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இந்தப் பக்கத்தை தமிழில் வாசிக்க: அசோகமித்திரன்


Ashokamitran (J. Thyagarajan) (22 September 1931 – 23 March 2017) was a notable modern Tamil writer. He wrote about the everyday lives of the metropolitan middle class in a characteristic, detached style of prose. Ashokamitran is considered one of the pioneers of modernism in Tamil literature. His works followed a minimalistic narrative style and had a unity in form and structure that are the defining features of literary modernism. His works reveal that he was fascinated by existentialism and J. Krishnamurthy’s philosophy. In his lifetime, he won many awards and acclamations including the Kendra Sahitya Akademi award. He was the editor of the literary journal Kanaiyaazhi.

Personal life

Ashokamitran’s ancestors on his mother’s side were from Mayavaram and on his father’s side from Vattalakundu. He has written that he was related to the writers B. R. Rajam, C. S. Chellappa and B. S. Ramiah.

Ashokamitran was born on 22 September 1931 in Secunderabad, then under the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad. His mother’s name was Balambal. His father, Jagadisa Iyer, was a railway employee. Ashokamitran grew up in the Lancer Barracks where the railway employees were quartered. The Lancer Barracks constituted a major backdrop for Ashokamitran’s stories. During the Second World War, he spent a few years of his youth in a village called Polagam near Thanjavur.

In 1948, the Nizam of Hyderabad refused to accede to the Union of India. Following the unrest caused by a group of religious fundamentalists known as Razakars within the Nizam, then Home Minister Vallabhai Patel ordered a direct "police action" (Operation Polo) to take over Hyderabad. The events surrounding the annexation of Hyderabad had a great effect on a young Ashokamitran. His first novel Padinetavadhu Atchakodu (The Eighteenth Parallel) was set in this political milieu.

Ashokamitran with his wife. PC: The Hindu (Tamil)

Shortly after the death of his father in 1952, Ashokamitran relocated to Chennai with his mother and sisters. With the help of his father’s friend, he found work as a production assistant at Gemini Studios. He worked as S. S. Vasan’s aide. He chronicled his experiences during this period in The Illustrated Weekly of India magazine, which was later compiled into an English novel called My Years With Boss. This was also translated into Tamil. Several notable stories including Puli Kalaignan (Tiger Meister) were written in this setting.

Ashokamitran worked at Gemini Studios for thirteen years after which he quit in 1966, citing inequities and hierarchical practices within the film industry. He did not hold a steady job after leaving Gemini Studios and simply relied on translations and other odd jobs to get by.

Ashokamitran had three sons.

Ashokamitran with wife. PC: Kaalam Magazine
Ashokamitran with wife and son. PC:Kaalam Magazine

Literary life

Ashokamitran. Iowa days

Ashokamitran became acquainted with modern literature through his friend Ramanarasu while working at Gemini Studios (1952-1966). He took up a minor role in the play Vanavil (Rainbow) written and enacted by Ramanarasu. He later adopted the character’s name 'Ashokamitran’ as his pen name. The radio play Anbin Parisu (Love’s Gift) published in 1954 was his first work. It was influenced by Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters In Search Of The Author.

Tamil writer Nakulan followed Ashokamitran’s writings attentively and promoted his aesthetic outlook. Ashokamitran dedicated his first short story collection Vazhvile Oru Murai (Once In A Lifetime) to Ramanarasu and Nakulan, with the words "To Ramanarasu who said that I can write and to Nakulan who said that I do write". Though he wrote for popular magazines such as Ananda Vikatan and Kalki, Ashokamitran reserved his major, more serious works for Tamil literary magazines. He worked as the chief editor of the literary magazine Kanaiyaazhi. Several of his short stories written in the 70s were published in Kumudam magazine.

Ashokamitran attended a writer’s workshop at the University of Iowa, USA. He recorded a fictionalized account of his experiences during this period in his short story collection Otran (Spy).

Narmada Publications published his first short story collection Vazhvile Oru Murai. It featured several notable stories such as Prayanam (Journey), Ainooru Koppai Thattugal (500 Saucers) and Vazhvile Oru Murai. They were critically acclaimed by critic and writer Ka Naa Subramanyam and writer Nakulan.

