Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Agni - C Radhakrishnan

One could well say at the outset that the all-pervading emotion of ‘Agni’ is violence. But as you proceed further, it is not violence alone that rules, but a strange interplay between love and violence. And this bizarre proportion could disturb the reader to the core.

‘Agni’ was originally written in Malayalam in 1963. But the political setting narrated could well fit into the current scenario also, thereby closing the gap of 51 years. Besides, it has been chronicled so vividly that it would not be a stupendous task for any reader, alien to Kerala, to feel the pulse of the state and the district where the story unfolds.

To begin with, the story is set in a village, Chamravattom in Malappuram district, which is also the author’s native place. When the story opens, Moosa, the village butcher has slaughtered his boy assistant and walked away. The severed head still lies there. While narrating the geography, politics and other associated elements which are required to set a backdrop, the author clearly explains that the place is not known for human sacrifices. Hence, when this murder occurs, one would wonder whether it is a case of human sacrifice. But it is not.

Moosa’s 17-year-old daughter Amina, who is lame, had been missing since the night before this fateful incident. Perhaps this might have irked Moosa and, unfortunately, his wrath might have fallen on the poor boy. People are frightened for they know that his fury is yet to subside. His daughter had eloped with her lover Sulaiman. The story has a few characters - Moosa, Amina, assistant boy, Mulla and Amina’s lover Sulaiman. The story revolves around them. But it is Moosa who takes the story forward.

If the reader tries to fathom the real emotion guiding Moosa, the protagonist, it is not going to be an easy task to reach any conclusion. For the book offers a lot of room to explore the undulating emotions which lie hidden in him. You could well take in the anger from an enemy but not from somebody whom you cannot segregate either as a friend or an enemy. Such is the case with Moosa. He would appear beastly. But the emotion he showers on his disabled daughter even after he discovers that she is pregnant out of wedlock would force the reader to think otherwise. But it would not take you too long to reverse the opinion.

Moosa is not totally devoid of love. But, strangely, he had taken a drastic step. The poor boy was forced to suffer a humiliating end for no reason of his own. The reader would be horrified to know that love has manifested itself in a strange and cruel way. For an English reader, who is not well-versed with the works of Radhakrishnan, this is a good introduction.

‘Agni’ was filmed in 1973. As part of the Indian Panorama of Feature Films, ‘Agni’ has been screened at major international film festivals including Mannheim, Istanbul, Moscow and Locarno.

C Radhakrishnan, the acclaimed man of letters, entered the literary scene when he won the novel contest conducted by the Mathrubhumi weekly at the age of 19. His novel ‘ Nizhalppadukal’ topped the 127 entries. Such a contest in novels was perhaps the first of its kind in the state. On many platforms, the author has said that if there were no such contests, there would not have been a writer called C Radhakrishnan.

Being a writer and film director in Malayalam, he has won accolades from various quarters. He was honoured by the Sahitya Akademi in 1989, for ‘Spandamapinikale Nandi’ and the Kerala Sahithya Akademi in 1962, for ‘Nizhalpadukal’. He won the Vayalar Award in 1990 for ‘Munpe Parakkunna Pakshikal’, and the Mahakavi G Award in 1993 for ‘Verpadukalude Viralppatukal’. His works have been translated into various Indian and foreign languages. He was also chosen for the Padmaprabha Puraskaram in 2007.