Ashokamitran (September 22, 1931 – March 23, 2017) was the pen name of Jagadisa Thyagarajan, an Indian writer regarded one of the most influential figures in post-independent Tamil literature. He began his prolific literary career with the prize winning play "Anbin Parisu" and went on to author more than two hundred short stories, and a dozen novellas and novels. A distinguished essayist and critic, he was the editor of the literary journal "Kanaiyaazhi". He has written over 200 short stories, eight novels, some 15 novellas besides other prose writings. Most of his works have also been translated into English and other Indian languages, including Hindi, Malayalam, and Telugu.
Born in Secunderabad in 1931, Ashokamitran spent the first twenty years of his life there. His real name was Jagadisa Thyagarajan. He moved to Chennai in 1952 after the death of his father, following an invitation from his father's friend, the film director S.S.Vasan to come work at Vasan's Gemini Studios. He worked for more than a decade at the Gemini Studios. While working there he often acted as an "unofficial scribe" (in his own words) for people working in the film industry, and said that his efforts consisted of "writing most heart rending appeals for loans and salary advances." He also began writing about his experiences working in the film industry in a set of columns for the Illustrated Weekly of India; these columns later became his book, My Years with Boss (sometimes translated as Fourteen Years with Boss). The 'boss' referred to was S.S. Vasan, the owner of Gemini Studios.
His experiences here and his interaction with people from the Tamil filmdom later took the form of his book "My Years with Boss". In 1966, he left his work in the film industry, and has since said that he felt he "should not continue with a system which had built-in inequities."
It was from 1966 that he became a full-time writer and he took up the pseudonym of "Ashokamitran" . In 1973 he was invited and took part in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, United States. In the 1980s most of his works were translated into English and he and his works became well-known all over India. Some of his works were translated into other European languages and most Indian languages as well.
Ashokamitran died on 23 March 2017 at the age of 85. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife and three sons.
His works are characterized by simplicity and clarity of thought and drew from his professional and personal experiences. His novel Karainta nilalkal (Star-Crossed), for instance, drew from his experiences with working in public relations in the film industry at Gemini Studios. He has cited a number of writers as influencing his style, including Tamil writers B.R. Rajam Iyer, Subramania Bharti, and K N Subramaniam.
Ashokamitran's life and work have been the subject of three documentary films, made by Amshan Kumar, Kandasamy, and Gnani. His novel Thanneer is being adapted for film by the director, Vasanth.
Ashokamitran was given many awards and honours. Some of them areHe was given the Government of Tamil Nadu Award thrice and the "Illakiya Chinthani" award twice in 1977 and 1984.The K.K. Birla Fellowship to do a study in comparative Indian literature1973-74: The University of Iowa Creative Writing Fellowship1992: Lily Memorial Award.1993: Ramkrishna Jaidayal Harmony Award by the Dalmia Trust for promoting religious harmony.1996: Akshara Award.1996: Sahitya Akademi Award for Appavin Snegidhar, a collection of short stories.January 2007: The MGR AwardMay 2012: NTR National Literary Award by NTR Vignan Trust.February 10, 2013: The inaugural Kaa Na Su award at a function in Chennai.March 30, 2013: National award instituted by the Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad at KolkataAnbin Parisu (1953)ThanneerManasarovar18-vadhu Atchakkodu (1977) - (This has been translated into English in the name "The Eighteenth Parallel"). This novel is a kind of biographical look back at his early years at Secundarabad. It describes the life of a young man set against the backdrop of the political unrest that was developing in Hyderabad in the late Forties.My Years with BossKarainta nilalkal (translated to English as Star Crossed, by V. Ramnarayan.OtranPaavam Dalpathado (translated to English as The Ghost of Meenambakkan by N. Kalyan Raman)Appavin Snegidhar. In 1995, he won the Sahitya Akademi Award for this collection of short stories.Still Bleeding from the Wound (a collection of stories translated to English by N. Kalyan Raman).