Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (17 April 1912 - 10 April 1999) was a novelist and short story writer of Malayalam. He is popularly known as Thakazhi, after his place of birth. He focused on the oppressed classes as the subject of his works, which are known for their attention to historic detail. He has written several novels and over 600 short stories. His most famous works are Kayar (Coir, 1978) and Chemmeen (Prawns, 1956; film adaptation, 1965). He was awarded the Indian government's highest literary award, the Jnanpith in 1984.

Born in the village of Thakazhi, in Kuttanad, Alappuzha district of Kerala, he started to write stories when he was a schoolboy. His literary taste was nurtured by his high school headmaster Kainikkara Kumara Pillai (1900-1988) who exposed him to Indian literature. He met Kesari A Balakrishna Pillai (1889-1960) while pursuing his law studies in Thiruvananthapuram. He introduced Thakazhi to modern European literature and thought.

His novels and short stories basically discussed various aspects of societies in Kerala in the mid-20th century. His novel Thottiyude makan (Scavenger's Son, 1947) is considered a pioneer work in Malayalam realistic novel. It is about modernity challenging the rationale of the caste system, that one's profession should depend on pedigree.

His love epic Chemmeen (Prawns, 1956) which was a departure from his earlier line of realism, met with immense popularity. It told a tragic love story set in the backdrop of a fishing village inAlappuzha. The novel and its film adaptataion, also titled Chemmeen (1965) earned him national and international fame. Chemmeen was translated into 19 world languages and adapted as film in 15 countries. Chemmeen won for Thakazhi the Kendra Sahitya Academy Award in 1958. The film adaptation, directed by Ramu Kariat won the National Film Award for Best Film in 1964.

Despite the populairy of Chemmeen, his novel Kayar (Coir, 1978) is quite widely considered as hismasterpiece. The novel spreads to over 1000 densely printed pages and deals with hundreds of characters over four generations, bring back to life an axial period (1885-1971) during whichfeudalism, matriliny and bonded labor gave way to conjugal life, everyone’s access to a piece of land, decolonization and the industrial revolution of the 1960s.

Born                                        April 17, 1912

Thakazhi, Alappuzha, Kerala,India

Died                                        April 10, 1999 (aged 86)

Thakazhi, Alappuzha, Kerala,India

Pen name                                Thakazhi

 

Nationality                             Indian

 

Genres                                                Novel, Short story

Subjects                                Social aspects

 

Literary movement                Realism