Tamil Filmmaker Speaks at Russia.
Leo Tolstoy’s Influence on Tamil Literature: Venkatesh Kumar.G
The strongest of all warriors are these two Time and Patience!! I waited for 38 years
to feel this moment representing 80 million Tamil people living across the world!!!
It's a pride to speak about the greatest writer of all time LEO TOLSTOY and his
Influence on Tamil Literature. The very early impressions of his translation works in
Tamil can be dated to 1930’s where a set of short stories by Leo Tolstoy were
published as text books in Tamil for our school children. The book titled
"கதைமணிக்கோவை" – Stories from Tolstoy includes three beautiful short stories
written by Russian Writer Leo Tolstoy translated in Tamil by Rao.Saheb K.
Kothandapani Pillai B.A who worked as deputy collector and controller of
On the 29th of October 1896 K. Kothandapani Pillai was born to kuppuswami and
valliammai at a small village named Semmangudi near Tanjore district of Tamilnadu
He was a tall dark handsome personality who was often called as “black lotus” by his
close aides which includes the former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who was an
admirer of his nature. He was known for his honesty and sincerity at work which
made him serve as the “protector of emigrants” during the Second World War at
madras. He was awarded “rao sahib” for his immense contribution towards art and
He began his art quest in the early 30’s; his very first creation is quite unique as he
started it with a Soviet touch.
Leo Tolstoy the famous Russian Writer and philosopher has left his soul with the
people through his immortal works. He has embraced the human race with his touch
of humanity in all his creations.
In 1932 this mystic Scholar took in hand three masterful and legendary short stories
of Leo Tolstoy and translated them into Tamil as stories with a touch of nativity in it.
The book "Kadhaimanikkovai" Stories from Tolstoy was printed as text book for
Tamil students carried 3 meaningful stories written in a way that a student from
down south in a Tamilnadu village can relate to the great ideologies of Leo Tolstoy.
The stories are set in an interesting way leaving the readers glued to it. It is to be
noted that the book was printed as text book in 1931, 1932 and 1933 along with
many text books written by great Tamil poets in which our very own national poet
Mahakavi.Subramania Bharathi and Children’s poet Bharathidasan names are to be
mentioned. This book lifted the spirits of Tamil youngsters as it is mentioned in the
foreword by the author himself.
Translated Short stories of Leo Tolstoy
1. Two Old Men (1885) – A trip to tirupathi
2. How much land does a man need (1886) Does wishes have limits?
3. A lost Opportunity (1889) Small spark leads to a big fire
Leo Tolstoy’s fables rooted great moral values and ethics into the souls of young
children which turned them into efficient citizens of the nation.
Leo Tolstoy mastered his art with Extreme depth and realness that his phrases and
words penetrated deep into a human soul and won its love. So did these 3 short
stories as I fell in love with them on my first read!
An entire generation of artists, filmmakers, scholars, writers, poets and performers
has evolved reading these precious fables in our native language Tamil.
"There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth" War and
Proving this "These stories were written with utmost simplicity and Elegance"
Standing here I would like to quote that the stories were written amidst these
All great literature is one of two stories "A man goes on a journey or a stranger
comes to town" -Two Old Men 1885.
The first short story "Two Old Men"(1886) emphasizes on the life of two Old friends
who go on a holy trip. Both travel together with different perspective of life. One
seeks god within himself and the other seeks it outside. “Serving fellow human is
the biggest service to god” says this beautiful short story. The story's essence is
humanity and the need of care and love among human beings. The 1932 adaptation
in Tamil features the same content with a touch of nativity in it. A child reading this
story through his school text book will inherit great thoughts and ideas. It's a
pleasure to share with you all that thousands of my Tamil children who had their
school education between 1930's to 1940's would have enjoyed reading this moral
lesson in their own language.
My grandparents were one among those children.
“A drop of Nectar is enough to tell you the depth of sweetness”, Essence from
these masterpieces has given rise to many films, tales, dramas, poems, stories and
Our children cherished reading these fabulous Russian tale under yellow lamps lit in
their houses and minds!!! Russian literature represented by Leo Tolstoy in early 20th
century influenced many Indian kids. The author K.K Pillai has used references from
the famous thirukkural written by thiruvalluvar using Kural 151 and Kural 158 to
make it easy for the readers to connect with the moral of the story.
