Prominent personalities of Kerala
M T Vasudevan Nair

M T Vasudevan Nair

Madathil Thekkepaattu Vasudevan Nair (born 15 July 1933), popularly known as MT, is an Indian author, screenplay writer and film director. India Today says that he is a prolific and versatile writer in modern Malayalam literature, and calls him one of the masters of post-Independence Indian literature. He was born in Kudallur, a small village in the present day Palakkad district (Palghat), which was under the Malabar District in the Madras Presidency of the British Raj. He shot into fame at the age of 20 when, as a chemistry undergraduate, he won the prize for the best short story in Malayalam at World Short Story Competition conducted by The New York Herald Tribune. His debut novelNaalukettu (Ancestral Home- translated to English as The Legacy), wrote at the age of 23, won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1958. His other novels include Manju (Mist), Kaalam (Time), Asuravithu (The Prodigal Son - translated to English as The Demon Seed) and Randamoozham (The Second Turn). The deep emotional experiences of his early days have gone into the making of MT's novels. Most of his works are oriented towards the basic Malayalam family structure and culture and many of them were path-breaking in the history of Malayalam literature. His three seminal novels on life in the matriarchal family in Kerala are Naalukettu, Asuravithu, and Kaalam.Randamoozham, which retells the story of the Mahabharatha from the point of view of Bhimasena, is widely credited as his masterpiece.

M. T. Vasudevan Nair is a script writer and director of Malayalam films. He has directed seven films and written the screenplay for around 54 films. He won the National Film Award for Best Screenplay four times for: Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989), Kadavu (1991), Sadayam (1992), and Parinayam (1994), which is the most by anyone in the screenplay category. He was awarded the highest literary award in India, Jnanpith, in 1995 for his overall contribution to Malayalam literature. In 2005, India's third highest civilian honour Padma Bhushan was awarded to him. He has won numerous other awards and recognition including Sahitya Akademi Award, Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award,Vayalar Award, Vallathol Award, Ezhuthachan Award and Mathrubhumi Literary Award. He was awarded the J.C. Daniel Award for lifetime achievement in Malayalam cinema for the year 2013. He served as the editor of Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly for several years.

Vasudevan was born on 15 July 1933 in Kudallur in the present day Palakkad district as the son of T. Narayanan Nair and Ammalu Amma. He spent his early days in a village called Punnayurkulam in the present day Thrissur district. Nair completed his schooling from Kumaranelloor High School and obtained a degree in chemistry from Victoria College, Palakkad (1953). He has been married twice. His second wife is the dance artist Kalamandalam Saraswathy with whom he has a daughter, dancer Aswathy Nair.

His first short stories were published in several magazines while he was a youth. MT’s first literary prize came to him at 17, while he was a student at Victoria College, Palakkad - his short story "Valarthumrigangal" (Pet Animals) won first prize in the World Short Story Competition conducted by The New York Herald Tribune. It was a short story delineating the pathetic plight of the artists in circus. His first published story came two years before that. The story which appeared in a Malayalam magazine explores the feelings of a boy too poor to have crackers of his own, as he stands listening to the sounds of crackers coming from the houses of the rich celebrating the new year festival of Vishu: an overwhelming sense of loss, the painful realization that this is the way things are and the way they’re likely to stay. The numerous stories which followed dealt with themes culled from widely different milieus and contexts but were uniformly successful and popular. The noted collections of his stories are Iruttinte Athmavu, Olavum Theeravum, Bandhanam, Varikkuzhi, Dare-e-Salam, Swargam Thurakkunna Samayam, Vaanaprastham and Sherlock. "Iruttinte Athmavu" ("Creature of Darkness"), one of the most celebrated among his short stories, is the heart wrenching story of a 21-year old man, regarded as a lunatic by everyone and treated abominably. The story reveals the insanity behind the civilised and supposedly sane world. M. T. Vasudevan Nair, along with T. Padmanabhan, serve as bridges between the early modern short story writers in Malayalam, of the so-called renaissance, and the new short story of the late fifties and sixties.

