Chennai: When litterateur Ka Na Subramaniam — during his Delhi sojourn — called on the Hindi writer Harivansh Rai Bachchan, he had asked his son Amitabh what his profession was. When the latter, who was then riding high on the success of the then released Deewar, replied that he was an actor, Ka Na Su remarked in jest to the writer that he hopes that Amitabh can manage to make a living on his own. The actor recalled this incident in an interview much later, when he had said, “Had Ka Na Su known that I was an actor, then, he, without doubt, is the better actor.”
Bharathi Mani, essayist and son-in-law of Ka Na Su, related this memorable exchange at a centenary seminar on the latter, organised by the Sahitya Akademi, on Wednesday. Sahitya Akademi awardee Sirpi Balasubramaniam, also convenor of the Sahitya Akademi Tamil Advisory Board, said, “Ka Na Su was considered a nuisance by his contemporaries because of his critical nature. He had once commented that only those story series published in weekly magazines are fit for the Sahitya Akademi Award. He had rated Father of Folklore R Shanmuga Sundaram’s Nagamma as the greatest of novels, calling it ‘robust commonsense’. Sirpi added that among Ka Na Su’s poems, Uyil was his personal favourite.
Eminent writer Indira Parthasarathy who was also present, said, “Ka Na Su introduced the culture of rating novels, short stories and writers. His rating, however, was not consistent.” When Parthasarathy had questioned him on the same, Ka Na Su, quoting Emerson, replied, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of mean minds.” Papers on the contribution of Ka Na Su to Tamil literature were also presented.
Ka Na Subramaniam has authored more than 50 books, including short story collections, novels, poetry and essays, in addition to translations of other literary works. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1986. He also edited the Rural India magazine which was run by former PM Charan Singh.