P. Krishnan



P. Krishnan (b. 1932, Johor, Malaya–), also known as Puthumaithasan, is regarded as one of Singapore’s Tamil literary pioneers.1 He is a prolific short-story writer, playwright, poet and radio broadcaster, with an oeuvre comprising more than 40 stories, 100 essays and 360 plays.2 Over the course of his career, P. Krishnan has received many awards for his contributions to Tamil literature. He was conferred the Cultural Medallion for Literary Arts in 2008.3

Education and early writing career
Krishnan was born in Johor, Malaya, in 1932.4 In 1947, he left for Singapore to continue his education, which had been put on hold due to World War II.5 He took the Senior Cambridge examination and subsequently settled in Singapore.6 Krishnan developed a love for the Tamil language while he was still a student.7 Through self-study in libraries and with the help of an Indian scholar, S. Chinnappanar, Krishnan subsequently became a Tamil language and literature scholar in his own right.8

Krishnan’s earliest job was as an assistant storekeeper at an Ayer Rajah military base, where he sold household goods to British soldiers and their families.  From the 1950s, Krishnan began writing regularly,9 and was a frequent contributor of short stories and articles to newspapers such as Tamil Murasu and Tamil Nesan published in Singapore and Malaysia respectively.10 His stories for Tamil Murasu generally depicted the daily lives of the middle and lower classes, with themes focusing on social issues like adultery, hooliganism and poverty.11

Some of Krishnan’s works produced during this period include Thanga Sangili (Golden Chain) (1953),12 a story about a hardworking man who was denied a loan for his wife’s medical treatment; Vaazha Mudiyaathaval (Destitute) (1953),13 about life in Singapore during the Japanese Occupation (1942–1945); and Shanthi (1953), a tale about love and arranged marriage in the Indian community.14 His story, Thaai, was praised by renowned critic, Suba Narayanan, as having “great finesse and conciseness”, as well as for its clarity in presentation.15 

Krishnan is also a founding member of the Singapore Tamil Writers’ Association (now known as the Association of Singapore Tamil Writers) established in 1953, and briefly served as the association’s secretary.16

In 1954, Krishnan was appointed assistant editor of Tamil magazines, Munnetram and Sinthanai.17

Literary influences and pen name
Krishnan adopted the pen name Puthumaithasan due to the high regard he held for Indian author Puthumaipithan. Puthumaipithan, who was at the forefront of the new wave of Tamil literature in the 1940s, wrote stories that involved social satire, progressive thinking and outspoken criticism of social conventions – themes that are also reflected in Krishnan’s works.18

Krishnan also had a passion for the works of William Shakespeare. When he read Shakespeare’s works as a student, he vowed that he would one day translate the bard’s plays so that more people could read them.19

Career in radio
In 1953, Krishnan joined Radio Singapura as a part-time artiste for the Indian programmes section and the Tamil Schools broadcast unit. He became a full-time announcer for the Indian section in 1962.20 

As part of his job at Radio Singapura, Krishnan wrote radio plays, focusing on current social issues and documenting the trials and tribulations of the Tamil community in post-independent Singapore.21 The subject matter was addressed in Krishnan’s uniquely humorous style, which proved popular with audiences.22 

One of Krishnan’s most popular works is the 52-episode drama serial Adukkuveettu Annaasamy, which is a sequel to his previous work, Maadiveettu Mangalam.23 Both were named after the titular characters.24 Adukkuveettu Annaasamy, a comedic radio play based on life in a Housing and Development Board flat in the 1960s,25 was broadcast over Singapore radio from 9 March 1969 to 6 March 1970. The play examined social issues such as National Service, queuing at bus stops, road-crossing etiquette and interaction with neighbours. The episodes of Adukkuveettu Annaasamy have since been compiled into two volumes, published in 2000.26

In 1961, Krishnan’s Tamil translation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth was broadcast over the airwaves. He is the first local writer to attempt a Tamil translation of a Shakespearean play. However, as he was limited to a one-hour time slot, some scenes from the play were omitted.27

In the 1970s, P. Krishnan produced and acted in many musicals that addressed contemporary social issues in a hilarious and entertaining manner. The themes of these musicals centred on anti-smoking, family planning and other topical issues.28

