(Last Updated on : 17/08/2012)
Late Romantics in Malayalam literature were a group of extreme idealists and dreamers. They seemed to be obsessed with death and the awareness of the brevity and futility of life. Thus they were not merely a group of immoral aesthetics creating art for art's sake. Among the Romantic poets who followed in the footsteps of the Great Trio of Malayalam literature, the most important figure was Nalappat Narayana Menon (1887-1955), but his poetic works were limited. From his earlier phase of poetic works, he went on to shift his attention to criticism, psychology, and ancient Indian philosophy
. He also published a number of translations from European writers. His best-known poetic work, Kannunirthulli (Teardrop), is an elegy on the death of his wife. Written in a terse, lucid style, the poem is still popular, as it possesses a rare nostalgic intensity and a new brand of metaphysical reflection. For a literature that thrived on convincing invocations of fatalism, Nalappat's poetry opened up a new way of looking at the experience of suffering.
Changanpuzha (1914-48) and Idappally (1909-36) are two younger late Romantic poets of equal importance who stand out in the field of Malayalam literature. Ramanan, the former poet's Lycidas-like pastoral elegy about the latter's suicide at a young age, continues to produce generations of younger poets who freely demonstrate their high idealism and passion of romantic suffering. Though Changanpuzha himself died at the age of 34, he left behind a large volume of intensely lyrical, romantic poetry. His Vazhakkula (A Stalk of Plantains) is a small poetic gem. The poet narrates the story of an untouchable tenant who nurtures a plantain tree in his backyard. Their father's work enables the children to dream about the sweet nourishment the tree will render them when the fruit is ripe. But the landlord arrives. He claims the fruit. The fruit of the poor man's labors is snatched away because the rich landlord claimed ownership on the patch of land. In many ways, Changanpuzha's Vazhakkula exemplifies the core of Malayalam Romanticism, which begins with the Great Trio and ends with the late Romantics. It is a profound sorrow about the human failure in acknowledging the dignity of all, even though all individuals must face the certainty of death. This poetic knowledge emboldens the poet to speak for a revolution of the heart.
Romantic poetry weakened with the death of Changanpuzha, whom Vallathol outlived by a whole decade. Romanticism in Malayalam contributed greatly toward developing a native poetic voice that is modern and at the same time does not imitate the Western models and styles. Post Romantic and late Romantic poets, in general, sought to strike a truly Malayalam note in their poetry. G. Sankara Kurup was one among the dozens of poets who did hit the right note. Writing in the 1950s and 1960s, Sankara Kurup attained a voice independent of the one set by Europeans. Kurup's collection of symbolist lyrics, Odakkuzhal (Bamboo Flute, 1950), won him the first Jnanpith Award
in 1965, India's top literary honor. Inspired more by Rabindranath Tagore
than Wordsworth, G. Sankara Kurup played an important role as a poet of the Indian Independence movement, and he championed a poetry of humanism. He is probably the only poet of Kerala who is known as a bard of science, for he refers to the advancements in science in his meditations of the human potential, but his approach has to be understood as the beginnings of a postmodern sensibility, and the best example of this trend is his famous narrative poem "The Master Carpenter," in which he uses a Kerala
legend about a master carpenter's envy for his son, who excels in the father's art. To give a post-modern spin to the Western notion of the oedipal story, the poet offers a vivid character study of a father who kills his rival in art, his own son.
The legacy of the poets of the first half of the twentieth century such as Kunjikuttan Thampuran, Rajaraja Varma, Kattakkayam, K. V. Simon, the two Naduvath poets Oravankara and Kundoor, and K. C. Kesava Pillai was enhanced by the poets of the post Romantic period. Among the large number of the post-Romantics who have made significant contributions are Kunjiraman Nair, Balamani Amma, Edassery, Mary Benigna, Mary John Koothattukulam, Palai Narayanan Nair, Vennikulam, Vayalar Rama Varma, Mathan Tharakan, Vailoppilli, Krishna Warrier, M. P. Appan, Nalankal Krishna Pillai, G. Kumara Pillai, O.N.V. Kurup, P. Bhaskaran, Kadavadu Kuttikrishnan, K. V. Ramakrishnan, Sugatha Kumari, and Yusuf Ali Kecheri. It is interesting that Romantics like O.N.V. Kurup (Ujjaini, 1995), Sugatha Kumari (Ambalamani, 1993), and Naiv Madhusudhan (Naranath Bhranthan, 1995) are best sellers.