20 October, 2020

The Boss Will See You Now

What of Ashokamitran, the beloved Tamil litterateur?

R.A. Chandroo
The Boss Will See You Now

I first heard about Ashokamitran when a friend caught me watching old Tamil film snippets on Jaya Max (‘Madura Geetam’). If I was into that sort of thing—MGR, Nambiar, Manorama—he said I ought to read a small book called My Years with Boss, a chronicle of life in Chennai’s Gemini Studios in the 1950s. Next, a film critic in Mumbai recommended the same book to me, adding that she wished something this good had been written about a Bollywood studio. When I mentioned My Years with Boss to my publisher, however, she had not heard of it. She knew of Ashokamitran only as the award-winning author of a novel called Water. I soon discovered that some people—especially Indians who write in English—regarded the name Ashok­amitran (which was clearly not a name at all, but an alias) with something like fear. His translator, that man Kalyan Raman, “is our great enemy”, a Mumbai poet told me. It turned out that Ashokamitran was as associated as U.R. Ananthamurthy with the campaign to deflate the egos...



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