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Literary Arts

P. Krishnan (Puthumaithasan)

A prolific writer, poet, playwright, and radio producer-presenter

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Published: 24 Nov 2021


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The purpose of life is to live for yourself and others around you.

P. Krishnan, born in Johor, Malaysia is a prolific writer, poet, playwright, and radio producer-presenter, who writes under the pseudonym “Puthumaithasan”. A founding member of the Singapore Tamil Writers Association, he was a writer known for his works that depict the aspirations, lifestyles and experiences of Tamils in Singapore. He also enjoyed a distinguished career working for Radio and Television of Singapore. He has received many prestigious awards, both local and international, in recognition of his contribution to Tamil literature and Tamil language, including the Cultural Medallion in 2008.

P. Krishnan, who writes under the pseudonym “Puthumaithasan”, is a prolific writer, poet, playwright, radio producer-presenter. Born in 1932, he came to Singapore in 1947 to sit for his Senior Cambridge examination and stayed on after that. Largely through self-study and visits to the library, he established himself as an authority on Tamil literature and language, eventually becoming an illustrious pioneer of Singapore Tamil literature.

In the early 1950s, Krishnan began his literary endeavour depicting the aspirations, lifestyles and experiences of Tamils in Singapore. He frequently contributed articles and short stories to Singapore Tamil dailies such as Tamil Murasu and Malaya Nanban, and to Malaysia’s Tamil Nesan. In 1953 he, together with fellow writers, founded Singapore Tamil Writers’ Association, which was the predecessor of the current Association of Singapore Tamil Writers. He became the assistant editor of the Tamil magazines Munnetram and Sinthanai the following year.

In 1962, he began what would be a distinguished 31-year career working for Radio Television Singapore, which would later become Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. He started as a radio presenter, eventually rising to become a senior executive producer-presenter.

During his time there, he wrote over 500 short stories, poems, essays and plays for stage, radio, and television. He first gained widespread recognition for the 40-episode weekly serialised play Maadi Veetu Mangalam that ran from 1962-1963, and then for the 52-episode Adduku Veettu Annasamy, a humourous satirical serial about life in Singapore public housing, which was subsequently published as a two-volume book. Other important early works include the short stories Shanthi, Vaazha Mudiyaathaval, and Thanga Sangili.

Besides his original work, Puthumaithasan has also translated and transcreated Shakespeare, Byron, Keats and George Orwell into Tamil, and also dramatised Tamil classics from Sangam literature. Some of his own short stories such as Vaazha Mudiyaathaval (Homecoming), Kaalak Kanakku (Prediction), Verumai (Emptiness) and Uthirigal (Riff-raffs) have been translated into English as well. His short story Uthirigal (Riff-raffs) has also been translated into Chinese and Malay and published by Singapore’s National Library Board in conjunction with READ! Singapore 2006. Many of his works have been included in various anthologies such as The Fiction of Singapore, Modern ASEAN Plays, Supplementary Readers for Schools by the Ministry of Education, Singa, The SEA Write Anthology, Anthology of Tamil Short Stories and Poems from Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore, published by the Sahitya Akademi of India. He has also published the six books: Ilakkia Kaathchigal (Literary Scenes, 1990), Puthumaithasan Kathaigal (Puthumaithasan Stories, 1993), Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1996), Adukku Veettu Annasamy (2000), Sarugu (Dried Leaf, 2006. A collection of 26 plays based on great short stories by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry, Maupasaant, Victor Hugo, Leo Tolstoy, Lu Hsun, Ivan Turgenev and Anton Chekov), and Vilanggup Pannai (2008. A transcreative dramatisation of Orwell’s satirical Animal Farm into Tamil).

Krishnan has received many prestigious awards, both local and international, in recognition of his contributions to Tamil literature and language. These include the Commendation Award from the National Book Development Council of Singapore in 1994, the Thamizhavel award in 1988, the SEA Write Award in 2005, and the Cultural Medallion in 2008.

