Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bharathi: From Being Copyrighted to Belonging to the People. Chalapathi's, Artful Summary. Merits and Flaws. ('கவிஞனும் காப்புரிமையும்')

பாரதியின் 'பக்திப் பாடல்கள்' யாவிலும் சில பொதுக் கூறூகளைக் காண முடியும். விநாயகரிடமும், முருகனிடமும், பராசக்தியினடமும் பாரதி வேண்டுவன: கவிப் பாடும் திறன், தெளிவானச் சிந்தை, உடல் நலம், பொருள். அவன் வேண்டிக் கேட்டவற்றுள் அவனுக்கு வாய்த்தது கவித் திறன் மட்டுமே.

"எள்ளத் தனைப்பொழுதும் பயனின்றி
      இரா தென்றன் நாவினிலே
வெள்ள மெனப்பொழி வாய்சக்தி வேல் சக்தி
       வேல், சக்தி வேல், சக்தி வேல்!"
                                             --- ஓம் சக்தி

"நினைக்கும் பொழுது நின்மவுன
     நிலைவந் திடநீ செயல்வேண்டும்,
கனக்குஞ் செல்வம், நூறுவயது;
இவையும் தரநீ கடவாயே"
                                              ---- விநாயகர் நான்மனி மாலை

"காளி வலியசா முண்டி-ஓங்
    கரத் தலயியென் நிராணி-பல
நாளிங் கெனையலைக்க லாமோ?-- உள்ளம்
    நாடும் பொருளடைதற் கன்றோ?
..........................
என்னைப் புதியவுயி ராக்கி-எனக்
    கேதுங் கவலையுறச் செய்து-மதி
தன்னை மிகத்தெளிவு செய்து-என்றும்
     சந்தோஷங் கொண்டிருக்கச் செய்வாய்"
                                              ---- யோக சித்தி

[With apologies to readers I'll continue in English]



Subramania Bharathi (11th December 1882 - 11th September 1921) who donned many roles in his short but eventful life is credited with being a major contributor to modern Tamil literature and in modernizing an ancient language that boasts of a hoary heritage stretching back to two millennia. Yet, like Shelley, his idol, the recognition of his poetic genius evolved over the years only after his death. Though Bharathi wrote copiously his poems were scarcely published as anthologies in his own lifetime and even when in the few occasions they were published they sold few. 

A.R. Venkatachalapathy, also known as Chalapathy, professor (discipline unnamed) in Madras Institute of Development studies, has written a clear chronological summary of events leading to placing Bharati's works in the public domain, an event that he considers as pivotal in the making Bharathi a household name.



Bharati's widow Chellammaa started a publication named Bharathi Ashramam (பாரதி ஆச்சிரமம்) and published a few of his works between 1922-24 but the venture was a commercial failure. A fallout happened between Chellamma and her brother Appadurai following which she teamed up with Bharathi's step-brother Viswanatha Iyer to publish Bharati's works. Viswanatha Iyer joined with Harihara Sarma and K. Natarajan to establish 'Bharathi Prasuralayam' (பாரதி பிரசுராலயம்) in 1931. Chellamma who faced monetary pressures sold the rights to Bharati's works to Viswanatha Iyer in 1931 for Rs 4000. Viswanatha Iyer, in a bitter pamphlet he wrote amidst the nationalization shenanigans, admits that while the money paid appeared meager it was still a good sum in those days and given the then commercial interest in Bharathi's works it was quite appropriate. Seeing the advent of gramophones unleash a music industry an astute Viswanatha Iyer transferred the audio rights of the poems to one Jaisinghlal Mehta in 1934 for Rs 450 plus royalty on the records sold. Mehta later sold the rights to the enterpreneurial movie mogul A.V. Meiyyappa Chettiar in 1946 for Rs 9500.

Bharathi's poems were quite popular in Tamil Nadu during the freedom struggle and as a result he was venerated amongst the leadership of Congress which spear headed that struggle and even the Communist Party. Notably, P. Jeevanandam, a communist party leader and avowed student of Tamil literature venerated Bharathi. Jeeva's protege Tamil writer Jeyakanthan recorded that Jeeva told him that no one can be good communist in Tamil Nadu without knowledge of Tamil literature. In Tamil Nadu, as elsewhere, the art scene that included plays, music and films were filled with nationalist themes. The TKS brothers, as they were popularly called, were known for nationalist themed plays. In their plays they often used poems from Bharathi. They decided to make a movie out of their popular play 'Pilhanan' (பில்ஹணன்)  which featured a poem from Bharati's anthology of poems about Krishna (கண்ணன் பாட்டுகள்). They were promptly served a legal notice by AVM on 29th January 1948.