The second short story is "How much land does a man need" (1886) which portrays
the life of a man who is desperate to accumulate more wealth. His lust to possess
more properties ends with grabbing only 6 inch of land needed to bury him at the
end. This is a hard hitting story that questions one's own consciousness. Through our
life we live to accumulate more wealth and land but we fail to understand our task as
a human living in this earth. “Nothing is precious than a content heart says this
beautiful fable”. The adapted version in Tamil (1932) brings out the exact flavor of
the story which makes the readers realize the consequences of greed when it sits at
the Crown of your head!!!
The third short story is "A Lost Opportunity" (1889). It takes years to build up a good
relationship but it can be destroyed in seconds and for the silliest reasons of all. In
this story an un-stolen and an un-laid egg of a hen creates a rift between two
neighbors. Their enemity fumes and at one point it burns the entire village. No one
can nail this moral so strong except Leo Tolstoy. He explains how anger can destroy
one's life in the cruelest way. The 1932 adaptation signifies the same without
distracting the content of the original.
Tolstoy works have symbolized Humanity, modesty and love and has criticized
disbelief, greed and anger. His short stories have kept inspiring generations. .
In this last letter to Mahatma Gandhi he states “The longer I live-especially now
when I clearly feel the approach of death-the more I feel moved to express what I
feel more strongly than anything else" and also hints and briefs on the principles of
Christ in showing love and affection to all human being in this world. He quotes “God
is with us, and God is mightier than man".
We India and the people in Tamilnadu have been influenced by his words and works
which shaped our youngsters to fight for our national freedom.
Leo Tolstoy’s preaching’s through letters, short stories, novels; fables have
structured the character and charm of young Indian men and women in forming a
strong Independent and Self-Determined society!!!
Its worth to mention here there is a precious story written by Tolstoy in 1955
named "The Cutting of the Forest" which influenced me personally as it exposed
the realm of human life.
I'm just a small drop in a big ocean of tolstoyans gathered here. But it's my duty to
represent my people in this huge arena of scholars and historians. I'm overwhelmed
with the works of such a legend who my ancestors have been influenced with. These
three stories teach the simplest lessons of our life. I'm sure a self esteemed society
was created during the colonial period under the influence of his creations. Later
after independence a new generation rose up to adopt his works into films, novels,
plays and other forms of art and creations. Many films in Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, and
Malayalam were made under the influence of his works by either adapting or
A film named "Panakkari" meaning 'Rich girl’ was released in 1953 starring our
honorable late chief minister Mr. M.G.Ramachandran. This film was made based
on the novel "Anna Karenina". This Tamil film received huge adoration from my
A collection of Tolstoy letters were translated In Tamil by Mr. Rajamanickam in 1961
which explains the soul of the greatest writer in our very own Tamil Language.
It's my privilege to present this speech in front of all you beautiful people.
I never dreamt that my great grandfather Rao.Saheb K.Kothandapani Pillai's
literary pursuit which I rediscovered recently would bring me here.
I would like a quote a statement here which I read on the biography named
“Rao.Sahib.K.Kothandapani Pillai and his contribution to Tamil” done by a student
named Selva Sekar from tamilnadu for his doctorate degree. The author K.K.Pillai
states “I at times feel bad that many of my works have been stopped from being
published and were stopped from reaching the people” and one example which I
found on my research is that there is also another collection of short stories of Leo
Tolstoy translated in Tamil by K.Kothandapani Pillai's named “KADHAIKOTTHU”
which has no traces of existing. I wish I shall find it soon!!!
With love and gratitude I present this book "கதைமணிக்கோவை" – Stories from
Tolstoy (Tamil) to the museum here at Yasnaya Polyana. I hope this marks a new
beginning of Cultural Friendship between us. We were friends!! We are friends!! And
We Will be friends forever!!!
I thank Yasnaya Polyana for the love they showered upon me which cannot be
described in words. Thanks for the opportunity!!! LOVE YOU….