During his time at Radio Singapura, Krishnan mentored many staff and young people. He encouraged the youths that he mentored to participate in plays, debates, music and writing. One of the participants in a workshop he conducted was Elangovan, who later became an accomplished poet and playwright. Krishnan also guided younger colleagues by teaching them important radio skills such as voice modulation. He has been described by his former colleagues as a generous man, who willingly imparted his knowledge, as well as an approachable person who was comfortable discussing topics spanning Tamil literature, grammar, sports, general knowledge, politics and current affairs.29

Krishnan was also a commentator for major sporting and political events. Key events that he covered include Singapore’s Independence Day procession held in 1965, national day parades, various Southeast Asian Peninsular and Southeast Asian games as well as the swearing-in ceremony of then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in 1990.30

In 1987, the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (now MediaCorp) presented Krishnan with the Long Service Award to commemorate his 25 years of service to the organisation. He was awarded the Efficiency Medal at the National Day Awards in 1992.31 That same year, Krishnan retired after more than 30 years with Radio Singapura.32

Post-retirement
Upon retirement, Krishnan dedicated his time to compiling his short stories and radio plays for publication.33 Previously, individual stories he wrote had been published in The Fiction of Singapore (1990) and Modern ASEAN Plays (1991). In 1990, he also published a collection of his literary plays titled Ilakkiak Kaatchigal (Literary Scenes).34

In 1993, Krishnan was one of 14 local writers and poets – including Goh Sin Tub, Edwin Thumboo, Kirpal Singh and Mohamed Latiff Mohamed – who participated in the Singapore Writers Week organised by the National Arts Council and the National University of Singapore Centre for the Arts.35 In the same year, he published his first collection of short stories, Puthumaithasan Kathaigal (Stories of Puthumaithasan).36  

In 1996, Krishnan published an unabridged version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in literary Tamil in order to help Tamil-speaking students improve their understanding of the play. The book was very well received and made it to the Ministry of Education’s supplementary reading list for secondary-school students. The Tamil translation of Macbeth was staged by the Ravindran Drama Group in 2000.37

In 2006, Krishnan’s short story Uthirigal (Riff-raffs) was translated into English, Chinese and Malay, and published by the National Library Board in conjunction with the nationwide reading campaign, READ! Singapore.38  In 2008, Krishnan published Vilanguppannai, an adaptation of George Orwell’s satirical novel, Animal Farm. He expanded the original text and added scenes that depicted social conditions in communist Russia at the time.39

The following year, in 2009, Krishnan published Sarugu (Dried Leaf) – a collection of 26 dramatic adaptations of classic short stories, including Guy de Maupassant’s The Diamond Necklace, Lu Xun’s A Madman’s Story, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart and Victor Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea.40 Krishnan added his unique touch to the adaptations by inserting new characters and scenes.41

Public recognition

Krishnan has won many awards for his contributions to Tamil literature. These include the Merit Award presented by the National Book Development Council in 1994 for Puthumaithasan Kathaigal,42 the Thamizhavel Award by the Association of Singapore Tamil Writers in 1998, and the Tamil Literary Award by the Tamil Language and Cultural Society in 2006.43

In 2008, Krishnan received the Cultural Medallion for his contributions to Tamil literature. He is the fifth Tamil-language writer to win the award.44

Krishnan is one of the writers featured in the National Library Board’s Singapore Literary Pioneers Gallery, which was established in 2006.45 In 2012, the National Library Board organised an exhibition titled “P. Krishnan: His Literary Journey”, which showcased his literary works and other accomplishments.46 The exhibition was held from 10 March to 22 April 2012.47

Family
Krishnan and his wife have four children.48


Selected works

1953:
Vaazha Mudiyaathaval (Destitute).49
1953: Thanga Sangili (Golden Chain).50
1953: Shanthi.51
1953: Thani  Maram Thalaithathu (Life Blossoms).52
1953: Pillaiyoh Pillai (Destitute Mother).53
1990:
Ilakkiak Kaatchigal (Literary Scenes).54
1993:
Puthumaithasan Kathaigal (Stories of Puthumaithasan).55
1996: Macbeth (Tamil translation).56
2000: Adukku Veetu Annasamy.57
2008: Vilanguppannai (Animal Farm).58
2009: Sarugu (Dried Leaf).59

