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Thursday, September 24, 2009

What was learnt and begotten - the sad demise of great Sujatha

28/02/2008   அன்று நான் பெரிதும் விரும்பிய சுஜாதாவின் மரண செய்தி கேட்டு எழுதியது இது.

There are days when something hurts you sentimentally. Today is one such day, for it started in a very melancholic mood. Morning gave me the news of the passing away of a great genius, a man most revered by me and one who was loved by vast multitude of tamils interested in reading – short stories, novels, fiction, question & answers, religion – to capitulate whoever were interested in reading.

His great novel “Manal kayiru’ enamoured me to read more about him. It was first published in Kumudam on Aug 1968. I perhaps had not started reading tamil alphabets in that year and read it much later. One of his science fictions written in the early 70s “Sorga theevu” portrayed his understanding of computers and many of us even today do not understand computer better. There were more fictions like " Moondru nimisham Ganesh, En Iniya Iyandira" and "Meendum Jeeno" which vividly captured my imagination in my formative years. His skillful mix of crime and science is unrivalled by any of the contemporary (or past) tamil writers. Sujatha wrote over 100 novels, 200 short stories, essays, stage plays, and popular articles on science. His fictional character of Gansh / VAsanth (lawyers) are extremely popular. Whilst Ganesh was the soft spoken, suave kind, Vasanth was more vibrant. Here is a sample of his style and science writing….

Alas he is no more and today we have lost one of the most revered writers. Sujatha (May 3, 1935 - Feb 27, 2008, Aged: 72) was the pseudonym of the Tamil writer S. Rangarajan who authored of over 100 novels, 250 short stories, ten books on science, ten stage plays, and a slim volume of poems. He was a regular contributor to topical columns in Tamil periodicals such as Ananda Vikatan, Kumudam and Kalki. He had a very wide readership, served for a brief period as the editor of Kumudam, and has also written screenplays and dialogues for several Tamil movies. He was a great scholar in Sri vaishnavism, could quote at ease alwar pasurams and was in fact writing detailed commentary for one pasuram a week in a popular weekly.

His schooling was in Srirangam. He attended St.Joseph's College, Trichy, where he was classmate with our Ex president APJ Abdul Kalam. Sujatha graduated in the 1954 class with a B.Sc in Physics (1952-54) and masters degree in Electronics from the Madras Institute of Technology. He worked first in Civil Aviation Department of Government of India and later for Bharat Electronics in Bangalore, India before his retirement to Chennai, India, where he lived till his last days. As an engineer, he was a forward thinker and enabled many engineers to think ahead of times. He enabled the development of advanced word processing before the days of personal computers. He supervised the design and production of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) during his tenure in Bharat Electronics which is currently used in elections throughout India.

Sujatha received an award from Govt of India's National Council for Science and Technology in 1993 for making Science accessible to the public through his books, magazine contributions and other media.

Sujatha wrote a number of science fiction stories in Tamil and has sought to explain science in very simple terms to a layman. He routinely used to answer science questions in magazines like Junior Vikatan. His science FAQ has been released as separate books called En, Etharku, Eppadi and Athisaya Ulagam by Vikatan publications. With "Katradhum, petrathum" in Anantha vikatan and "Sujatha Bathilgal" in Kungumam he sought to explain many complicate issues in a simple languid manner.

'Lateral thinking' was a hallmark techniques fluidly used by him. He had the uncanny knack of explaining some of the most difficult scientific concepts with amazing ease. . Here is an example:"you boil the lentils in the pressure cooker while cutting vegetables for the curry. that is parallel processing".

Some people felt that his stories had an overdose of science. What Sujatha was trying to do was to kindle the scientific temparament and increase the awareness. Apart from being an author, he has also extended his writing skills and expertise on science to movies. The first of his were Gayathiri and Priya. In Priya his fictional character Ganesh comes to the screen done by superstar Rajinikanth but without vasanth (because the actor who was supposed to play vasanth did not get passport). Kamal Hassan's Vikram, which was written by him. He penned dialogues for the movie 'Roja' (directed by Maniratnam). In recent times he has been associated with Mani Ratnam (for Iruvar, Kannathil Muthamittal, Aaitha Ezhuthu etc) and Shankar (Boys, Anniyan, Indian, Mudhalvan, Sivaji). He was also a co-producer for the banner MediaDreams which went on to produce critically acclaimed bio-pic, Bharathi, of the great Tamil poet Bhaarathiyaar. He was working on Shankar's Robot before passing away on Feb 27, 2008. This is what he had written earlier about death :-

If there is something which I am avidly fond of more than cricket, it was  ofcourse  Sujatha……..
With regards – S Sampathkumar.

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