A crucible of ideas
PV Shajikumar, has come a long way since he first won a Sahitya Akademi’s Yuva Puraskar in 2013 for his short story ‘Vellarippaadam,’ --- a collection of thirteen stories. Today he is known for his award winning scripts for Malayalam films. Apart from being a writer , Shaji works as a Web Assistant at The Mathrubhumi web portal in Calicut in Kerala and even writes columns for the Mathrubhumi newspaper.
This year is special, Shaji’s new collection of short stories titled ‘Kadayum kadapathrangalum sankalpikamalla’ (Stories and characters are not imaginary) was published by Mathrubhumi in January 2020.
“Writing a book can never be a matter of leisure for a writer. It carries the weight of thoughts,” Shaji said in an interview to a newspaper. At its core, Shaji’s short stories communicate human experiences at an intimate level. His latest short stories are a bouquet of his own experiences that propounds co-existence and trust - the two binding factors of human reality. His stories pulsate with ideals of humanism and co-existence.
Death, the ultimate truth of human existence is a recurring theme in Shaji’s stories, a facet he explores with curiosity and fascination. In the story ‘Maranamundakki kalikkaam’ (Let’s play with death), is a story based on a young man who is alive yet the family and his close friends concoct his death by spreading rumours.
In another story ‘Maranathekurichu ithihyam’ (The myth about death) Shaji explores the conflicting views of suicide. He believes that even though society brands it as an act of cowardice, but it takes tremendous courage to take one’s life. He urges his readers to probe the reasons behind the act – Is it because of loneliness, ill-health or other mental issues?
In his college days, Shaji recalls - while he returned home, he would often gaze at a curved railway track at Mannaparambukav--located at Neeleswaram, a town in Kasargod district. Many attempted suicides on this railway stretch. The story ‘Maranathekurichu ithihyam’ is based on this curved track. Shaji, in this story, delves deep into the mental struggles of the protagonist, till the latter arrives at a decision to accept death. The mental turmoil in these last moments before his suicide becomes the theme of this story.
Death is not the only compelling plot, Shaji has tried to explore. In the story ‘Theatre’ he focuses on the protagonist’s decision to strive and walk the difficult path once confronted with the worst situation. Each moment in one’s life, Shaji believes, emerges from one’s quest to survive, where he or she holds on to hope for a future.
In another story “I.P.C. 144” he explores relationships. He clinically analyses the state of a married couple before and after marriage. Through satire, Shaji performs a litmus test on aspects of equality, mutual trust and finally concludes that “marriage is equivalent to committing suicide.”—pun intended.
(1) Dog Argos, the character (2) Shajikumar's story 'Kanunnavarum Kandethunavarum' published in The Mathrubhumi Newspaper column column
In ‘Abdullayude Mathilukal’ (Abdulla’s Wall), Shaji’s central character is a pi-dog. In the story the male dog falls in love with a stray female dog. The author is the narrator and his family too is part of the plot. The co-existence of animals and humans is beautifully portrayed with humour and grief. At one time, one finds dogs exude communication skills like humans. The story, it is believed was inspired by Shaji’s beloved dog Appu (Argos).
(1) Shajikumar's works - both books and movies (2) Shaji with family
Shaji was born on May 21, 1983, at Kalichampothi, in Kasargod district of Kerala. He is the son of Kallenkil Kunhikannan and Thankamani. After completing BSc. (Mathematics) from Kanhangad Nehru College, he studied MCA at L B S Engineering College, Kasargode. He is married to Maneesha Kaitheri Narayanan. They have a two year old daughter. His stint as a writer began when he was in college. His first short story collection ‘Janam’ (People) was published when he was 23-years-old. His stories quite often reveal more originality than usual, excellently braised with human anxieties, sorrows and solitude.
He is the recipient of numerous awards. Apart from the Kendra Sahitya Akademi's Yuva Puraskar Award, he has won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi's Geeta Hiranyan Award for ‘Janam’. Prior to 2013 he won literary competitions organized for young budding writers during the Vishwamalayala Mahotsavam in 2012, where he won the award for his short story called ‘Vila’.