Ashokamitran’s second collection Kaalamum Aindhu Kuzhanthaigalum (Time And Five Children) was published in 1974. Vidudhalai (Freedom), a collection of novellas that came out next, was also well received. These early collections contain accurate, realistic depictions of life while retaining a humorous tone. However, there was an evolution of style seen in his second collection.Several stories, including Kaalamum Aindhu Kuzhanthaigalum,exhibit an abstract and metaphorical style. He employed this technique in a few stories in other collections, before reverting back to his characteristic style of realistic narration.

He drew on his experiences at Gemini Studios for his second novel, Karainta Nilalkal (translated to English as Star Crossed by V. Ramnarayan). His third novel, Thaneer (Water), used the phenomenon of water scarcity in Chennai as a parallel to the spiritual poverty of the modern age.

Ashokamitran had a fascination for sages, siddhas, and astrologers. Writer, playwright, and director S. D. S. Yogi (Sa Du Su Yogiyar) and writer K. R. Gopalan (Ki Ra Gopalan), who also worked at Gemini Studios, introduced Ashokamitran to a few siddhas and occultists. They were both interested in siddha mysticism and philosophy. K. R. Gopalan also showed interest in Vedantic philosophy. These experiences made their way into Ashokamitran’s stories Manasarovar and Agaya Thamarai.

Later in life, Ashokamitran wrote memoirs of his youth. His final novel Yuthangalukidaiyil (Between Wars) has autobiographical elements and can be read as a continuation of his memoirs.

Ashokamitran received the K. K. Birla fellowship for a thesis on comparative Indian literature. From 1973-1974 he was awarded two fellowships at the University of Iowa for creative writing.

Ashokamitran wrote critical essays introducing American literature and other amusing short essays about the world of filmmaking, Hollywood cinema, Hindi songs , the transformation of Chennai into a metropolitan city, in lucid, charming language.

Subrabharathi Manian, editor of the little magazine Kanavu, published a special edition of critical essays on Ashokamitran in 1991, for his 60th birthday. These were authored by writer Jeyamohan. Ashokamitran won the 1996 Sahitya Akademi award for his collection of short stories called Appavin Snegidhar (Father’s Friend).


Ashokamitran passed away on 23 March 2017 while in his son’s home, in Velachery, Chennai. He was eighty six.

Biographical References

Ashokamitran Autobiographical notes

Ashokamitran wrote many autobiographical notes which were compiled and published later on.

There are four different documentaries about Ashokamitran made by:

  • Amshan Kumar for Sahitya Akademi, 2003
  • Sa. Kandasamy
  • Gnani
  • Prasanna Ramaswamy, 2017

Literary Legacy, Aesthetics


Ashokamitran had a candid and simplistic way of writing. The influence of Na Pichamurti and Pudhumaipithan’s stories like Chellamal are quite discernible in his works. He was also influenced by Ernest Hemmingway and William Saroyan among others. There is an influence of Saroyan’s My name is Aram stories in Ashokamitran’s pieces on his youth. (Ilakiya munodigal – Jeyamohan)

Ashokamitran was a practising Hindu but his stories do not reveal his faith. Philosophically, they reserve a modernist, existentialistic view. (Ilakiya munodigal’ – Jeyamohan)

Ashokamitran was of the opinion that there should be considerable distance between modern literature and traditional ideas and practices that exist in literature, religion, and culture. His skepticism and disbelief in tradition is apparent in stories such as Innum Sila Natkal (A Few More Days) and Prayanam (Journey).

Viduthalai (Freedom) and Kaalamum Aindhu Kuzhanthaigalum (Time And Five Children) show his fascination with the philosophy of J. Krishnamurthy. Ashokamitran’s work Gandhi reveals his profound admiration for Gandhism, although it does come across as his admiration for Gandhi, the individual, in the story.

Ashokamitran’s stories exhibit strong individualism. The voice of the individual’s strife against political, religious institutions, and other power structures rings through his works. The individual, isolated and forsaken, is left to deal with his day-to-day struggles. His misery and disillusionment are discussed in Ashokamitran’s stories. However these grave subjects are dealt with wit, whimsy, and a detached, satirical tone.

