Southern Blood and Gore

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Tamil Pulp Fiction (Volume II) by  Pritham K. Chakravarthy , Rakesh Khanna   This is a follow-up to the immensely popular first collection of South Indian, specifically Tamil pulp fiction, released in 2008. It features stories by names like Indra Soundar Rajan, Medhavi, Jeyaraj, Pushpa Thangadorai, Rajesh Kumar, Indumathi, M.K.Narayanan, and Resakee. The contents are very unashamedly pulp, gore, blood, violence with overtones of sex. All this is signaled by the kitschy cover of a pretty girl sipping from a skull with blood droplets trickling into her cleavage. In this case the book can certainly be judged by its cover.

The blurb advertises ‘7 THRILLING tales… from 7 Indian and Singaporean masters of ACTION, SUSPENSE, and HORROR!’ and the reader gets the full dose. There is a tale of a curse that hunts down the members of a family of debauched maharajahs who can only be saved by purity. There is supernatural horror in Hold on a Minute I’m in the Middle of a Murder. There’s even a graphic story, Highway 117 which features the exploits of Karate Kavitha accompanied by illustrations worthy of Modesty Blaise. Readers will see the uniquely named heroine defeating her kidnappers despite her ripped shirt and the absence of any undergarment.

Certain things are expected – despite all the openness about sex, the good end happily, the bad unhappily. Nadia in Hello Good Dead Morning who finds blue films heat her body ‘like a steaming bowl of soup’ comes to a sticky end. Heroines are usually Tamil and Hindu and girls from good families are characterized by their beauty and their sandalwood statue figures. They can be smart and modern, wearing jeans and bellbottoms. It is obvious that political correctness is not a necessary factor and no one is apologetic about it.

The translator Pritham Chakravarthy occasionally retains flashes of local language to keep the flavour. Headaches go ‘vinnn vinnn vinnn’. Bullets make a “dumeel! dumeel!” sound in the darkness, very unlike the typical Hindi film ‘dhisum, dhisum’. Heartbeats tick ‘dhik dhik’. Occasionally phrases are translated straight as in “She reacted as though he had jabbed sharp needles into her ears” and “Archana felt like there was a centipede crawling in her stomach” – however they don’t seem out of place in a story of curses and conspiracy.

Where the first anthology focused on the romantic, the second celebrates everything that pulp fiction stands for, thrills, chills and the supernatural, with no false attempts to bring in meaningful literature. However only the first story is long enough to stand on its own. The others rely on each other to create a collective impression. Occasionally the blood and gore can be a bit too much, especially when it involves a murder a second, but on the whole the collection is fairly representative of the cinematics of South Indian fiction. Interested readers will find a thrill a minute read that doesn’t lie too heavy.

The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction – Volume 2, Translated by Pritham Chakravarthy
Published by Blaft in India, 2012

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Buy book online
Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction, The - Volume 2
by Pritham Chakravarthy

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Written by Anjana Basu