Driving Force – Publishing and Translating a book

It felt very good to finish the draft, publish and see my work, online. Yesterday, the English translation of ‘Talkie Experiences in Tamil’ by Pammal Sambandha Mudaliar was published on the Google Play store and on Smashwords. I have also given stand-alone versions of the book in regular book reading formats like epub, pdf and mobi. I am still confused about uploading the book on the Amazon store, as Kindle does not provide ‘perpetual free pricing’ for the content, which leaves me in an ethical dilemma, considering that, Kindle is the best e-book ecosystem, by any shot.

Very few times, in my life, my professional life especially, could I have this satisfaction first of completing a given job and secondly, to be happy about the quality of work involved. Doing this work definitely gave me a ‘soul satisfaction’ of having done a good job.

I must mention a few incidents which have played a very important role in the shaping of  this book. Around three to four years ago, while my interests in vintage Tamil cinema were taking root, I had wished to know a bit about P.K.Raja Sandow, a pioneering ‘Actor-Director’ of the Indian Silent Film Era and early Talkie era. While referencing some old ‘Pesum Padam’ magazines of the 1940’s, I found an advertisement that specified that his memoirs had been compiled and published after his untimely death. Due to limitations of time that I face when ever I travel to ‘Chennai’ or ‘Bangalore’, I could not follow up and find out if this book was available in any Research library. Infact, I even unfairly assumed after a while, that it was quite possible that the book was untraceable, as some of my other priorities took over.

A year later, when I was speaking to Film Historian S.Theodore Baskaran, a personality who has immensely helped flower my interests in Cinema, in his house in Bangalore, I came to know that he had republished the same book on Raja Sandow, more than sixty years after its original publication. The original text in Tamil had been retained in this edition, and Baskaran had only added annotations to those points, which he found necessary. He was also kind enough to give me a copy of the book. Not only was this a ‘happy surprise’, but it would go on to influence the manner in which, I have handled the translations and annotations for this work written by the legendary dramatist ‘Pammal Sambandha Mudaliar’

The second incident deals with the challenges faced when we seek information, in a language, that we do not know. For instance, I discovered a small video clip of the film ‘Kapati Arakshakaya’, a Sinhalese film co-directed by K.Subrahmanyam1Since I knew no Sinhalese or had direct access to anyone with knowledge of the language, I could not even be sure if the video was from ‘Kapati Arakshakaya’, in the first place.

A similar case happened in the N.F.A.I where I found a book published in the 1970’s, which contained a compilation of multiple articles and had various tributes dedicated to late Director ‘Gudavalli Ramabhramam’ written by pioneers of the Telugu Stage and Cinema, reminiscing their memories shared with him. Barring two articles in the book which were published in English2, the remaining ones had been published in Telugu, a language which I do not know, but I wished to know about the information which was contained within this book.  Unfortunately for me, there was no way out in this case.

I found the source copy of ‘Talkie Experiences in Tamil’ in a very bad state, at the ‘National Film Archives of India’ library. Moreover, to the best of my knowledge, a digital copy of this book does not exist anywhere on the Internet. ( I hope that such a print does resurface). So, translating and publising this work means that not only does the original content of the book re-surface to public access in some form, but it also means that readers without the knowledge of Tamil can also benefit from the book.

Thousands of people and organizations work behind the scenes to donate their time and money to digitize and bring rare material, typically ‘out of copyright’ material as truly ‘free’ for us, thanks to the power of the Internet to enhance human knowlege. The greatest way of offering gratitude to the system apart from what ever monetary donations that you can do, would be returning the favour, when ever possible.