Waiting to become a book:

The Last Gandhi Movie

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“Everything in the world is waiting to become a book.”

[Walter Hamady, Gabberjabb No. 7, 1996]

The yarn I am about to spin is about an ambitious manuscript (MS) aspiring to become a book. I’m being a tad flippant when I call it a “yarn”. Because it is for real. I ought to have called it a “true confession” or something similar of that ilk. But that’s a bit too sensational for my taste. Never mind. Let’s stick to “yarn”. And, most important, let’s not forget that the story is not over as yet. Remember Al Capone’s admonition to his goons who rose to leave the Opera after the first aria was done with? “Siddown, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” So, here we go.

The Synopsis of the MS

We all live in myths of our own making. In conventional terms, myth equals falsehood. Greek philosophers of yore knew myth as mythos. Mythos was the womb where the oracles and the arts were born. Distinct from mythos was logos, the source of science and mathematics. Mythopoeia was the telling of stories or myths, usually in narrative form by a poet or a storyteller and an acknowledgement of ─ and a tribute to ─ the art of storytelling.

If one were looking at the big picture, The Last Gandhi Movie is contemporary mythopoeia in the making. There are three narrative strands in the main text: (1) Gandhi, (2) movies and (3) the nameless narrator’s life and exploits. N, the nameless narrator, a sceptical (if not totally cynical) and bohemian denizen of the ad making (and, ergo, myth-making) business, has serendipitously met Gandhi twice: once in a cinema hall in a film (“myth”) and the next time in real life (“flesh and blood”). In the finest tradition of skepticism as taught by the Greek philosopher Pyrrho (c. 360–270 BC), N decides to suspend judgment and take a second ─ and, maybe, even a third ─ look at Gandhi. Along the way, he shares with us memories of his own life (childhood, amourous and amoral adulthood) and insights into Gandhi-centric mythos and logos as well as into film (i.e., myth-making). The main text has a Timeline to impart a real life context ─ and relevance ─ to the narrative. The RetroNotes tailing many chapters of the main text are the author’s contrapuntal intervention qua curator to enrich the narrative.

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How The Last Gandhi Movie got “made”.

If The Bible and The Koran are the Word of God, The Last Gandhi Movie is the Word of Chance, of Happenstance, of Serendipity. At the end of the 20th century, I bought a book on impulse. How to Mutate and Take Over the World (Ballantine, 1996) by a pair of pseudonymous authors was subtitled “An Exploded Post Novel”. An Amazon reader review (05–01–2002) described it as “… a mix of email between the two authors, interspersed with email to their publisher, news stories, book reviews (yes, reviews for a book in the book they review, and very poor ones too!), and interviews. We are left no knowledge of what is real, fake or somewhere in between.”

Around that time, I also wrote The Last Gandhi Movie, but did not work hard enough to market it except making a rather interesting website (The Last Known Address of MK Gandhi, Esquire). Unfortunately, the company that made it closed down and I was left with only a CD of the website with partial contents. Some of it is also still there on the Wayback Machine, in bits and pieces but not really enough of it.

Making it work better: In November 2014, I decided to revive The Last Gandhi Movie. It would probably work better as a novel, I reasoned, if there was a counterpoint added to the main text. There are three narrative strands in the now marginally revised main text: (1) Gandhi, (2) movies (= myth making in real life) and (3) the life and exploits of the nameless narrator. The Last Gandhi Movie was for the digitally inclined reader: with very short attention span, familiarity with and fondness for clipped email/sms/ twitter style of writing, impatience with over-sentimental plotting. My aim was to offer these readers high-quality literary fiction with a style of storytelling off the beaten path — certainly not sub-literary kitsch. Notably, The Last Gandhi Movie shares two storytelling devices with How to Mutate and Take Over the World (see above): [1] book reviews and [2] author interview by a hostile critic. These by themselves give its style and pace of storytelling a distinctly different flavour and slant.

How RetroNotes happened: The counterpoint I added to the earlier text in November-December 2014 is a literary innovation of sorts (“RetroNotes”). Taking a clue or two from Milan Kundera (The Curtain), Laurence Sterne (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman) and the book on Project Cinema City Bombay/Mumbai (dates: sites) and adding the “panache” of Cliff Notes (if one may be permitted to so describe it), I suspect I may have stumbled upon a way to add a new twist to the art and craft of novel writing as understood and practiced currently and, in the process, also to add new layers of meaning to The Last Gandhi Movie.

Some may dismiss the RetroNotes as the writer’s “after-thoughts” and/or his attempt to pre-empt, stymie and thwart the critics. Others may accept their intended role of adding valuable clues of historical, socio-cultural and psychological context to the storytelling. At times, the RetroNotes act as the proverbial Devil’s Advocate adding a tinge of contrarian pungency to the narrative. At others, they work as an alienation device. The Last Gandhi Movie also works as a sort of a jigsaw puzzle. The reader has in his possession the various pieces and can construct the big picture all by himself by fitting them together in what in his opinion is the correct pattern. That’s not all. I have peppered the main text as well RetroNotes with occasional visual clues (pictures) to give a “documentary”/cinemaesque feel to the storytelling.

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s … Nuvel: All said and done, The Last Gandhi Movie is about changing the way novels are perceived and supposed to be written. By accident, I may have “invented” the Nuvel, I daresay. Incidentally, The Last Gandhi Movie has (1) a Who’s Who, (2) a Timeline and (3) a role-playing quiz − in addition to the main text and RetroNotes.

Why Gandhi is topical even today. The latest among the innumerable tributes paid to Gandhi all over the world in the idiom of statuary is his latest 9-foot likeness in bronze by the British sculptor, Philip Jackson, in the Parliament Square, London, unveiled by the British PM in the middle of March 2015, standing in close proximity of the statue of Sir Winston Churchill, his real-life nemesis. In his own country, Gandhi seems to have currently become the target of a well-orchestrated conspiracy to devalue him and build up a cult to honour his assassin. The latest episode in this plot is re-excavating his role in sidetracking Subhas Chandra Bose from the presidency of the Congress Party in favour of Nehru. It looks like the Mahatma will stay forever topical.

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In a personal mode …

Name of the novel: The Last Gandhi Movie

Genre: Literary Fiction Sub-genre(s): Experimental/Historical

Word count: 82,257 Pages: 392

Author: Deepak Mankar

Year of birth: 1936 (This was the year Rudyard Kipling died; Gone with the Wind and How to Win Friends and Influence People were published; Edward VIII abdicated to marry US divorcée Wallace Simpson; Paul Muni won the Best Actor Oscar for The Story of Louis Pasteur; and Margaret Sanger who had met Gandhi in December 1935 won the US Court of Appeals’ sanction to import contraceptives into the country. P.S.: The new-born had no inkling of the year’s significance, though, believe you me.)

Education: Master of Commerce, University of Bombay

Profession: Advertising writer (1964 to date)

Award: Children’s Book Trust Award for the Best Children’s Book: I See, I Think, I Sing (Thompson Press, New Delhi, 1972. ISBN-13: 978–0–86144–003–0)

Blog: http://popgoestheslop.blogspot.in

CONTACT DETAILS

Postal Address: D-8 Mehta Estate, 3rd Floor, 262 B Jayakar Road, Mumbai 400002, Maharashtra, India.

Telephone: 91–22–23825975 Email: dmankar22@gmail.com

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