyappa Chettiyar had bought the rights for Rs. 9,500 and gave it up on the personal intervention of Premier of the State Ramasamy Reddiyar.

The government also secured the publishing rights from Bharathi’s younger brother Viswanatha Iyer, who was running a Bharathi Prasuralayam, publishing the works of the poet.

Bharathi’s wife Chellammal and two daughters Thangammal and Sakunthala could not claim any right, as in a desperate move to meet the wedding expenses of Sakunthala, they had sold the copyrights. Later, they gave it in writing in support of the government move.

“The popularity of my husband’s works never brought me and my family any financial benefits,” Chellamal had said.

The government gave Rs. 5,000 each to Bharathi’s wife and his two daughters.

Viswanatha Iyer got Rs. 15,000 and Avinashilingam Chettiyar on March 12, 1949 made the announcement on the floor of Assembly about the government securing the publishing rights. But only in March 1955, the then Finance Minister C. Subramaniam announced the decision of allowing others to publish the works. That was how it reached public domain.

“Even though in Tamil publishing world, books are published in limited numbers, Bharathi’s works are running into many editions and lakhs of copies are being sold. Another advantage of nationalisation is that individual scholars ventured to collect unpublished works,” said Mr. Venkatachalapathy.



It took five years and four Chief Ministers to complete the process




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