Awards
1987:
Long Service Award, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.60
1992: Efficiency Medal, National Day Awards.61
1994: Merit Award, National Book Development Council of Singapore.62
1998: Thamizhavel Award, Association of Singapore Tamil Writers.63
2000: Community Arts and Literary Award, United Indian Muslim Association.64
2002: Literary Award, Singapore Tamilian Association.65
2003: Kanaiyazhi Literary Award, Kavimalai Society.66
2005: Southeast Asian (SEA) Write Award.67
2005: Auvvai Award, Mirror Drama Club.68
2006: Tamil Literary Award, Tamil Language and Cultural Society.69
2008: Cultural Medallion, National Arts Council.70
2009: Achievement Award for Language and Literature, Boon Lay Indian Community Association.71



Authors
Vina Jie-Min Prasad & Stephanie Ho



References 

1. கிருஷ்ணன், பி, சிவகுமாரன், ஆ. இரா, சுந்தரி பாலசுப்ரமணியம், யசோதா தேவி நடராஜன் [Krishnan, P., Sivakumaran, A., Balasubramaniam, S., & Natarajan, Y. T.]. (2012). பி. கிருஷ்ணனின் (புதுமைதாசன்) இலக்கியப் படைப்புகள், ஓர் ஆய்வு [Literary criticism of P. Krishnan’s (Puthumaithasan’s) works]. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 4. (Call no.: Tamil RSING 894.811 PKR)
2. National Arts Council. (2007). Literature in Singapore. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 47. (Call no.: RSING 809 LIT); Chia, A. (2008, October 18). Medallion for top cultural trio. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. He just can’t stop writing. (2008, October 18). The Straits Times, p. 80. Retrieved fromNewspaperSG; National Arts Council. (2013, October 4). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award recipients for literature. Retrieved from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/literary-arts/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-literature; பி கிருஷ்ணனுக்கு கலாசாரப் பதக்கம் [Cultural Medallion for P. Krishnan]. (2008, October 18). தமிழ் முரசு, பக் [Tamil Murasu], p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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6. கிருஷ்ணன், பி, சிவகுமாரன், ஆ. இரா, சுந்தரி பாலசுப்ரமணியம், யசோதா தேவி நடராஜன் [Krishnan, P., Sivakumaran, A., Balasubramaniam, S., & Natarajan, Y. T.]. (2012). பி. கிருஷ்ணனின் (புதுமைதாசன்) இலக்கியப் படைப்புகள், ஓர் ஆய்வு [Literary criticism of P. Krishnan’s (Puthumaithasan’s) works]. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 4. (Call no.: Tamil RSING 894.811 PKR)
7. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html
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11. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html
12. தங்க சங்கிலி [Golden Chain]. (1953, January 7). தமிழ் முரசு, பக் [Tamil  Murasu], p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. வாழ முடியாதவள் [Destitute]. (1953, April 22). தமிழ் முரசு, பக் [Tamil Murasu], p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html; Giam, D., & Balamurugan, A. (2006). Singapore Literary Pioneers gallery guide. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 126. (Call no.: RSING S809 SIN); சாந்தி [Shanthi]. (1953, April 12). தமிழ் முரசு, பக் [Tamil Murasu], p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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17. Tribute.sg. (n.d.). P. Krishnan (Puthumaithasan). Retrieved from Tribute.sg website: http://www.tribute.sg/artist-profile-p-krishnan-puthumaithasan#artist-profile-p-krishnan-puthumaithasan/?chapter=1
18. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html; படைப்பாளரிடம் 10 கேள்விகள் [10 questions to the writer]. (1998, May 17). தமிழ் முரசு, பக் [Tamil Murasu], p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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21. He just can’t stop writing. (2008, October 18). The Straits Times, p. 80. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. கிருஷ்ணன், பி, சிவகுமாரன், ஆ. இரா, சுந்தரி பாலசுப்ரமணியம், யசோதா தேவி நடராஜன் [Krishnan, P., Sivakumaran, A., Balasubramaniam, S., & Natarajan, Y. T.]. (2012). பி. கிருஷ்ணனின் (புதுமைதாசன்) இலக்கியப் படைப்புகள், ஓர் ஆய்வு [Literary criticism of P. Krishnan’s (Puthumaithasan’s) works]. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 4. (Call no.: Tamil RSING 894.811 PKR)
23. கிருஷ்ணன், பி, சிவகுமாரன், ஆ. இரா, சுந்தரி பாலசுப்ரமணியம், யசோதா தேவி நடராஜன் [Krishnan, P., Sivakumaran, A., Balasubramaniam, S., & Natarajan, Y. T.]. (2012). பி. கிருஷ்ணனின் (புதுமைதாசன்) இலக்கியப் படைப்புகள், ஓர் ஆய்வு [Literary criticism of P. Krishnan’s (Puthumaithasan’s) works]. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 4. (Call no.: Tamil RSING 894.811 PKR); Culture champs: Snapshots of the 13 Indian Cultural Medallion winners. (2013, March 22). Tabla! Retrieved from Tabla! website: http://www.tabla.com.sg/jrsrc/220313full/epage012013/TA22-TAB-012-013.html
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25. கிருஷ்ணன், பி, சிவகுமாரன், ஆ. இரா, சுந்தரி பாலசுப்ரமணியம், யசோதா தேவி நடராஜன் [Krishnan, P., Sivakumaran, A., Balasubramaniam, S., & Natarajan, Y. T.]. (2012). பி. கிருஷ்ணனின் (புதுமைதாசன்) இலக்கியப் படைப்புகள், ஓர் ஆய்வு [Literary criticism of P. Krishnan’s (Puthumaithasan’s) works]. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 4. (Call no.: Tamil RSING 894.811 PKR)
26. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html; சிரித்துக்கொண்டே படிக்க ஒரு சரித்திரம் [History in a humorous way]. (2001, May 6). தமிழ் முரசு, பக் [Tamil Mursu], p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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28. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html
29. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html; என் பார்வையில் [In my opinion]. (2002, August 27). தமிழ் முரசு, பக் [Tamil Murau], p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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31. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html; தகவல், கலை அமைச்சு விருது வழங்கும் விழா [Award ceremony by Ministry of Information and the Arts]. (1992, December 5). தமிழ் முரசு, பக் [Tamil Murasu], p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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47. Balasubramaniam, S. (2012). புதுமைதாசன் எனும் இலக்கியவாதி [P. Krishnan: A literary journey]. Biblioasia, 8(1), 40–43.
48. He just can’t stop writing. (2008, October 18). The Straits Times, p. 80. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
49. வாழ முடியாதவள் [Destitute]. (1953, April 22). தமிழ் முரசு, பக் [Tamil Murasu], p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
50. தங்க சங்கிலி [Golden Chain]. (1953, January 7). தமிழ் முரசு, பக் [Tamil  Murasu], p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
51. சாந்தி [Shanthi]. (1953, April 12). தமிழ் முரசு, பக் [Tamil Murasu], p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
52. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html
53. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html