Ashokamitran did not believe in theorizing, generalizing, and forming concepts about art. His essays on literary and film criticism were entirely subjective aesthetic appreciations. He was against any form of objective theoretical criticism and did not engage with his contemporaries in critical debates.

Critics record that Ashokamitran’s style is modernist. It was concise in structure and had the quality of communicating through symbolism. His style was characterized by simplistic skeletal prose and avoidance of elaborate descriptions. He wrote conversations in a standard prose but later adopted a generalized colloquial language, although he never used local dialects.


  • Saavi, the editor of Dinamani, published an edited version of Jayakanthan’s story called Rishimoolam. Venkat Swaminathan wrote an article in the magazine Yatra condemning this heavy editing by Saavi. Several other writers including Jayakanthan himself expressed their dissatisfaction. Ashokamitran wrote in favor of Saavi, telling Venkat Swaminathan and others "not to cry, and keep [their] mouths shut".
  • Venkat Swaminathan wrote an article by the title 'Sweet Stolen Mangoes’ accusing Ashokamitran’s story Prayanam of being an imitation.
  • In a Sunday magazine interview, Ashokamitran wrote that Tamil Brahmins are being mistreated like the Jews. This prompted several writers who subscribed to the Dravidian ideology to express their contempt.

Short stories

  • Vazhvile Oru Murai (Once In A Lifetime)
  • Vimosanam (Liberation)
  • Vidudhalai (Freedom)
  • Unmai Vetkai (Zeal For Truth)
  • Appavin Snegidhar (Father's Friend)
  • Kaalamum Aindhu Kuzhanthaigalum (Time And Five Children)
  • Thanthaikaga (For Father)
  • Naadagathin Mudivu (End Of The Play)
  • Biplup Chowduryyin Kadan (Biplup Chowdury’s Debt)
  • Muraipen


  • Aagayathamarai
  • Indru (Today)
  • Otran (Spy)
  • Karainta Nilalkal
  • Thaneer (Water)
  • Padhinettavadhu Atchakodu
  • Manasarovar


  • Iruvar (Duo)
  • Vidudhalai (Freedom)
  • Dheebam (Lamp)
  • Vizha Maalai Podhil (Eve Of The Festivities)


  • Ashokamitran Kadhaigal (Ashokamitran Stories) collections 1 & 2


  • Ashokamitran Katuraigal (Essays of Ashokamitran) collections 1 & 2

Works in English

  • Fourteen Years With Boss
  • The Ghosts of Meenambakkam



  • Chennai City a Kaliedoscope [Translated by K.S. Subramanian]
  • The Eighteenth Parallel [Translated by Gomathi Narayanan]
  • Water [Translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom]
  • The Ghosts of Meenambakkam [Translated by N. Kalyan Raman]
  • Manasarovar {Translated by N. Kalyan Raman]
  • Sand and Other Stories [Translated by Gomathi Narayanan]
  • My Father's Friend [Translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom]
  • Mole [Translated by N. Kalyan Raman]
  • Still Bleeding from the Wound [Translated by N. Kalyan Raman]
  • Today
  • Star Crossed [Translated by V. Ramnarayan]
  • The Colours of Evil [Translated by N. Kalyan Raman]
  • The Ghosts of Meenambakkam[ [Translated by N. Kalyan Raman]


  • Padhinetavadhu Atchakodu translated into Indian Languages by Aadan Pradan, National Book Trust, India.
  • Karainta Nilalkal has been translated into Malayalam.


  • Ilakiya Sindhanai Virudhu 1977
  • Ilakiya Sindhanai Virudhu 1984
  • Lily Memorial Award 1992
  • Ramakrishna Jaidayal Harmony award by Dalmia Trust 1993
  • Akshara Award 1996
  • Sahitya Academi Award 1996
  • The MGR Award 2007
  • NTR National Literary Award by NTR Vignan Trust 2012
  • National award by Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad 2013

✅Finalised Page