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Thursday, September 28, 2017

TAMIL PULP—SARIS AND DAGGERS!

TAMIL PULPSARIS AND DAGGERS!

In a previous column, I wrote about the wonderful explosion of Indian Hindi Pulp and its rare but engaging English translations. Tamil Pulp is another strong tradition to come out of India, with several collections also being translated into English. Spoken in four south Indian states, Tamil is the official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore. 

Always considered the language of high culture in India, Tamil has today become the choice of mass market Indian fiction authors, whose stories and style of writing mimic the American pulp magazines, whose heyday ran from the1930s thru the 1950s. In a uniquely Indian twist, these action packed Tamil Pulp stories are often filled with kings, ghosts, and mythological serpents. 

Similar to when the American pulp magazines once boomed, Tamil Pulp novels are currently flourishing in India. They can be spotted on every newsstand and book stall, recognized by their lurid covers—often featuring mustachioed men menacing women in tight nurse's uniforms, knives dripping blood, and lots of cleavage. Clearly, another strong connection to their American forerunners.

In 2008, California born Rakesh Khanna had returned to India and was living in Chennai, the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, near the Bay of Bengal. Seeing the barrage of Indian pulp novels exploding around him, Khanna became fascinated by the stories. Inspired, Khanna and translator Pritham Chakravarthy co-founded Blaft, an alternative publishing company dedicated to English language versions of Tamil Pulp. 

Blaft has since published three translated anthologies of Tamil Pulp. The books themselves are works of art. The luridly brilliant cover of the first volume features the intriguing figure of a busty, gun-toting, Tamil rose with a knowing look. The following volumes sport similar images. Inside there are striking color reproductions of many Tamil Pulp covers, as well as professionally executed line drawings used to illustrate the stores. Everything is in perfect balanced from the quality of the paper to the binding. Pulp has never looked so good.

The collected stories themselves are riveting and well worthy of their place between the covers. There are mad scientists, hardboiled detectives, robot murderers, desperate housewives, scandalous starlets, sordid, drug-fueled love affairs, vengeful goddesses, and enough racy material to make any mother despair if she caught you reading about them. With titles like, Hold On A Minute I'm In The Middle of A Murder; Sweetheart, Please Die; and Eat Pray Love Kill, any pulp fan is going to be all in.

GOLDEN RULES FOR TAMIL PULP FICTION

In 1933, Tamil author Sudhandhira Sangu wrote an article called The Secret of Commercial Novel Writing. He laid out the three golden rules:

1. The title of the book should carry a woman's name—and it should be a sexy one like Miss Leela Mohini.

2. Your story must absolutely include a minimum half-dozen lovers and prostitutes, preferably ten or a dozen murders, and few sundry thieves and detectives.

3. You can make money only if you are able to titillate. If you try to bring in any social message, forget it. Beware! You are not going to lure your women readers.

Anyone want to argue with the rules? Didn’t think so... 

THE BLAFT ANTHOLOGY OF TAMIL PULP FICTION VOL. 1

This anthology features seventeen stories by ten best-selling authors of Tamil crime, romance, science fiction, and detective stories, none of them ever before translated into English, along with reproductions of wacky cover art and question-and-answer sessions with some of the authors. Grab a masala vadai, sit back and enjoy!

THE BLAFT ANTHOLOGY OF TAMIL PULP FICTION VOL. 2

Selected and translated from the Tamil by Pritham Chakravarthy. Edited by Rakesh Khanna. The follow-up to 2008's successful first collection featuring stories by Indra Soundar Rajan, Medhavi, Jeyaraj, Pushpa Thangadorai, Rajesh Kumar, Indumathi, M.K.Narayanan, and Resakee. A young woman's fascination with blue films leads to a bizarre murder! A bloodline of debauched maharajas falls prey to an evil curse! A beautiful girl uses karate to retrieve a stolen idol! Seven thrilling tales from seven Indian and Singaporean masters of action, suspense, and horror!

THE BLAFT ANTHOLOGY OF TAMIL PULP FICTION VOL. 3

From the sewers of small-town Tamil Nadu to the drug dens of Khajuraho...From the dance bars of Hyderabad to the exoplanets of Gliese 581...The doyens of Tamil Pulp Fiction bring you six short novels of love...crime...and interstellar terror!

2 comments:

  1. Awesome post Paul Bishop, Tamil though not my mother tongue I was born and raised in Tamil Nadu and only know to write and speak Tamil and English. I don't know that some of the stories been translated to English, in school days I liked the crime thrillers of Rajesh Kumar, Pushpha Thangadurai and Pattukottai Prabhakar.

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  2. I have read the first volume which was a hoot. Guess it is time to look for the others too. Thanks for highlighting them.

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