Shaji is a “socially” responsible writer. He often takes part in discussions on gender differences and identity crisis. Recently, he was part of the discussion panel in January at the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters (MBIFL 2020) on gender bias in social media. He believes that a writer should free themselves of societal bondages and pressures and use their pen to slice through to reach the truth.
When Shaji was 23 years, he wrote a story titled ‘Ezhuthukarante valapile pothalan maram’ (The huge tree in the writer’s backyard). In the story he criticizes writers and urge them to speak against autocratic controls prevalent in society and that they should construct an independent identity of their own. In an interview to Mathrubhumi newspaper, he boldly criticizes those who use social media for just pressing the ‘Like’ button, a behavioural trait he calls “liko-mania”—that is only meant to veil one’s sadistic mind. He cites a personal experience on social media. When news of a boy’s suicide broke on channels, many flooded the social media platform with prayers and condolences for boy’s family. But someone, just then, Shaji says, posted a message related to a football score. This diverted the attention of the whole group. He was shocked to see the sudden change in behavior of the group. “People find it so normal to move away from sorrow, but I was disturbed for days,” says Shaji.
(1) Shajikumar with superstar Mammotty, and other well known film artists (2) Kanyaka Talkies (Virgin Talkies) Movie poster
Shajikumar wrote his first screenplay for the movie ‘Kanyaka Talkies’ (Virgin Talkies) which was based on Shaji’s story “18-Plus”. It is based on a B-grade cinema theatre of the 1980s - 90s in a small village. The theatre would often screen porn clips as its mainstay. This theatre is later converted into a church. The story holds a mirror to the hypocrisies, unadulterated human emotions and religious morality that exists in our society. The film is directed by KR Manoj. The movie was screened at numerous film festivals and even won an award for the Best Screenplay at the 14th Annual New York Indian Film Festival and the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI Prize) and also the Best Malayalam Film at the 18th International Film Festival of Kerala. Forbes India magazine selected the film as one among the five must watch Indian movies in 2014.
Shaji shows his prowess not only in writing short stories but also scripts for films. Another of his films, ‘Take Off’ is based on a real-life incident where a group of nurses from India were kidnapped by the terrorists to overrun Tikrit, town in Iraq. The story revolves around their struggle to escape, at times getting help from unexpected quarters. The film directed by Mahesh Narayanan and was a huge box-office hit in 2017. His short story titled ‘Katha’ will soon be adapted in to a movie. The grapevine suggest that Srikanth Murali will direct this film.
He is also a playwright for a play called ‘Bolivian Stars’ which is based on a football team called ‘The Sevens’. The characters in the play are seven misplaced footballers. Each of these players, convey seven different themes. The team has a black, a white, a handicapped, a migrant, a male, a female and a transgender. They learn the lessons of protest and survival. The playground for them is a battlefield. The play focuses on social issues and identity crisis. The play was performed by ‘Little Earth School of Theatre’ from Malappuram in Kerala.
Shajikumar along with the Director Mahesh Narayanan penned this 2017 movie
Kathayum Kathapathrangalum Sankalppikamalla (2020)
G L P Uschool Keekangodu (2017)
Itha Innumuthal Itha Innalevare (2017)
Kidappara Samaram (2012)
Kalichampothiyilekku oru half ticket (2011)
Katha (work in progress)
Puthan Panam (2017)
Take off (2017)
Kanyaka Talkies (2013)
2015 : Anganam Award
2014 : 14th Annual New York Indian Film Festival Award for the Best Screenplay
2014 : C. V. Raman Smrithi Award - Kidapparasamaram
2013 : Kendra Sahitya Akademi’s Yuva Award – Vellarippaadam
2012 : Vishwamalayala Mahotsavam Award
2009 : Kerala Sahitya Akademi's Geeta Hiranyan Award - Janam
2009 : Anganam-E.P. Sushama Endowment Award
SBT Saahithya Award
Kunjunni Mash Award
Malayala Manorama Sri Award