The Hindu on Jana Gana Mana

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2004

Novel based on history



JANAGANAMANA: Malan; Kizhakku Pathippagam, 16, Karpagambal Nagar, Mylapore, Chennai 600004. Rs. 40.

ACTUALLY THIS is not just fiction. Malan has produced a very readable and thought-provoking document for the younger generation at home on the killing of Gandhiji by Nathuram Godse. It is easy to condemn such a killing (an old, defenceless man who was already suffering from possible kidney failure shot down in the land of Mahavira), but difficult to present a sustained defence for the killer.

All that the author wants us to know is that it was the proverbial last straw when Gandhiji announced a fast unto death to force the Indian Government to give Rs. 55 crores to Pakistan.

Godse had a point in thinking of it as "blackmail politics", for already the situation was tense with the raw cases of suffering and loss experienced by millions crowding Delhi and other places.

What Malan has on hand is material for a mega fiction, and the short novel has not given him adequate moving space. Unless one is well-versed in the history of the times, a good deal of his hard-wrought insertions may go unnoticed.

While the real characters do breathe in the fiction (oh dear, was Apte such a womaniser?), the fictive Ramanan remains in the shadows, probably because his dream of Gandhiji’s assassination much before it happened seems unreal by its very attention to realistic detail.

However, Malan has floated a wish that he might produce a novel with Ramanan heroically battling the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi. We will definitely take it as a promise from an author who realises how difficult it is to get at the intelligibility and inner spaces of historical characters, whether it is Gandhiji or Godse or Mohamed Ali Jinnah.

Salutations to the author’s mother representing the generations of women who found freedom to act and achieve in the Gandhian ambience; and to K. Rajendran for an accurate summing-up of the agile and cautious Tamil novel in his foreword.





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