Jeeva, in the meantime, had been collecting support to 'nationalize' Bharathi's poems. It was unprecedented and flew in the face of established law concerning copyrights. In what is possibly the only place that can be called 'insightful' Chalapathy hints that Jeeva, a communist, would've been influenced by the philosophy that he espoused against private property in addition to his desire to see Bharathi popularized amongst the masses by unshackling him from the restraints of the law. 

A group that called itself "organization to liberate Bharathi" (பாரதி விடுதலைக் கழகம்) comprising of Trilok Sitaram, Vallikannan and Narana. Thuraikkannan gathered on 11th March 1948 to press for the nationalization of Bharati's works.

Events moved on multiple fronts. The regard with which Bharathi was held in a newly independent nation, ability of a group of literary persona to influence the rulers of the day, a ruling administration that was keenly responsive to public and literary sentiments all came together in a fortuitous combination to culminate in a landmark legislation that saw a government acquire the copyrights of an author. 

The speed with which the then government, headed by Omandurar, proceeded on this issue is breathtaking. T.K. Shanmugham wrote to Omandurar on 5th April 1948, Omandurar makes a file note to education secretary on 7th April 1948 to figure out how to proceed. On 20th April education secretary Avinashilingam Chettiar wrote back asking for powers to negotiate an acquisition of the copyrights.

After ascertaining that Bharati's family is willing to relinquish their rights, though legally they really had no rights to relinquish as the rights were held by Viswanatha Iyer and AVM, and the facts relating to the case in the Coimbatore court Omandurar invited AVM to convey his decision to acquire the rights. AVM consented to give up his rights after being compensated in full. Viswanatha Iyer too gave  up his rights for a sum of Rs 15,000. On 12th March 1949 Avinashilingam Chettiar announced to the legislature that the government had acquired the rights to all of Bharathiar's works.

The government owning the rights created it's own usual problems. The government machinery now moved in an agonizingly slow manner in bringing out a definitive edition of the poems. When Rajaji asks for a 'brief' note explaining the reasons for the delay he gets, Chalapathy records without realizing the irony of the words he chose, a 'detailed' reply. The definitive edition is published in 1954 when Kamaraj had become the chief minister. Seeing how the government has instead become a stumbling block now there was a clamor for the government to relinquish rights to 'the people'. Again, bending to public sentiment, the government released the rights 'to the people' on 14th March 1955. Now, Bharathi belonged to the  people.

Chalapathy's narrative is simple and straight forward. Adding the correspondences, affidavits and government orders as appendices adds to the documentary value of the book. The odyssey to acquire and then release the rights of Bharati's works shows in fleeting glimpses the ebb and flow of the poet's popularity in public imagination. Chalapathy also points out how this clamor to 'nationalize' works of note degenerated, in later years, into government high handedness when works were said to be nationalized without consulting legal heirs and when works of not just dubious quality but no quality were given the honor.

A few simple errors that need correction should be pointed out. 

On page 14 Chalapathy writes that Rani Annadurai was paid Rs 10 lakhs for the rights to the works of Annadurai whereas Chalapathy's own oped in that regard, produced in full on page 142, says the amount was Rs 75 lakhs.

On page 15 Chalapathy refers to an article he wrote for Kalachuvadu in the Jan 2006 issue. The appendix 12 that he refers to shows the article appearing on issue dated Jan 2007. It's kind of silly for an author to get the dates and information from his own article wrong and contradictory. And, to pile on this the article in Kalachuvadu stated that Bharati's works were released to public domain in 1963 contrary to the book stating that it happened on 14th March 1955. Unless I'm wrong this is a mistake wrapped inside a mistake.

On page 59 Chalapathy says that Chellamma gave an affidavit to Tirunelveli collector on 5th Feb 1949 detailing books published by Bharathi between 1910-1918. The corresponding document on page 116 states that the books listed were for the period 1910-1916. 

A questionable indignation is offered for the attempt to nationalize the works of Rajam Krishnan even while she was alive. Works are nationalized to override the period of copyright accorded by law so it does not matter if the author was alive or dead. This is facetious indignation.

A.R. Venkatachalapathy - Image Courtesy Hindu.
How does Chalapathy rate as a historian based on this book? 