Naalukettu and Asuravithu
MT's debut novel Naalukettu (The Legacy; 1958) is a veritable depiction of the situation which prevailed in a typical joint family when its fortunes is on a steady decline. The title attributes to Nālukettu, a traditional ancestral home (Taravad) of a Nair joint family. The novel remains a classic in Malayalam fiction. It contributed to the renewal of a literary tradition initiated by S. K. Pottekkatt, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer and Uroob in the 1950s. It was given the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1959. It has had 23 reprints and was translated into 14 languages and had a record sale of a half a million copies (as of 2008) and still features in the best-seller lists. MT himself adapted the novel into a television film for Doordarshan in 1995. It won the Kerala State Television Award for the year 1996.

Asuravithu (The Demon Seed; 1972) which is set in a fictional Valluvanadan village named Kizhakkemuri can be considered almost as a sequel to Naalukettu. It has the same geophysical and socio-cultural setting. The novel describes the plight of the protagonist Govindankutty, the youngest son of a proud Nair tharavadu, as he is trapped between the social scenario, social injustice and his own inner consciousness. In Asuravithu there are clear indications of the damaging impact of an alien culture in the pollution of the indigenous culture and the disintegration of the family and the community. These two early novels—Naalukettu and Asuravithu—depict a phase in which the economic and cultural scenario of Kerala manifested symptoms which were to develop into dangerous ecocidal tendencies at a later stage.

Manju and Kaalam
His later novels, such as Manju (Mist; 1964) and Kaalam (Time; 1969), are characterised by profuse lyricism which cannot to be found in Naalukettu or Asuravithu. The eco-feminist theme of patriarchal domination and exploitation gains more prominence in Manju, MT's only novel with a female protagonist (Vimala). Set in the splendid landscape of Nainital, it stands apart as set in a milieu different from the usual one, the Valluvanadan village. The plot of the novel is allegedly similar to aHindi story Parinde (Birds, 1956), by Nirmal Verma. However both MT and Verma have rejected these claims. In the novel Kaalam, MT returns to his favourite milieu, the dilapidated joint-family Nair tarwad set against the wider backdrop of the Valluvanadan village in the backdrop of the crumbling matrilineal order of Kerala in a newly independent India. Sethu, the protagonsit, is toppled over by the eddies of social, cultural and economic transformation. Kaalam, though not strictly autobiographical, has a strong autobiographical element in it. Manju had a film adaptation in 1983, written and directed by MT himself. The novel also had a Hindi-language film adaptation titled Sarath Sandhya.

Randamoozham (The Second Turn; 1984), widely regarded as the author's masterpiece, retells the story of the Mahabharatha from the point of view of Bhimasena, supposed to be the son of Vayu; this is demystified or demythified in the novel. In this novel, Bhima gains, through the author's ironic undertones, a new psychological depth. "I have not changed the framework of the story by the first Vyasa, Krishna-Dwaipayana. I have read between his lines and expanded on his pregnant silences," says the author.

MT's latest novel is Varanasi (2002) which is an emotional journey to Varanasi, a pilgrim centre in North India. Varanasi opens with Professor Srinivasan’s letter to Sudhakaran, the protagonist, referring to his unfinished thesis among his old books. The professor invites him to his home in Varanasi. Sudharkaran, in his sixties, and recovering from a prostrate procedure, decides to take the professor by surprise. He realises on arrival that the professor has recently died. The story evolves with a series of reminiscences, like a REM stream, in time transitions. The narration involves the third, first, and second person. In the train to Varanasi, Sudhakaran fishes out the book Kashi: The Eternal City by Sumita Nagpal, in which he is also acknowledged. By the time Sudhakaran finishes the book, he has traversed his life, his women, seen the demise of his well-wishers, moved through Varanasi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Paris, and Madras. He sees no need to complete his thesis — 'about the possibilities of Caliban' as once suggested by his professor for a scholarship at the university — and lets it go into the Ganga. He does the professor’s last rites as also his own Atma Pindom (One's own funeral rites in anticipation of death). At the Dashashwamedh Ghat, Sumita, now an elderly woman, merely passes him by, not even recognising him.[12] With no intricate plot, the novel is an experiment. It was well received in the literary circles but received criticism from critic and painter M. V. Devan.

