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Kamala Das

Kamala Das

Kamala Surayya, also known as Suraiyya or Madhavikutty, was a noteworthy Indian English poet and litterateur and a leading Malayalam novelist from Kerala, India. Her short tales and autobiography are her most popular works in Kerala, but her English output, published under Kamala Das, is known for its fiery poetry and graphic autobiography. She gained a lot of appreciation due to her honest presentation on female sexuality, free of any sense of shame, which gave her work a power that distinguished her as a generation's iconoclast. She died on May 31, 2009, at the age of 75, in a Pune hospital.

Early Life

On March 31, 1934, Kamala Das was born in Punnayurkulam, Thrissur District, Kerala, to V. M. Nair, former managing editor of the Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi and Nalappatt Balamani Amma, a renowned Malayali poetess.

She spends most of his childhood days in Punnayurkulam and Calcutta. Her father worked as a senior executive for the Walford Transport Company, which marketed Bentley and Rolls Royce vehicles. Kamala Das, like her mother, was a gifted writer. Her passion for poetry developed at a young age due to her great uncle, famed writer Nalappatt Narayana Menon. She married Madhava Das, a bank official, at the age of 15, who encouraged her literary ambitions, and she began writing and publishing in both English and Malayalam. It was a tumultuous decade for the arts in Calcutta during the 1960s, and Kamala Das was among various voices that rose to prominence alongside Indian English poets and appeared in cult anthologies.

Personal Life

Kamala Das was the mother of three sons. M D Nalapat, Chinnen Das, and Jayasurya Das were Kamala Das' three sons. Madhav Das Nalapat, the eldest, is married to princess Lakshmi Bayi of the Travancore Royal House (daughter of Princess Pooyam Thirunal Gouri Parvati Bayi and Sri Chembrol Raja Raja Varma Avargal). He is the UNESCO Peace Chair and a geopolitics professor at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. He was previously the Times of India's resident editor.

Conversion To Islam

Her surname was Nair (Nallappattu), and she came from a Hindu royal family. Sadiq Ali, an Islamic professor younger than Kamala Das, was in a relationship with her. He was a Member of Parliament for the Muslim League and convinced her to convert to Islam in 1999 when she was 65 years old. She eventually took on the name Kamala Surayya.

In literary and social circles, her conversion was contentious. The Hindu was the most prominent, calling it part of her "histrionics." She remarked that she adored being under the purdah cloak. After her spouse died, she fell in love with the religion of a Muslim.


Despite never having been involved in politics before, she founded the Lok Seva Party, a political party dedicated to protecting orphaned mothers and promoting secularism in the country. She ran unsuccessfully for the Indian Congress elections in 1984.

Literary Career

Besides writing poetry in English, she was also known for writing short stories in Malayalam. Das also wrote a syndicated column; her candid essays, which sounded off on everything from women's concerns to child care to politics, were popular, despite her contention that "poetry does not sell in our country [India]."

Summer In Calcutta, Das' debut collection of poetry, was a breath of fresh air in Indian English poetry. During a period when Indian poets were constrained by "19th-century diction, passion, and romanticized love," Kamala Das traded the certainty of an antique and sometimes sterile aestheticism for freedom of mind and body. She mostly wrote about love, betrayal, and the ensuing sorrow. The descendants, her second collection of poetry, was much more forthright, asking women to:

"Gift him what makes you woman, the scent of

Long hair, the musk of sweat between the breasts,

The warm shock of menstrual blood and all your

Endless female hunger..." - The Looking Glass

She wrote her brave autobiography, My Story, at the age of 42; it was initially written in Malayalam and afterward translated into English. She later revealed that most of the book was based on fabrication. Her voice's directness drew similarities to Marguerite Duras and Sylvia Plath.

Kamala Das wrote about many seemingly unrelated issues, ranging from the narrative of a destitute elderly servant to the sexual preferences of upper-middle-class ladies living in a metropolitan metropolis or the ghetto. Pakshiyude Manam, Neypayasam, Thanuppu, and Chandana Marangal are some of her most well-known stories. She published a few books, the most well-known of which was Neermathalam Pootha Kalam, which was well-received by both readers and reviewers. She also does poetry readings at the University of Duisburg-Essen, the University of Bonn, the University of Duisburg in Germany, the Adelaide Writers Festival, the Frankfurt Book Fair, the University of Kingston in Jamaica, the University of Singapore, the South Bank Festival in London, Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and other venues. Her work is accessible in the following languages: French, Spanish, Russian, German, and Japanese.

Movies Based on Kamala Das's Storyline

These are some of the movies based on the storylines written by Kamala Das:-

1. Neermaathalathinte Pookkal

Neermaathalathinte Pookkal is an Indian Malayalam-language television movie directed by Sohanlal and based on a story written by Madhavikutty (Kamala Das). Neermaathalathinte Pookkal is a film for individuals who have fond recollections of their childhood and memories of their first love in life. The film is a love letter to every guy's underlying impulse. Dr. Kamala Das is one of the most celebrated Indo-Anglican poets; she has worldwide recognized for her creatively rich and startlingly beautiful poetry. Her short stories are full of poetic imagery and infused with deep poetic meaning, all of which are delivered in a vibrant and lively manner.

