Agnisakshi (novel)

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Agnisakshi Fire, My Witness.jpg
Author Lalithambika Antharjanam
Original title അഗ്നിസാക്ഷി
Translator Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan
Country India
Language Malayalam
Genre Novel
Publisher Current Books
Publication date
1976 (1976)
Published in English
Pages 111
Awards Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award
Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award
Vayalar Award
Odakkuzhal Award

Agnisakshi (meaning, With Fire As Witness) is a Malayalam novel written by Lalithambika Antharjanam.[1] Originally serialised in Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly, it was published as a book by Current Books in 1976. It tells the story of a Nambudiri woman, who is drawn into the struggle for social and political emancipation but cannot easily shake off the chains of tradition that bind her.[2] The novel was concerned with implied criticism of aspects of social structure and behaviour.

Agnisakshi was Lalithambika Antarjanam's only novel. She was famous for her short stories and poems. She wrote this novel in her old age. It has become something of a classic in Malayalam fiction. It received the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award and Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award.

Plot summary[edit]

Thethikutty (Devaki or Sumitarananda) is married to Unni Nambudiri of the well-known Brahmin family named Manampilly Illam. He is young, virtuous, and loving but too orthodox to be the husband of a woman with Thethikutty's views. Feeling frustrated, Thethikutty leaves him once and forever and reaches her paternal home. Unni lives the life of a piety, is branded as an eccentric and dies. Thethikutty, meanwhile, finds no peace anywhere. At last, in the Himalayas, she meets her old friend and Unni's half-sister, the sixty-year-old Mrs K.M.K. Nair(Thankam). She finds her unborn son in Mrs. Nair's son and hands over her wedding pendant to her daughter with the request to cherish it with due regard.


In the novel, the author explores the ideas of choice, detachment, renunciation, love and devotion through three of her main characters - two women Thethikutty (Sumitarananda, Devaki Manampilli or Devi Bahen), Thankam Nair and one man Unni Nambudiri.



After reading the serialised story published in Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly, translator and art critic Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan got permission from Lalithambika Antharjanam to translate it.[3] The English translation, titled Agnisakshi itself, was published in 1980 by the Kerala Sahitya Akademi.[3]

Film adaptation[edit]

In 1999, a film adaptation of the novel was released, starring Rajit Kapur as Unni Nambudiri, Sobhana as Devaki and Praveena as Thankam. The film was scripted and directed by Shyamaprasad. It won a National Film Award and eight Kerala State Film Awards. The film was however criticised for glorifying spiritualism and Hindutva.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]


  1. ^ C. Sarat Chandran (3 January 2010). "A lone female voice". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  2. ^ B. R. P. Bhaskar (15 April 2003). "Malayalam novels". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  3. ^ a b Padmini Natarajan (March 2007). "Working as translator and critic". Harmony Magazine. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  4. ^ Mohammed Salim Mohammed. "Agnisakshi, a dream come true for Shyamaprasad". The Peninsula. 8 May 1999. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  5. ^ "Agnishakshi Film is loyal to novel". The Indian Express. 14 September 1998. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  6. ^ K. Santhosh. "Document of a disturbing era". The Hindu. 6 August 1999. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  7. ^ Gautaman Bhaskaran. "A Literary Masterpiece On Celluloid". The Hindu. 20 November 1998. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  8. ^ "Agnisakshi, a Spiritual Film". The Indian Express. 15 January 1999. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  9. ^ Vinu Abraham. "A Trail by Fire". The Week. 18 October 1998. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  10. ^ M. G. Radhakrishnan. "Film under Fire". India Today. 12 April 1999. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  11. ^ "No Hindutva in my film - Shyamaprasad". The Hindu. 21 March 1999. Retrieved 30 June 2013.

Further reading[edit]