Chalapathy repeatedly asserts that not even Gandhi, Nehru and Premchand's works received the 'honor of nationalization'. This is silly and a patently wrong assertion. An ill-informed reviewer in Tamil edition of The Hindu, also popularly known to be an ideological fellow traveler of Chalapathy, repeats this canard. First, there is no national process or honor to nationalize works of merit. It was something that happened for Bharathi due to the unique nature of people involved, especially, as Chalapathy himself points out, like communist Jeeva. The cases of Gandhi and Nehru are different also because their works were held by well established organizations that took upon themselves to maintain their works. Moreover, successive governments undertook massive and legendary exercises to collect and publish the writings of Gandhi and Nehru. While Chalapathy gleefully asserts that Gandhi and Nehru did not get the 'honor' he fails to mention his idol E.V. Ramasamy in that vein. Come on Chalapathy, a historian should not be wearing his politics on his sleeve. But, more about Chalapathy's politics shortly.

Recounting facts, however well researched they may be, in a chronological order, sprinkled with passing observations does not a historian make. A historian weaves a tapestry of facts to produce an overarching theme that glues the events. Chalapathy dubiously asserts that releasing Bharati's works in public domain made his works enduringly popular. While the claim has it's merits it does short work of other possible factors. By that account everyone whose work reached public domain must have seen at least a fraction of Bharati's popularity. 

Chalapathy's oped in 'The Economic Times' on Annathurai's works being nationalized brings to the fore his muddled politics and more importantly his inability to work out a theme.

Not even Annathurai's starry eyed followers with a modicum of intellect would agree to Chalapathy's claim that Annathurai 'single handedly, through his writings and speeches, led the Dravidian movement'. Chalapathy, sadly, forgot his education and training in history to write like a lumpen columnist for DMK's rag sheet 'Murasoli'. He laments that a 'whole generation has grown up without reading much of Anna's works, a process compounded by the anti-intellectual turn the Dravidian movement took in the 1960s'.

I fully support popularizing Annathurai's works, especially 'ஆரிய மாயை' and 'கம்ப ரஸம்', because those two works would help establish that the 'anti-intellectual turn' was not a latter day phenomenon but that Annathurai was indeed it's fountainhead. Jeyakanthan, with good reason, characterized the DMK as a 'cultural menace'. 'அவர் எழுதிய குப்பைப் புத்தகங்கள் எல்லாம் அவர் மரணத்தை எருவாகக் கொண்டு குருக்கத்திப் பூக்களாக மலர்ந்து விடப் போவதில்லை' என்று சந்நதம் செய்த ஜெயகாந்தனின் ஆவி சலபதியை மன்னிக்காது. See reference below for sections of Jeyakanthan's famed speech.

Chalapathy's oped contains dubious assertions and claims with no factual basis. Pray, I'd like to know who defined a classic as "a work often quoted but rarely read"? Then he asserts that "nationalization further reinforces the status of a classic and makes it more easily available". Are we to now assume that 'availability' equals 'readership'? Even more dubiously he claims that nationalization, beyond 'democratizing literature', 'has aided research and pursuit of knowledge'. This is shallow and without merit. Copyrighted works probably aid research better because the probability of the work not having lost integrity is higher. In fact in Bharathi's own case this is amply well illustrated.

Though the government released the rights to the public domain it issued guidelines as to how Bharati's works could be published. An artificial categorization of the poems, imposed by a government committee, has practically taken root and only now, with the publication of Seeni. Viswanathan's magnum opus, do we see the differences.

Chalapathy who sits on the board of literary awards is happy that the government renamed one of Bharati's famous poems, 'பிஜித் தீவிலே கரும்புத் தோட்டங்களில் ஹிந்து ஸ்த்ரீகள்', as 'கரும்புத் தோட்டத்திலே'. Seeni-Viswanathan in his definitive chronologically arranged edition of Bharathi's poems lists the many titles that were changed by Viwanatha Iyer's publication house and later by the Government. The government instituted changes reflected the then anti-Sanskrit sentiment that was sweeping across the state, thanks, in no small measure to Annathurai and his cohorts. 'ஸரஸ்வதி ஸ்தோத்திரம்' became 'கலைமகளை வேண்டுதல்'. 'போகின்ற பாரதமும், வருகின்ற பாரதமும்' was originally titled 'நிகழ்கின்ற ஹிந்துஸ்தானமும், வருகின்ற ஹிந்துஸ்தானமும்'. Any historian, much less one who adjudicates literary awards, is expected to at least record such a fact with disapproval of governmental high handedness and not support such a perfidy with cheer.

The political affiliation of Chalapathy is common knowledge and Chalapathy makes little effort to either conceal it or yield to scholarship when facts and beliefs collide. The student of history happily yields to the partisan in him. Writing about the change of guard from Rajaji to Kamaraj he says "by then the opposition to hereditary education policy by DK, DMK and even within Congress" resulted in the unseating of Rajaji. The sentence is worded in such a way as to perpetuate a falsehood that the education policy advocated by Rajaji was indeed titled 'hereditary based education'. No. Not at all. It was the opposition parties that labeled the education policy as being casteist and promoting hereditary based occupational education. Whether that criticism is fair or not is beside the point but it is a blatant unforgivable error in a book of history to repeat propaganda without sticking to facts.