He is currently working on three books: the 13-episode serialised plays Nalla Veedu and Idea Iaakkanu, and a collection consisting of eight plays. Esplanade commissioned Ravindran Drama Group to adapt P. Krishnan’s radio play Adukku Veetu Annasamy for the stage, and it was presented over three episodes at Esplanade. The first two at Esplanade's Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts, in 2015 and 2016, and the concluding episode as part of Esplanade's Raga series of Indian arts presentations in 2018.

Timeline

1932

Born in Johor, Malaysia.

1947

Moved to Singapore.

1951

Began writing short stories and essays for Tamil Murasu, Malaya Nanban, Tamil Nesan, and other journals.

1953

Received second prize in the Thamizhar Thirunaal All Malaya Essay Writing Competition.

Received first prize in the All Malaya Essay Writing Competition by the Thamizh Kala Mandram Kuala Lumpur for Bharathiyaarum Thamizhum.

Founding member, Singapore Tamil Writers' Association.

Part-time artiste in the Indian section of Radio Television Singapore.

1954

Assistant Editor, Munetram and Sinthanai.

1962

Joined Radio Television Singapore as a full-time radio presenter, eventually becoming executive producer-presenter in 1982.

1987

Received Long Service Award from Singapore Broadcasting Corporation to mark his 25th year in service.

1989

Appointed senior executive producer-presenter at Radio Television Singapore.

1992

Received Efficiency Medal at the National Day Awards.

Dec 1992

Retired from Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.

1994

Received Commendation Award from National Book Development Council of Singapore for his book of short stories Puthumaithasan Kathaigal.

1998

Received Thamizhavel Literary Award by Association of Singapore Tamil Writers.

2000

Received Community Excellence Award for Arts and Culture by United Singapore Indian Muslim Association.

2002

Received Literary Award by Singapore Tamilian Association.

2003

Received Kanaiyazhi Literary Award by Kavimalai Literary Society.

2005

Received Avvai Award by Mirror Theatre.

Received Southeast Asia Write Award.

2006

Received Literary Award by Singapore Tamil and Cultural Society.

2008

Received the Cultural Medallion for contributions to literature.

2009

Received Achievement Award for Language and Literature by Boon Lay Community Centre Indian Activity Executive Committee.

2012

Exhibition: P. Krishnan: His Literary Journey by National Library, Singapore.

20 – 22 Nov 2015

P. Krishnan's Adukku Veetu Annasamy presented by Ravindran Drama Group at Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts. Commissioned by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.

23 – 25 Nov 2016

P. Krishnan's Adukku Veetu Annasamy 2 presented by Ravindran Drama Group at Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts. Commissioned by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.

2 – 4 Feb 2018

P. Krishnan's Adukku Veetu Annasamy 3 presented by Ravindran Drama Group as part of Esplanade's Raga series of Indian arts presentations. Commissioned by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.

TributeSG

TributeSG celebrates the arts community’s most senior members, and those who have made a lifetime of contribution to the arts. These artists, administrators, educators, patrons, and champions include many Singapore arts pioneers who laid the foundations of the vibrant arts and cultural scene we enjoy today. The many profiles in TributeSG let us into the minds and worlds of these pioneers, and help us understand our shared arts heritage. When we revisit their works and rediscover their journeys, we learn where we came from and how we came to be. Collectively, their stories tell the tale of the making of a nation’s artistic identity.

In putting together this collection, the TributeSG team consulted an external advisory panel, consisting of Arun Mahiznan, Choo Thiam Siew, J. P. Nathan, K. K. Seet, Kwok Kian Chow, and Iskandar Ismail. Those selected to be profiled in TributeSG met one of the following criteria: they were at least 60 years of age as of 12 Oct 2016, or deceased, or had received national recognition in the form of the Cultural Medallion. This journey of arts archival officially came to a close on 12 Oct 2016, after four years of extensive research, interviews and collation of information graciously provided by the TributeSG pioneers, their families and peers. TributeSG also benefited from enthusiastic help from like-minded friends and organisations who supported Esplanade’s cause—to remember, honour and celebrate Singapore’s arts pioneers.

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