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Vayalar Symposium Review

Some afterthoughts

After listening to the various views raised at the Vayalar symposium, Murali and Omana Nair join the discussion with their observation.

Even viewed from our limited knowledge of Malayalam literature in general and the subject in particular, the symposium was a great success, as it was an occasion for us to know more about Vayalar and the socio-political landscape in Kerala at the time.  We also felt that everyone else enjoyed the event, and would have gone on enjoying, for more than one reason, had there been more time.

The symposium was not merely about the great Vayalar - it was also about sharing feelings and emotions which are so personal - that normally one would have shared them with close friends or relations.  Obviously the subject proved to be a common thread through which deep personal experiences of many individuals could be linked; perhaps because some of them had unfortunate tragic personal losses at very vulnerable stages in their lives, similar to those shared by the great poet or the characters in his masterpieces.  The discussions touched very many hearts present there.  Or is this an understatement?

One doubt lingers in our minds - whether the speakers really meant that Vayalar was a poet who effectively used the medium of cinema to commercialise his poetry and gain popularity.  In our opinion it is not fair to attribute such motives.

Firstly, a true creative artist or author does not give much attention to the commercial aspect of his art (except, of course, those commissioned to produce work in the West).  A piece of art or literature is an original work, which could be liked and appreciated by more people than some other pieces of work at a given time, which makes one more popular than the other, so long as there is not another better piece of work which proves to be more attractive to the popular mind.  Normally, the creator does not and cannot plan how his work would be received, absorbed and appreciated by the audience, as there are so many factors that could influence the result.  So he could not pursue a commercial motive.

Secondly, sadly, the true worth of many an artist is more often recognised much after their effective working life.  Consequently they do not receive the credit (or the so called commercial benefits), and most of them remain paupers, a factor which encourages many artists to sacrifice their artistic talents on the altar of livelihood, and compels them to seek other avenues for sustenance in a commercialised world.  Vayalar could have done better in life by pursuing some other branch of scholastic career, which he had denied himself due to his commitment to art, regardless of materialistic outcome.  That was true love of art.  Some elements in society at that time would have exploited it (e.g. cinema producers) with a commercial angle, for which the artist should not bear the responsibility.  A test would prove this point - who get more recognition for a particular song - the actor, singer or writer?  How many people could easily recall who sang the song or who wrote it?  Again this should be seen through the lenses of the mass population and not the intelligent or the upper echelons of society to get a true picture.  This is more probable when the subject is associated with socialist ideals!

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