It is, indeed, a bitter fact that values once held high and noble seem to be either redundant or irrelevant with the passage of time. Mahatma Gandhi’s life and his contribution to India is rare and exceptional; there can never be a second opinion on that. However, knowing this well, the writer and political analyst Maalan had taken the risk of spinning a novelette titled ‘Jana Gana Mana’ focussing on the events that led to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
As ‘Kalki’ Rajendran mentions in his preface, the narration moves on the pace of an action thriller notwithstanding the fact that the climax is well known. The protagonists are an imaginary police officer Ramanan and real assassins Nathuram Gotse and Narayan Apte and their aides.
Maalan dangerously treads the path of depicting the villains also as strongly principled and patriotic. He rightly mentions that just a thin line only demarks the intelligence from insanity and also the violent from non-violent. Maalan’s comment on Gandhi that he ‘tried to integrate religion with politics and that politics had ultimately taken away his life’ will draw flaks from the staunch Gandhians.
Yet, I prefer to differ. The writer had categorically mentioned towards the end that none of the principles or policies of Mahatma are neither followed nor revered in present day India. The truth is that they hardly find a place in the modern living and the globalisation postures of not only India but any nation for that matter.
Truth is always bitter but Maalan deserves appreciation for his bold, forthright and unbiased expression.
Jana Gana Mana — Maalan, Kavitha Publications pp.128, Rs.60
(The Hindu May 23, 2013)