54. National Arts Council. (2007). Literature in Singapore. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 47. (Call no.: RSING 809 LIT); And representing Singapore... (1993, August 27). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
55. And representing Singapore… (1993, August 27). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
56. Lee, S. Y. (1997, July 11). Tragedy of Macbeth in Tamil, by a Singaporean. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
57. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan : His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html; Giam, D., & Balamurugan, A. (2006). Singapore Literary Pioneers Gallery Guide. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 125. (Call no.: RSING S809 SIN)
58. National Arts Council. (2007). Literature in Singapore. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 47. (Call no.: RSING 809 LIT); National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html
59. Nandakumar, P. (2009, May 12). Vibrancy of a language [book review]. The Hindu. Retrieved from Factiva
via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
60.
National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html

61. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html

62. Giam, D., & Balamurugan, A. (2006). Singapore Literary Pioneers gallery guide. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 126. (Call no.: RSING S809 SIN); National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html

63. He just can’t stop writing. (2008, October 18). The Straits Times, p. 80. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
64. He just can’t stop writing. (2008, October 18). The Straits Times, p. 80. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
65. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html
66. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html

67. SEA Write awardees. (2005, September 17). Bangkok Post. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
68. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html
69. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html

70. National Arts Council. (2013, October 4). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award recipients for literature. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/literary-arts/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-literature
71. National Library Board. (2012). P. Krishnan: His literary journey. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/tamil/puthumaithasan/P%20Krishnan%20Virtual%20Tour%20030712.html

[Tamil Murasu articles were provided by Sundari Balasubramaniam.]



The information in this article is valid as at 22 December 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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Personalities>>Biographies
Literature
Personalities
Arts>>Literature>>Tamil Literature
Arts personalities