Readers Write In #275: Friends of Vishnupuram meet Mani Ratnam

Posted on September 26, 2020


(by Eswar)

On 27th September 2020, the friends of Vishnupuram will meet director Mani Ratnam for an online conversation. On this occasion, here is a brief note on the relationship between readers and writers and how two blogs are keeping an old tradition alive today.

Tamil literary tradition has always fostered a particular relationship. A relationship between the reader and the writer. At a time when social media and blogs were non-existent, serious readers took the time to write to authors – to appreciate their work, to criticise and sometimes even to challenge them. Writer Jeyamohan wrote his first reader’s letter when he was about eight years old. Sundara Ramaswamy had a written correspondence with a TADA prisoner for nearly two years.

There was also another tradition in place among the previous generation of Tamil writers. It was the gathering together of readers, usually at a writer’s house. Jeyamohan has written about his times at Sundara Ramaswamy’s house where he met and interacted with other readers who are now writers themselves. S.Ramakrishnan, another contemporary Tamil writer, remembers his visits to meet writer Ashokamitran. It was a space for intellectual discourse and for nurturing budding writers. But this tradition has now all but disappeared. S. Ramakrishnan in a speech expressing his concern about this disappearing tradition, encourages readers to write at least a couple of lines when they finish a book, even if it is only to tell that they hated the work.

But all is not lost yet. At least two personalities are carrying on the tradition of building a relationship between the reader and the writer. One is writer Jeyamohan. The other is the film critic and writer Baradwaj Rangan.

And they have both done this by opening up their space, transforming their own personal blogs into a collaborative reader-writer forum. A two-way platform where a reader also becomes a contributor, a writer. Baradwaj Rangan’s blog has an active comments section. His ‘Readers Write In’ column publishes his reader’s works. Jeyamohan’s blog does not have a comments section. But he publishes his readers’ letters, his responses to them, and their works.

The dialogue in Jeyamohan’s blog has brought forth an intellectual, literary movement. A movement that advances not only Jeyamohan’s work but also Tamil literature. Jeyamohan’s book Vishnupuram led to the creation of the Vishnupuram Ilakkiya Vattam (Vishnupuram Literary Circle). The literary circle holds an annual two day event that brings together readers and writers including writers from other languages. Assamese writer Jahnavi Barua and the Bengali writer Anita Agnihotri were notable speakers in recent years. The literary circle also confers the Vishnupuram award to an unsung writer. Earlier this year, the Vishnupuram Literary Circle introduced ten new Tamil authors, many of whose works were first published in Jeyamohan’s blog.

Jeyamohan’s work speaks for itself. But I feel this movement is his biggest contribution to the Tamil speaking world.

Something similar has been happening in Baradwaj Rangan’s blog. Like the readers of yesteryears who wrote to the writers of their time, his readers today are writing in providing fresh takes on movies, they make references to quality content, cinema here is appreciated as an art form. For a cinephile, this space is paradise. The blog has become the virtual home of the author where readers and writers commingle.

Opening up the blog for ‘Readers Write In’ took this to the next step. In the first two years, there were only 5 posts. It was a slow start. But in the following years, the blog has seen 250+ ‘Readers write In’s. And it is not just movies readers are writing about, a wide range of subjects are being discussed from social issues, essays, personal journeys to stories and musings. A compilation of these essays would make an interesting anthology in itself. Some of the readers from this space are now self-published authors – Madan Mohan, Amit Joki, and G Waugh. The impact of Rangan’s work is undeniable, the blog is becoming the English equivalent of Jeyamohan’s. In the coming years, I wish the readers and writers of this blog continue to elevate this space in their own way, like the Vishnupuram Literary Circle.

Vishnupuram Literary Circle is now running some online events. Tamil writers A.Muthulingam, and Nanjil Nadan participated in the first two. The last event was with the film historian and wildlife conservationist Theodore Bhaskaran. In their next event, the Friends of Vishnupuram are meeting with director Mani Ratnam. Mani Ratnam has worked with writer Sujatha in the past and with Jeyamohan on his recent productions. But, his literary interests are largely unknown. I hope this conversation will go to some extent towards uncovering this.

Event Details:

Related Links:

Kaditham ennum iyakkam –

Pathu nool veliyeedu uraigal –

The very first ‘Readers Write In’ –

Previous Conversations:

Theodore Bhaskaran

Nanjil Nadan