S Rangarajan, more popularly known as writer Sujatha, and the man who designed the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), died in Chennai on Wednesday. He was 73.
As an electronic engineer for Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Rangarajan headed the team that designed and manufactured the EVMs that were first used in 1989 in 16 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh on an experimental basis. In the 2004 general elections nearly one million
EVMs were used attesting to the success of the Indian electoral experiment. Sujatha’s subsequent suggestions to refine the EVM to its present form were carried out by the BEL and he took enormous pride in its totally indigenous design. Later when doubts were raised over the accuracy and security of the machine, Sujatha wrote a detailed article explaining how robust and tamper proof it was. “That is one invention I shall be as proud of as my writings,” he once said.
Writing under his wife Sujatha’s name, he was one of the most prolific writers in Tamil using lucid prose, a wide range of knowledge and an impish sense of humour that made him an instant hit with three generations of Tamil readers. He could demystify the most complex scientific fact in simple layman’s language with an everyday comparison thrown in.
The mere announcement of a Sujatha serial — it varied from thrillers, science fiction, human drama, critiques on Tamil classics to Q and A on science and technology to essays on myriad subjects, would send the circulation of popular Tamil magazines such as Ananda Vikatan and Kumudam skyrocketing. “He is the ultimate all rounder any editor could wish for,” V Balasubramaniam, Ananda Vikatan’s ex-editor once said.
In all, he wrote 100 novels and more than 200 short stories and his fictional private investigator duo of Ganesh and Vasanth are part of Tamil folklore now.
Sujatha also made a mark as a successful screenplay writer and worked with top directors such as K Balachander, Mani Rathnam and Shankar (the latest being Sivaji). His death would be a huge loss for Shankar, who has signed up Rajinikanth and Aiswharya Rai for his movie Robot whose screenplay was being written by Sujatha.