2. Mazha

The 2000 Malayalam film Mazha was written and directed by Lenin Rajendran and is based on Madhavikkutty's short story Nashtappetta Neelambari. Five Kerala State Film Awards, a National Film Award, and a South Filmfare Award were bestowed for this film. Mazha narrates the narrative of Bhadra (Samyuktha Varma) and her music instructor Sastrigal's love affair (Biju Menon). The film opens with Bhadra, a teenager, going to study music from Sastrigal and falling in love with him and his singing in Sivapuram. The novella portrays the teenager Bhadra's traits and actions in a good mood.

Madhura is a lovely village with many Tamils Brahmins during her adolescence, including the shasthrikal; because of her adolescent character and interest in his music, Bhadhra was in love with her music instructor (shasthrikal). Under his influence, Bhadra's creative abilities for poetry begin to blossom. Sastrigal is unaware of Bhadra's feelings and regards her merely as a brilliant pupil. Last but not least, Bhadra travels to Madurai to pursue Sastrigal and learns that Sastrigal has also lost much - his wife has a mental health condition, and the greatest shock is learning that Sastrigal is dying of cancer.

3. Aami

Based on the life of poet-author Kamala Das, Aami is a 2018 Indian biographical film in Malayalam. Aami depicts the life of writer Madhavikutty, focusing on her upbringing, family life, marital life, devotion to Lord Krishna, and subsequent conversion to Islam. Kamal wrote and directed the film, which stars Manju Warrier as Kamala Surayya and Murali Gopy, Tovino Thomas, Anoop Menon, and Anand Bal. On February 9, 2018, the film was released. Two Kerala State Film Awards were given to the film.

4. Kadhaveedu

Sohanlal's 2013 Indian Malayalam anthology film Kadhaveedu is based on three stories written by Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer, Madhavikutty, and M. T. Vasudevan Nair. Kunchacko Boban plays a major part, and the cast also includes Biju Menon, Rituparna Sengupta, Bhama, Manoj K. Jayan, Lal, Mallika, and Kalabhavan Shajon. The stories have been adapted for a modern environment, and the filmmaker himself wrote the script. Rituparna Sengupta, a Bengali actress, made her debut in Malayalam cinema by playing a significant part in this film.

Some Popular Books of Kamala Das

1. Ente Katha

Ente Kadha (My Story) is a biography written in 1973 by Kamala Suraiyya (Madhavikutty). She was inspired to compose this after being unwell and believing she might not live. The book was provocative and forthright. Her detractors went after her once it was published in 1973, sometimes stunning her readers with disregard for norms and voicing her ideas on societal subjects-often on its hypocrisy. Though My Story was meant to be an autobiography, Das revealed that the book included a significant amount of fiction. Suraiyya personally transcribed the book, titled My Story, into English.

This novel follows Aami (Kamala) from her childhood to her village. It also displays her adolescent affection for a neighbour her age. Her youth in colonial Calcutta is also beautifully described. This work discusses her failing marriage, the birth of her children, and her adulterous activities. She deviated from conventional norms and depicted homosexuality as well. The work not only caused a literary sensation but also drew the anger of Das' close family, who sought to prevent its publication.

2. The Old Playhouse and Other Poems

The title of the Poem, 'The Old Playhouse,' serves as its major image, and the speaker eventually realizes that love-making has turned her mind into an 'Old Playhouse with all its lights turned off.' It's like a forlorn old playhouse with no personality of its own. Due to the severe physical-mental pressures, it has practically become non-functional and inert. In this life of captivity and suffocation, she has lost all of her value as a woman.

3. The Descendants

The poem 'The Descendants' by Kamala Das is tinged with nihilism and demonstrates that degeneration is irreversible and there is no hope of salvation. It concludes on a depressing note: "We will never be redeemed or made fresh." Kamala Das had spent her youth engaging in innocuous sins. It has no adverse emotional effects since it is just luscious. The degradation of pure love allows emotional and spiritual fulfilment to take precedence. According to the poet, Lust is "insubstantial," but love is "substantial." A loveless relationship can never ruin the lovers' cool loveliness, lacking emotional depth.

The Poem depicts how a life without love eventually leads to decadence, devastation, and death. An exclusive life of passion devalues real love and leaves little room for emotional fulfilment. The Poem's tone is dismal, implying that the only alternative to real love is death.

4. Wages of Love

Das presents the cynical narrative of a lady who converted to Islam and is now looking for a contract murderer for nefarious intentions in this novel. Another of her works sheds insight on Khushwant Singh's charges concerning how she allegedly influenced her Nobel Prize candidacy.


She has also served as Vice-Chairperson of the Kerala Sahitya Academy, Chairperson of the Kerala Forest Board, President of the Kerala Children's Film Society, Editor of Poet magazine, and Poetry Editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India. In her early years, she was an attention-grabber, but she is today regarded as one of the most influential figures in Indian English poetry. She was dubbed "the mother of modern English Indian poetry" by The New York Times in 2009.

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