… To be Continued (The story of serialised novels in India and abroad)

On every first Monday of the month, a group of friends who admired Charles Dickens would meet and read aloud the latest instalment of his ‘Dombey and Son’. This was one of the many groups of Dicken’s admirers who looked forward to his serialised novel. This was in the England of 1847. But even before, he had used this method to arouse interest in the readers when he serialised ‘Pickwick Papers’. While the readership for the first instalment was just 1000, the last instalment was read by 40,000 persons.

Dickens used this form all his life for all his novels. So did William Makepeace Thackeray for ‘Vanity Fair’ and Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes stories too were first published as serials.t The public response was so warm that there was a major protest in the form of fan letters when, tired of writing the series, wanting to write something else, Doyle ‘killed’ Sherlock Holmes. The writer had to resurrect his detective!

Serialising was popular in America too where Henry James divided his work into segments of similar sizes and let it first be published as a serial even when his story was already ready. Others, often, wrote the subsequent instalments even as the earlier one’s were in readers’ Often a novel would be read in instalments for as long as a year during which the authors would respond to the response of the readers. But in Russia, Leo Tolstoy‘s ‘Anna Karenina’ ran for four years!

As the world changed with the World Wide Web, a serial format on the net began when Stephen King wrote The Plant and many others did the same.

Websites like FanFiction.Net and web-based communities like LiveJournal, FictionPress and Fictionhub have even produced bestsellers that have overtaken the traditional novels.

The mobile devices too have made the serial format popular with JukePop Serials and the like promoting serialised novels.

India too has a similar tradition.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee‘s ‘Anandmath’ was first serialised in his own magazine Bangadarshan (Bengali) in 1882. It was a heart warming novel about the Sanyasis who fought for the freedom of India. Bankim wrote the song ‘Vandematram’ for this novel. It was later published in book form.

‘Anandmath’ went on to get a cult status and Vande Matram ended up as the National song of India. Prathapa Mudaliar Charithram, a novel by Mayuram Pillai, written in 1857 was the first serialised novel in Tamil. Serialised novels with the freedom struggle, instilled patriotic pride in the people.

Krupa AJ Satthiananadan, considered the first Indian woman novelist writing in English. ‘Suguna’, her novel was serialised between 1887 and 1888 in Madras Christian College Magazine.

Chitralekha (Gujarati) often serialised novels written by Harkisan Mehta and Tarak Mehta. So did Sushma (Hindi) and Shamma (Urdu). I remember writing my first novel (‘Roop ain Sadhana’) for Jagruti, a Sindhi weekly when I was in my late teens. This is the only serialised novel in Sindhi. Writing a serialised novel is writing under a pressure. There always is a deadline though the magazines prefer to have at least one extra instalment in stock. But a deadline, more important, is in the head of the writer. He doesn’t forget his story and doesn’t part with his characters even when he goes to bed. There is a flow about it.

My friend, author and journalist Om Gupta has started his serials novel and seeing the first chapter I’m sure this is going to be a sure winner, an important step that would be noted as a part of the history of serialised novels. His link is profOmGupta.blogspot.blogspot.in
Om Gupta is a talented veteran. I look forward to his next installments.


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Mahesh Bhatt on Mohan Deep

The launch of Color Me Rich just got over.
Filmmaker, writer and thinker Mahesh Bhatt launched it. After unwrapping the parcel, Mahesh Bhatt spoke about me. I’ll cherish these words forever.
He said, “As I was leaving my daughter Pooja‘s office at five to seven, making sure that I come here by 7:45 , she told me ‘I think Papa you’re doing the sweetest thing by going for Mohan Deep‘s book launch because he was the only guy who supported me when this controversy erupted about the body paint. So, when you burn into people’s memory, when they feel vulnerable, especially in the society which pretends to be very upright and very moral and it takes sadistic delight in kind of savaging you, you remember those few very brave people, in the media especially, who have the balls to stand up and protect you from the so called rot which is unleashed on you. So, on behalf of my daughter I thank you for what you did, Mohan. A good deed that is done always resonates through time.”
Mahesh Bhatt added, “Coming to your writing, I’m shocked to know that you wrote ten books. In this age and time when you are on Twitter, where you are limited to 140 characters, to sit down and write 500 words is a phenomenal task. So, anybody who puts pen to paper and writes is a most extraordinary individual. I think the most solitary of all acts is to write and I think our industry suffers from what is called ‘narrative starvation’ and that is because we talk about film stories. We don’t write stories. We talk about scripts. We don’t write scripts. So, I think Mohan has dared to excavate lives of icons in the past: Madhubala, Meena Kumari ji, rubbed Rekha ji the wrong way! I think you have always had this tendency to gravitate on the wrong side, as they say, of this field but that is what brings both of us together! So, I think this book obviously, when she was reading that strange name of the wine that even I struggled with, it indicates that you have really gone into the lives of the rich and the super rich and you have a good looking model on the cover and Color Me Rich has the fragrance of a blockbuster and it’s going to climb the charts higher and higher and higher. And we’ll make sure that every individual who walks out of here tweets about it and raves about it even if they’ve not read more than two lines in their bloody life! So I think, congratulations and it’s very heartening to see you still on the crease, daring, baring and saying, “I won’t stop as life doesn’t have a full stop, the spirit of Mohan Deep will not have a full stop! I’m certain about that! Well done, Mohan. Congratulations!'”
This has been a memorable launch for me for many reasons and these words certainly are one of them.


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Books, books and books

Mohan Deep with bookshelf in the background

Unlike my friends I haven’t selected my 10 favorite books, and find the task extremely difficult. I prefer reading fiction – though, many books of non-fiction too have left an impact on my life – and biographies.
My current favorites include Michael Connelly, the creator of the Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller series, Jeffrey Archer, Mario Puzo, and Frederick Forsyth; and the authors I repeat include Harold Robbins (specially his earlier books), Irving Wallace and Arthur Hailey.
Parallel to these books is the fiction of Ernest Hemingway, Guy de Maupassant, O Henry, W. Somerset Maugham and DH Lawrence.
I may still have one of the earliest editions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I read this as a curiosity, and then read ‘Sons and Lovers’. Sons and Lovers remind me of Joseph Conrad’s ‘Lord Jim’. I found a lot of similarity between Lord Jim and the character Amitabh Bachchan played in Yash Chopra‘s ‘Kala Pathar’. Of course, there is no comparison, but then there can be no comparison between The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Paa.
Love for reading began with Phantom, Diana and Dave Palmer, Mandrake, Narda & Lothar, Jiggs Maggi and Bimmy, Archie’s, Blondy and other comics when I was in my teens. Having shelves full of books, brought from Karachi by my mother, along with the belonging Sindhi refugees brought during partition were my introduction to serious literature from different languages and countries. These books along with a lot of reading of Indian mythology shaped an attitude. Read Sufi writings in Sindhi, novels of Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Khandekar, Bhagwati Charan Sharma and pulp of Ibne Safi BA, Om Prakash Sharma along with stories, books, poetry and plays of Agyaya, Dharam Veer Bharati, Mohan Rakesh, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, Krishan Chandra, Yashpal, Gulshan Nanda and many others
And then there are books on Feng Shui and Vastu.
My reading and writing began very early with books from Hindi, Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Bengali and Marathi.
To select 10 books is doing an injustice to all of them. A hundred is more like that.

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