The use of Grantha letters is another issue over which Chalapathy ties himself in knots. Rajaji's name stays as it is while Kamaraj's name is mangled by substituting the grantha letters with Tamil letters. (ராஜாஜி ராஜாஜியாகவே இருக்கிறார் ஆனால் காமராஜர் காமராசர் ஆகி விடுகிறார்). ஒரே பத்தியில் டி.கே. சன்முகம் (அவர் உண்மையில் 'ஷன்முகம்') தி.க. சன்முகம் ஆகிறார். புத்தகம் முழுவதும் ஐயராக இருக்கும் விசுவநாத ஐயர் புத்தகத்தின் கடைசியில் இணைக்கப்பட்டிருக்கும் படத்தில் 'விசுவநாத அய்யர்' ஆகிறார். விஷயமா அல்லது விடயமா என்பது ஆசிரியருக்கு தீராத குழப்பமாகவே இருக்கிறது. திராவிட இயக்கத்தவர் அல்லவா அப்படிப்பட்ட தெளிவின்மைகள் இருக்கத்தான் செய்யும் வாசகர்கள் பொறுத்தருள வேண்டும்.

Tamil writer Karichaan Kunju reminiscing about his days in school during 1940s, in an article about his friend T. Janakiraman, writes how Bharati's works were proscribed and how reciting his poems would invite stringent punishments. The dramatis personae in the quest to liberate Bharati's works are, interestingly, mostly non-Brahmins, including many in the portals of power. I wondered about the DMK propaganda of how Brahmins had a hegemony over power and cultural avocations. Ascribing the freedom to publish and freely available cheap editions (I've a copy of Poompuhar published Bharathi anthology dated 1978 from my father, priced at Rs 7) as being a prime reason for the popularity of the poet does injustice to a complex history of societal movements and socio-cultural reasons. That story remains to be told by a social historian. From Brahmins proscribing Bharati's poems to Brahmins, who maintain a stranglehold on Carnatic music, adopting his songs exclusively, ignoring even Bharathidasan's poems in totality, is an interesting tale that awaits a historian for it's narration.

The most unedifying part of the book that I hope subsequent editions will do without is the foreword. Apparently Chalapathy and the publisher, Kalachuvadu, have had some friction with a descendant of Bharathi. Chalapathy uses the foreword to ridicule the great-granddaughter of the poet for staking a moral claim to the poet's works and for ascribing greed as a motive for those who published her illustrious ancestor's works. It is specious to deny the descendant her 'moral claim' while acceding such a claim to Chellamma that the author and the then government give her despite the fact that she had no legal standing since she had sold the rights to Viswanatha Iyer. One cannot choose the moral pedestal when convenient and then turn to legal settings when inconvenient. For a person who diligently presented all documentary evidence it is unbecoming not to have included the oped written by the descendant that Chalapathy takes exception to. Moreover given that the publisher was Kalachuvadu, who also happens to be a publisher of the book, it is an ugly spectacle of an author carrying water for his publisher that too in the foreword of a book. This section crosses all limits of ethical conduct.

Two suggestions to the publisher and author. Please add a chronology of events. I actually typed out one just to get my timeline of events correct in order to write this review. Also, a good non-fiction book needs an Index, at least of names. Even a rudimentary one would be a good idea.

Kalachuvadu has a well earned reputation for producing books by authors of quality and well produced books at that. This booklet is a fine addition to their list of publications. Chalapathy, the faults not withstanding, has produced an important addition to the literature about Bharathi. For the lay Tamil reader this booklet gives a window into an important slice of history. Chalapathy shows promise to be a good historian one day. 

References:

  1. A. R. Venkatachalapathy's article in Kalachuvadu issue dated June 2015 on the copyright issue. This article pretty much sums up the book. The book, rather booklet, only adds to this article by way of including evidentiary support as pointed in this review. http://www.kalachuvadu.com/issue-186/page43.asp
  2. A review in 'The Hindu' (note, I am not the author of that adulatory review. It's a different person) http://tamil.thehindu.com/general/literature/பாரதி-படைப்புகள்-பொதுவுடைமையான-கதை/article7980196.ece
  3. A.R. Venkatachalapathy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._R._Venkatachalapathy
  4. Karichaan Kunju on T. Janakiraman and being punished for reciting Bharati's poems http://solvanam.com/?p=15152
  5. Jeyakanthan's legendary (or notorious) speech about Annathurai http://idlyvadai.blogspot.com/2009/09/blog-post_2410.html
  6. Excerpt from Jeyakanthan's speech:
"அண்ணாதுரையின் மறைவினால் அவர் இந்திய அரசியலில் பிரிட்டிஷ்காரர்களின் கையாளாக நமக்கு அறிமுகம் ஆனவர் என்ற உண்மை மறைந்துவிடுவதில்லை. நாத்திகம், சமூக சீர்திருத்தம் என்ற அசட்டுத்தனங்களில் சிக்கி நமது இலக்கியங்களையும், புராணங்களையும், ஹிந்து சமயத்தையும் பாமரத்தனமாக விமர்சனம் செய்து பாமரர் மத்தியில் புகழடைந்தார் என்கிற உண்மையும் மறைந்து விடாது. அவர் எழுதிய குப்பைப் புத்தகங்களெல்லாம் அவரது மரணத்தை எருவாகக் கொண்டு குருக்கத்திப் பூக்களாய் மலர்ந்துவிடப் போவதில்லை. அவர் சம்பந்தப்பட்ட எல்லாமே இரவல். இரவலே ஆயினும் அதை அவர் ஒப்புக் கொள்ளாததால் அது இலக்கியத் திருட்டு. அதற்கும்மேல் அவரது இரவல் சரக்குகள் எத்தகையது என்பதை அறிகிற பொழுது, அவரது தரம் மிகவும் தாழ்ந்தது என்கிற உண்மையையும் இந்த மரணம் வந்து மறைத்துவிடப் போவதில்லை.
அவரை அறிஞர் என்று மூடர்களே அழைக்கலாயினர். அவரைப் பேரறிஞர் என்றூ பெருமூடர்களே அழைக்கலாயினர். நகைச்சுவை எழுத்தாளர் என்று பெயரெடுத்திருந்த கல்கி அவர்கள் பத்திரிகையில் எழுதிய ஒரு நாடக விமர்சனத்தில் அண்ணாதுரையை பெர்னாட்ஷா என்று வஞ்சகப் புகழ்ச்சி செய்திருக்கிறார். தமிழர்களே! உங்களுடைய தற்காலத் தகுதிக்கு இவர்தான் பெர்னாட்ஷா என்பதாகவே அதை நான் புரிந்து கொண்டேன்."

4 comments:

ஸ்ரீதர் நாராயணன் said...

A very interesting and thought-provoking review indeed. Kudos to you.

Further to your reading list, there was a book penned by 'எதிரொலி' Viswanathan who was also part of the organization to liberate Bharathi. Parali Nellaiyappar, who was a thick friend of Bharati was also there in that organization.

AVM, with their proprietorship of Bharati's songs was not only charging for the Gramaphone records, but they went a bit ahead to charge the print media as well, which irked the 'liberate Bharathi' movement, very much.

Also, Bharathi Prachuralayam was a joint venture by Chellamal Bharathi and Viswanatha Aiyer. Harihara Sharma, the partner of the venture is none other than Thangammal Bharathi's husband. Natarajan, the another partner of Bharati Prachuralayam, brought a second edition of Bharati's work in 1988, but had abandoned his publication urges later. Thangammal Bharati's grand-daugter Mira T Sundara Rajan is a law professor who specializes in intellectual property and made an excellent study on this whole issue. The paper can be downloaded from here -> http://www.worldlii.org/int/journals/lsn/abstracts/427386.html

I remember reading a refutation in Kalachuvadu as well regarding this.

Chalapathy had also penned an article around the year 2000, titled as "Tamil's Tryst with Print" which gives another dimension for this whole Bharati's publications issue.

But, when Bharati's work was nationalised, there was a huge surge in bringing books with Bharati's name in it. Plethora of books have been published by large number of people and that become a huge movement to unite people in the name of Tamizh language.

Set no boundaries, but be ourselves subdued to the engulfing flames.

kailash said...

What is the difference between Govt acquiring the Rights of Poets work and Govt. Releasing the rights to people ? When a govt acquires right does it become open to public or should it need to be released to public . Did this happened only for Bharathis work or for all authors whose work were nationalized ?

Anonymous said...

Your writing style is frankly very tiresome.
Anyway, Bharathi'kku thelivaana sindhanai vaaikkavillai endru neevir yeppadi mudivukku vandheer ? :-) Oru objective blog'aalar aana neengal adharkku oru pathu pathi odhukki vilakki irukka vendaama?
: Sripriya

Ramachandran Kandaswamy said...

I agree with him totally.