Tamil Nadu

Award for Theodore Baskaran

Print edition : August 22, 2014

Theodore Baskaran.

SUNDARARAJ THEODORE BASKARAN, 73, is the latest recipient of the “Iyal Virudhu” of the Toronto-based Tamil Literary Garden (TLG), a charitable organisation committed to the promotion of literature and studies in Tamil. The lifetime achievement award, given in recognition of Baskaran’s contribution to nature conservation and Tamil cinema, was presented to him in Toronto on June 28.

For this nature-lover, awards are not new. He won the Golden Lotus award for his book on cinema, “The Eye of the Serpent”, in 1997 and the “Ki. Va. Ja” award from the Kamban Kazhagam in 2000 for his outstanding contribution to the Tamil language. Oxford University Press has published his collection of essays on nature and wildlife as a book: “The Dance of the Sarus: Essays of a Wandering.”

Theodore Baskaran has restored numerous Tamil words relating to environment and wildlife that were on the verge of extinction and also helped in developing a glossary on Tamil cinema, besides writing books in English, including one on south Indian cinema, “History through the lens: Perspectives on South Indian Cinema”. “Environment and wildlife and cinema, subjects in which I have been writing books and articles for the past 40 years, are new subjects for Tamil [language]. So writing on such subjects is challenging,” says Baskaran.

A trustee of WWF-India, he has delivered lectures in universities in India and abroad. He says that one needs to form new words to describe new concepts such as “sustainable development”. “I realised that if the environmental movement had to become a people’s movement, the concepts and ideas related to it had to be written in Tamil. And for this the language had to be empowered. When the Adyar estuary in Chennai city was dredged, a vibrant bird refuge was lost. There was not a whimper in the city. You have to tell the people in the language they understand,” he told Frontline. “Similarly, cinema was a totally new art form unlike music or dance. And we have approached cinema with the language of literature, ignoring the unique characteristics of this new art form. So this was another exciting challenge… to write in Tamil about cinema which is not a traditional art form,” he said.

Some of the other recipients of the award are writers Sundara Ramasamy, K. Ganesh, Kovai Gnani, Ambai, S. Ponnudurai, S. Ramakrishnan and Nanjil Nadan.

Ilangovan Rajasekaran