Melbourne author wins prestigious Kerala award for new book

By Indira Laisram
Author and artist Sedunath Prabhakar // Pic supplied

The Poovachal Khader Cultural Trust has honoured Kerala-born and Melbourne-based author Sedunath Prabhakar with a prestigious award for his novel “Peru Sreeraman.” He was given the Sahithya Ratna Puraskaram for literature.

This accolade highlights the significant impact of Prabhakar’s work, which delves into the complexities of love, art, and socio-political issues in India.

“Peru Sreeraman” narrates the life of an artist from a village in Kerala whose unbalanced life intertwines art and love with Janaki. The story captures the inner conflicts and societal challenges they face, particularly as Sreeraman moves to Gujarat and witnesses the violent politics of Hindutva. The novel addresses deep themes such as religious and caste politics, making it a poignant piece of literature,” says Prabhakar.

The award ceremony was held on June 21st at Vyloppilli Samskrithi in Thiruvananthapuram and Prabhakar’s friend Asim received the award on his behalf. Receiving the award from the Poovachal Khader Cultural Trust is a source of immense pride for Prabhakar.  “Even if I am living in Australia, the novel is written in my native language, Malayalam. So I am proud and happy to receive this iconic literature award,” Prabhakar says.

This recognition not only highlights his work but also cements his place in Malayalam literature.

Journalist Asim receiving the award on behalf of Sedunath Prabhakar from former Kerala minister Panthalam Sudhakaran // Pic supplied

Prabhakar’s experiences in Kerala and Gujarat inspired the novel. Born in a small town in Kerala, he pursued fine arts in Baroda, Gujarat, where he witnessed significant events like the Kutch earthquake and the Gujarat riots. These experiences, coupled with a sense of inner pain and uncertainty, compelled him to write “Peru Sreeraman.”

Prabhakar’s literary journey began at a young age, influenced by India’s rich storytelling tradition. His early exposure to diverse literature shaped his creative expression through both painting and writing. Despite a long hiatus, he continued to write, publishing his first novel “Bhroonam” (The Fetus) in 2001. “Peru Sreeraman” marks his return to literature, driven by his inner resonance and artistic vision.

As a writer contributing to Australian literature in Malayalam, Prabhakar writes in a way that connects with both his own community and a wider audience.

Peru Sreeraman by Sedunath Prabhakar

He says, “Literature, especially fiction, is a play with language. Novels reveal different phases of life, incidents, geographical and historical experiences, and regional politics. The modern world recognises the diversity of life and ethnic communities, making it essential to find books from different corners of the earth in various languages.

“Books in regional languages travel and find their community groups first, but their reading experiences can reach a broader audience. Sometimes, I discuss a book I’ve read in Malayalam with my non-Malayali readers, and they enjoy it. Stories convey feelings to any human, anywhere, as their life connects to human emotions.

“The Victorian School of Languages has approved Malayalam as a language in schools, benefiting the younger generation. This helps them accrue their native culture and linguistic uniqueness. Many prominent authors, like Dostoevsky, Maxim Gorky, Gabriel García Márquez, and Orhan Pamuk, wrote their books in their native languages. Readers widely accepted these authors’ works, demonstrating the universal appeal of well-told stories.”

The upcoming English translation of “Peru Sreeraman” aims to reach a wider audience, highlighting the novel’s universal themes.

Prabhakar is also working on a female-centric script for a Kerala-Australian movie. The story centres on an Australian-migrated girl, with significant events unfolding in Kerala. This project reflects his ongoing commitment to exploring diverse narratives and cultural intersections.

Prabhakar migrated to Australia in 2008. A self-taught artist, he did a solo exhibition in 2015 named ‘Pride of Australia’, showcasing a series of portraits of 50 eminent Australians. ‘Pride of Australia’ exhibition was held in Parliament of Victoria in May 2017. He has also exhibited his paintings in the Fine Arts Society of Oman.

Prabhakar also runs a school of Arts and Music named “Kalakshetra” in Melbourne and has been working on his art school since 2015.

The Indian Sun acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

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