Many in Tiruvannamalai couldn’t have imagined that their region would earn a significant place in the literary map of the State.
It was Bava Chelladurai’s works which brought laurels to his native and drew the attention of Tamil literature circles towards Tiruvannamalai. His essay collection, Ella Naalum Kaarthigai, recently received the State government’s award for the best book of the year 2011-12.
The book is a collection of 24 essays, each portraying his encounters with popular celebrities like film director Balu Mahendra, actor Mammooty, Canadian photographer Girish Falen among others. Earlier, this book was featured in a Tamil weekly. The author records some of his conversations with his close friends in the book.
“The kind of openness and integrity of the people whom I met, inspired me to write about them. For instance, Malayalam writer Paul Zachariah once made some remarks against Kerala when he was in Tamil Nadu. I recorded it in one of the essays. When the Mullaiperiyar issue was at its peak, the essay got translated into Malayalam and it created problems for Zachariah. Even then he made some remarks against Kerala,” said Bava Chelladurai.
It was only through Bava’s effort that literary and cultural nights were organised some 30 years ago, which was later followed by like-minded litterateurs in their own region.
“Since the events were followed by many in different parts of the State, we were pushed to bring in some new forms of literary events and hence we started Mutram. Creativity is not only about writing but also about organising events,” said Bava, as he is fondly addressed by readers.
Until then, no one had dreamt that famous literateurs like K N Panikker, Paul Zachariah, Jayakanthan and novelist Arundhati Roy would visit Tiruvannamalai just for the sake of literature. Till date Mutram has organised more than 50 programs.
Being a government employee, Bava Chelladurai is also making waves in literature circles frequently through his short stories. 19 D M Saronilirundhu and Natchathirangal Olindhu Kollum Karuvarai are two of his notable works.
“I was in class 10 when I brought out my debut novel Uravugal Pesukindrana. It brought me into public light. Though I published my poetry collection titled Estharum Esthar Teacherum a little later, I felt that those were not actually poems and since then I focused only on prose,” he said.
He started his writing career with short stories. His debut short story Mugam published in Kalki, bagged the Ilakkiya Chinthanai Award. Another short story Ezhumalai Jamaa that was made into a documentary with an eponymous title, fetched 10 awards in various film festivals.
Veteran koothu performer Sambandha Thampiran acted as protagonist Ezhumalai in the documentary. “During the Tamil month of Aadi, artistes in our village perform koothu. Every Jamaa (group) has a name. Ezhumalai Jamaa is one such group. The life and struggle of Ezhumalai, a koothu performer, is what the whole story is about. The lead character Ezhumalai in the story is a real one, who once lived in our region,” he said.
He added, “A tribal group here is famous for burglary without wounding any person. I decided to record that and wrote three short stories Chatru, Onaan Kodi Sutriya Raajaambaal Ninaivugal and Pachai Irulan. Many say these are the best of my works.”
“Many intellectuals, artistes and writers from Western countries now stay in Tiruvannamalai. In the past, we once had a nomadic group which travelled from various parts to Tiruvannamalai during the harvest of mallaattai (the regional Tamil name for groundnuts). Bringing these two parallels as a central theme I am now writing a novel. I believe this will be my masterpiece,” he concluded.