Life is a dream
as published in today's Deccan Chronicle Newspaper, Chennai Edition
The world might be raising a toast to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer, but back home, the global face of Tamil poetry is running into controversies. Ninety years after his death, a question is being raised about legendary poet Subramaniya Bharathi being addressed as Mahakavi.
By writing in his blog that Bharathiyar cannot be called Mahakavi, eminent writer Jeyamohan has kicked off the row.
While acknowledging Bharathiyar’s contributions to Tamil literature, Jeyamohan says his poetry was not his achieve
ment. “Bharathiyar has written some very good poems, but his measure as a poet is not as good as those of greats like Tiruvalluvar, Ilango, Kambar, Sekkizhar. In fact, he has achieved more in prose. He is the father of the modern prose in Tamil,“ writes Jeyamohan. Expectedly, the comments have attracted the attention of writers, scholars and readers. The Internet is abuzz.
Experts note that the controversy is not new.
Jeyamohan himself says he recorded his views on Bharathiyar in 1995 in a Sri Lankan-based Tamil magazine. “This is old hat.
These issues were thrashed out in the 1930s and resolved,” snaps A.R.Venkatachalapathy , writer, scholar and historian. While Jeyamohan maintains that the critics were ‘silenced’ by a powerful literary clique, Chalapathy retorts that Jeyamohan’s yardstick is ahistorical. “A Mahakavi is judged by how his writings animate and inspire work of subsequent generations. On that score alone Bharati is a Mahakavi.“
Gnanakoothan, arguably the most important living poet in Tamil, tends to agree. “The controversy first broke out in Tamil after Tagore won the Nobel. The readers of today are used to a narrative style different from Bharathiyar's. But that does not mean he is not a Mahakavi.“
Eminent Malayalam poet Satchidanandan says, “I believe we have to see Bharathiyar's poetry in its proper historical background. Like other Indian poets of that time, he believed that a poet's mission was to address the larger issues of society and nation.“