MT wrote the novel Arabipponnu (The Gold of Arabia) along with N. P. Mohammed. MT and Mohamed stayed in a rented house in Karuvarakkundu village,Kozhikode for a period of two weeks to complete this work. MT has authored two books on the craft of writing—Kaathikante Panippura and Kaathikante Kala—and his anecdotal columns articles on various topics and speeches on different occasions have been compiled under the titles Kilivaathililude, Kannanthalippookkalude Kaalam, Vakkukalude Vismayam and Eekakikalude Sabdam. Manushyar Nizhalukal and Aalkkoottathil Thaniye are his travelogues.

He occupied and continues to occupy many important and powerful positions in various literary bodies including the presidency of Kerala Sahitya Akademi and the chairmanship of Tunchan Memorial Trust. He was an Executive Member of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi. The Library of Congress has in its collection sixty-two books, mostly by MT and some on him. Also, some of them are translations of his works into English. MT joined the Mathrubhumi Group of Publications in 1956. When he retired from there in 1998, he was their editor of periodicals and Chief Editor of Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly. On 2 June 1996, he was bestowed with honorary D.Lit degree by the Calicut University. M. T. Vasudevan Nair is one of the most distinguished and well accepted script writers and directors in Malayalam cinema. He has directed seven films and written the screenplay for around 54 films. He won the National Film Award for Best Screenplayfour times for: Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha (1989), Kadavu (1991), Sadayam (1992), and Parinayam (1994), which is the most by anyone in the screenplay category. MT was the first and foremost script writer in Malayalam who wrote screenplays after having learnt cinema as a distinctive visual art which has its own language, grammar and structure. It was only after he began writing screenplays the Malayali viewers began to consider film script as a distinctive genre which has its own genuine features. Also it was M.T who elevated this medium of writing as a literary from.

MT's screenplays have won social attention for the portrayal of the social and cultural crisis in the contemporary life of Kerala. The disintegration of human values and relationship which creates identity crisis, sense of loss, dehumanisation, alienation from one's own surroundings etc. have been presented in its depth by MT more than any other writers. The best examples areKanyakumari, Varikkuzhi, Vilkkanundu Swapnangal, Edavazhiyile Poocha Mindappoocha, Akshrangal, Aalkkoottathil Thaniye,Aaroodam etc. A salient aspect of MT's screenplays is the effective presentation of the ecological or geographical factors and elements making use of the visual possibilities of their portrayal. Another unique feature is the language employed in them. Some of his screenplays are known for giving new interpretations to historical characters and historical stories. For instance, he gives the legends woven around the popular story of Perumthachan a new interpretation in his screenplay, based on his own assessment of Perumthachan's character. According to the folklore Vadakkanpattu (Northern Ballads), Chandu is said to have betrayed his cousin because he was jealous of Aaromal's popularity and abilities. But MT's Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha presents an alternative version of the same legend, as it presents the incident from Chandu's perspective, suggesting that grave injustice has been done to Chandu by wrongly accusing him of replacing the rivets.

In 1973, M. T. Vasudevan Nair made his directorial debut with Nirmalyam which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film. The film is about a village oracle whose services are no longer needed by the community and whose family begins to fall apart. MT scripted and directed many more films including the award-winning Bandhanam, Kadavu and Oru Cheru Punchiri. Kadavu won awards at the Singapore International Film Festival and Tokyo International Film Festival. His cinema work also includes three documentaries and one TV series. He has written songs for the 1981 film Valarthumrugangal which were set to tune by M. B. Sreenivasan. M. T. Vasudevan Nair was the chairman of Indian Panorama of the 46th National Film Awards (1998). He has also been a member of Film Finance Corporation,National Film Development Corporation and Film Censoring Committee. He has also served as a faculty in the Film and Television Institute, Pune.

