TITLE: Ponni’s Beloved
TRANSLATOR: Sumeetha Manikandan
Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Ponniyin Selvan is a masterpiece that has enthralled generations of Tamil readers. Many authors have written phenomenal books in Tamil literature after Kalki Krishnamurthy, but Ponniyin Selvan remains the most popular, widely-read novel. It has just the right mixture of all things that makes an epic – political intrigue, conspiracy, betrayal, huge dollops of romance, infidelity, seduction, passion, alluring women, unrequited love, sacrifice and pure love.
THE TRANSLATION:- The art of translation is cumbersome and the more you read a piece of translation and compare it with the original, the more you see scope for improvement. Hence to take up the translation of a piece of literature and that too of a popular classic is indeed an act of bravery. Hence, I must at the outset congratulate Sumeetha Manikandan for having taken up this difficult task. I myself have been into the world of translation since the past three decades and I know the challenges one faces in this field. So based on my experience and my reading of the book ( translation), I must say that the translator in Sumeetha has done a wonderful job. Yes, there are places where I feel there is scope for further improvement but like I mentioned earlier, a translation is rarely hundred percent perfect.
THE STORY:- A legendary piece of literature, ‘Ponni’s Beloved’ is Part One of five parts of the English translation of Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Tamil Classic ‘Ponniyin Selvan.’ It has as its protagonist Vandiya Devan a young soldier who belongs to the brave warrior race of Vanars. He is on a secret mission for the Crown Prince of the Chola Kingdom. What follows is an adventurous journey through the realms of the Chola Kingdom. Spiced with bits of gossip, fun- frolic and subtle romance, the story is actually that of deceit and dare. While we see that the thirst for power of a few, combined with the determination to wreak vengeance by some others, is ready to hit at the very foundation of a great empire, we also see the grit, determination and intelligence of one a woman, try match up to the conspiracies of the enemies in an attempt to thwart their mission and secure the future of the empire.
The story with plots and sub-plots and a range of characters, is interspersed with bits of historical facts here and there to enable the reader understand the characters, their place in the history of the region and the situation prevailing in those times better. These not only enrich the knowledge of the reader but also help in understanding the story better. They act as a guide to the Chola Kingdom.
The characters are well fleshed out and come across as normal human beings prone to known moral virtues and vices like love, hate, empathy, jealousy, loyalty, treachery, etc. Unlike the characters of the great Indian Epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana, those in ‘Ponni’s beloved’ do not have supernatural powers. They act and react purely by instinct and hence it is easy for one to connect to them, their thoughts and their actions and reactions.
The footnotes at the end of each page take care of the Tamil words, names, etc., that often crop up within the story. They are like the help-desk that provides fast and efficient service. 🙂
Overall an engrossing and interesting read, ‘Ponni’s Beloved’ did not satiate my thirst for the Tamil Classic. Instead it ignited an urge to know more of the story which is open ended in the first part. To be frank I was disappointed when it came to an end because it felt abrupt and incomplete. Felt like I was cheated. 😉 Can’t wait for the remaining volumes to hit the stands.
A truly wonderful read but……. with a few typos here and there, I’ll give the book a 4 on a scale of 5. Do pick up the book. You won’t regret it.