MT was born and brought up in a sylvan village on the banks of Nila. The writer has so often acknowledged his indebtedness to the ethos of his village and to Nila which has ever been the mainspring of his creative inspiration. Nila occurs and re-occurs in MT's fiction, as a presence and as a symbol, endorsing this view. The staple locale of his fiction is the Valluvanadan village. The landscape and ethos of the Valluvanad region and the transformations undergone by them in the course of the century, involving relics of the tarawad and the communal tensions provide a challenging theme for the highly evocative style of Vasudevan Nair's narrative art. The temporal milieu of MT's fiction stretches over the second half of the twentieth century, a period of tremendous social, cultural and economic changes. It was in the sixties that MT rose to prominence as a writer. The phase of social realism had come to an end. In his opinion, class-war the ideal which had inspired the writers belonging to the preceding generation had almost lost its relevance by the time he entered the literary career. The prominent Malayalam writers of the pre-independence phase—Thakazhi, Vallathol and Kesavadev—were all stimulated by the progressive leftist ideals. They focussed their attention on social conflict as the theme for their writings—Conflict between capital and labour, between the landlord and the tenant, between the oppressor and the oppressed. MT felt that this theme of conflict was an outdated phenomenon in the context of present Kerala. The protagonists of MT are men out of society and at war with themselves, a sharp contrast to the heroes of Kesavadev or Thakazhi who fight a losing war against the hostile forces in the society. MT, in spite of his broad and deep sympathy for the marginalized, doesn't identify himself with any particular political ideology or movement.

Awards and honours
• 1996: Honorary Doctorate by University of Calicut
• 1996: Honorary Doctorate by Mahatma Gandhi University
• 2005: Padma Bhushan
• 2008: Honorary Doctorate by Netaji Subhas Open University
• 1958: Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Novel – Naalukettu
• 1970: Kendra Sahitya Academy Award – Kaalam
• 1982: Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award (Drama) – Gopura Nadayil
• 1985: Vayalar Award for Randamoozham
• 1986: Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Story – Swargam Thurakkunna Samayam
• 1993: Odakkuzhal Award - Vanaprastham
• 1994: Muttathu Varkey Award
• 1995: Jnanpith Award for his contributions to Malayalam literature
• 1998: Padmarajan Award - Kaazhcha
• 2001: Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam Sahithya Award
• 2003: Lalithambika Antharjanam Smaraka Sahitya Award
• 2005: Kerala Sahitya Akademi Fellowship
• 2005: Vallathol Award
• 2005: Mathrubhumi Literary Award
• 2011: Ezhuthachan Award
• 2011: T. K. Puraskaram
• 2011: Suvarnamudra Award
• 2011: Mayilpeeli Award
• 2013: Sahitya Akademi Fellowship
• 2013: Sree Chithira Thirunal Award
• 2013: K. P. S. Menon Award
• 2014: Suvarnamudra Award by Guruvayur Naadha Brahmolsavam
• 2014: A. R. Raja Raja Varma Award
• 2014: Kakkanadan Award
• 2014: Balamani Amma Award
• 2014: Tata-Landmark Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award
• 2015: O.M.C. Narayanan Namboodiripad Memorial Devi Prasadam Trust’s Award for Literature Film awards National Film Awards
• 1973: Best Film – Nirmalyam
• 1989: Best Screenplay – Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha
• 1991: Best Screenplay – Kadavu
• 1991: Best Feature Film in Malayalam – Kadavu
• 1992: Best Screenplay – Sadayam
• 1994: Best Screenplay – Parinayam
• 2000: Best Film on Environment Conservation/Preservation – Oru Cheru Punchiri
Kerala State Film Awards
• 1970: Best Screenplay – Olavum Theeravum
• 1973: Best Film – Nirmalayam
• 1973: Best Director – Nirmalayam
• 1973: Best Screenplay – Nirmalayam
• 1978: Best Film – Bandhanam
• 1980: Best Story – Oppol
• 1981: Best Screenplay – Thrishna, Valarthu Mrigangal
• 1983: Best Story – Aaroodam
• 1985: Best Story – Anubandham
• 1986: Best Screenplay – Panchagni, Nakhakshathangal
• 1987: Best Screenplay – Amrutham Gamaya
• 1989: Best Screenplay – Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha
• 1990: Best Screenplay – Perumthachan
• 1991: Best Film – Kadavu
• 1991: Best Director – Kadavu
• 1991: Best Screenplay – Kadavu
• 1994: Best Story – Sukrutham
• 1994: Best Screenplay – Parinayam
• 1998: Best Screenplay – Daya
• 2000: Best Director – Oru Cheru Punchiri
• 2009: Best Screenplay – Pazhassi Raja
• 1991: Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award – South
• 1996: Kerala State Television Award – Naalukettu
• 2003: Asianet Film Awards – Lifetime Achievement Award
• 2013: J. C. Daniel Award by the Government of Kerala

• Naalukettu (1958, The Legacy)
• Asuravithu (1962, The Demon Seed)
• Manju (1964, Mist)
• Kaalam (1969, Time)
• Vilapayathra (1978, The Funeral Procession)
• Randamoozham (1984, The Second Turn)
• Pathiravum Pakalvelichavum (Midnight and Daylight)
• Arabipponnu (The Gold of Arabia; written with N. P. Mohammed)
• Varanasi (2002)

• Ajnjathante Uyaratha Smarakam
• Avar
• Bandhanam (The Binding)
• Bheeru
• Cheriya Cheriya Bhookampangal
• Chuvanna Manal
• Dar-S-Salam
• Dukhathinte Thazhvarakal
• Idavazhiyile Poocha Mindapoocha
• Iruttinte Athmavu (The Soul of the Darkness)
• Kadugannava: Oru Yathrakurippu
• Kaliveedu (Playhouse)
• Kazhcha
• Kottayude Nizhal
• Kuttyedathy
• Maranathinte Kaithettu
• Mathavu
• Moodupadam
• Mulkireedam
• Neelakunnukal
• Neelathamara (Blue Lotus)
• Neerpolakal
• Ninte (Yours)
• Ninte Ormaykku
• Odiyan
• Olavum Theeravum (Ripple and Shore)
• Oppol
• Oru Pirannalinte Orma
• Panthrandu Varsham Urangiya Pookkal
• Pathanam (The Fall)
• Perumazhayude Pittennu
• Puthiya Adavukal
• Raji
• Rekhayillatha Chithram
• Raktham Puranda Mantharikal (Blood-soaked Sand)
• Santhiparvam
• Sathru
• Sherlek
• Sthalapuranam
• Swargam Thurakkunna Samayam (When the Heaven's Gates Open)
• Valarthumrugangal
• Vilpana
• Vithukal
• Vanaprastham (Into the Forest)
• Varikkuzhi (The Trap)
• Vedanayude Pookkal (Flowers of Sorrow)
• Veyilum Nilavum (Sunlight and Moonlight)
• Gopuranadayil
• Parinayam
Essays and studies
• Kaathikante Kala
• Kaathikante Panippura
• Hemingway: Oru Mukhavura
• Kannanthalippookkalude Kaalam
• Vakkukalude Vismayam
• Kilivaathililude
• Eekakikalude Sabdam
• Manushyar Nizhalukal
• Aalkkoottathil Thaniye
• Snehadarangalode
• Ammaykku
• Chithratheruvukal





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