To tell a tale-12

(Chapter-2 Part-5)

-Chandra Latha

As the children in the street make fun of these as madman’s scribbling or the manager removes him from the job, they reflect the reaction of the society for the rein less thought, whether it is as innocent as children consider or irresponsible as the manager considers. 

Gopichand’s usage of caricature and graffiti as narrative devices is quite unique and creative, never used by any Telugu writer earlier or later. These narrative tools channelized the most debatable narrative situations into a tragic-comic narration without much rhetoric, the reader moves along the ideas of the novelist. They make the most important and integral part of the narrative.

  Cinema, a remarkable technological breakthrough between two world wars is a collective art ever invented by mankind.  It emerged as an uniquely significant art by the amalgamation of story, drama, music, dance, painting and technologies like photography, acoustics, visual, electrical, electronics, light and so on. In his essay Film and Fiction: The Dynamics of Exchange, Keith Cohen remarks, “Everyone knows that the cinema, besides being the first totally new art for several hundred years, is also first art to be collectively arrived at and the first artistic brain child of modern industrial science.” (Keith Cohen. Film and Fiction & Theory of the Novel, A Historical Approach. Ed.Michael McKeon. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 2000, Pg .704)

            Most of the earlier cinemas barrowed stories from the novels whereas some cinema scripts were later recast as novels.  Gopichand was a Cinema Director, Film Story and Script Writer and a Film Producer. He is often identified as the first writer- director in Telugu Cinema. His writing and film direction continued simultaneously.  He used the innovative narrative techniques unique of cinema in his novel, The Bungler.       

This barrowing of narratives from one art form to the other, is a global phenomenon and “the exchange of artistic energies, is a continuous process.  Keith Cohen says, “Consequently, the most dynamic aspects of the new novel form were simultaneity, or the depiction of two separate points in space at a single instant of time, multiperspectivism or the depiction of a single event from radically distinct point of view, and montage, or the discontinuous disposition in the narrative of diverse diegetic elements.”  (Keith Cohen, Pg. 30)

        Diverse diegetic elements are used with the prominently different audio visual forms in The Bungler. The visual details of narration makes the narrative more lively with the minimum description. The narrative visual that assimilated the camera movement, focus of the lens, movement of images, long and close-up shots, with appropriate  sound effects, light and shades opens up the imagination of the reader to an entirely new experience.    

Narrative Visual : 1

Suddenly, lightening struck. It was no ordinary lightning. Like a waterfall splitting the mountains open to leap onto the earth, like the flow of love tearing the hearts to pour out, the lightning struck in front of him and remained there. Forged with its light was a bridge of brilliance between the sky and the earth. (The Bungler, Pg 38)

 Narrative Visual: 2                       

  “Parvathi-Parameswar came running over the bridge of brilliance and appeared before him.” (The dream in which Siva –Parvathi emerge: (The Bungler, Pg.38) 

Narrative Visual : 3

     The heaven cracked. From the openings, the celestial beauties emerged and one of them sat on the lap of Sitarama Rao and started feeding him. The others were singing and dancing, a  feast for the eye.” (The Bungler, Pg.43)

Narrative Visual : 4

       Thoughts raged in his mind. He looked at her pointedly. The thoughts were arrested. To his eyes she seemed to be Suryarao one moment, Satavahana another, Balakrishna another moment, Siva Rao yet another, yet another moment he himself. 

      Around her head were moving in circles the heads of his friends and his own head. Her head which was in the centre, was bursting with laughter for a while, and then weeping copiously.     

Initially, these heads talk one after the other and then they converse, debate and differ. This makes Sitarama Rao to run out of that place. (The Bungler, Pg.137-138)

The visual effects, achieved by the above narrative situations are unique and vibrant.  The narratives move very fast and quick like the Narrative Visuals 1 and 4.   The usage of language in these narratives perfectly suits the situations. This narrative contains words related to light and sound and, more importantly, to motion.

NV 1  : Lightening struck,  splitting,  mountains open, leap into earth, flow of love,  tearing hearts, pouring out .

NV 2: Running over, brilliance appeared 

NV 3: Heavens cracked. The celestial beauties emerged. Sat on the lap.  Started feeding. Singing and dancing.  A feast for the eye.


NV 4 :    Thoughts raged, looked at her pointedly, arrested, eyes, she seemed, one moment, another moment, Around her head, moving in circles,  bursting with laughter, weeping copiously, talk, converse, debate and differ, run out. 

          In the above narratives, the action moves on.  Even before an action sinks into the reader’s mind, the next action takes place. The time and space between each action is nominal and the imagination of the reader catches the pace of the narration. It is as fast as any camera can move and capture. The narrative achieves the visual effect similar to that of the medium of the Film Director.

       NV 4 clearly illustrates the speed of action of the camera, movement of aperture and swiftly sliding frames. The resulted visual effect is astonishing. 

       The novel belongs to a period when many movies chose themes from folk tales and epics.  Folk and epic heroes and their adventures included many such fictional hyperboles. Many art forms like dance, ballet, drama, street play and several folk performing art forms were copiously used in cinemas.

NV 4 contains a similar hyperbolic visual effect popular in the contemporary movies. The moving images synthesized phenomenally with thought and creative expressions in art and life. It is because of that power of the images that the French author, Georges Duhamel avows, “I can no longer think what I want to think. My thoughts have been replaced by moving images.” (Walter Benjamin. The Work of Art in the age of mechanical Reproduction. Theory of the Novel, A Historical Approach.  Edited by Michael McKeon. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London. 2000. Pg.686)

Cinema contains a series of images. Unlike the earlier art forms like painting and photography, cinema has the advantage of the association of sound. The moving audio visual images of the movies attain verisimilitude to life effortlessly. Gopichand has used both diegetic and non-diegetic sounds as well as silence in the narrative of The Bungler. The voices of characters, speech and dialogues, sounds made by the objects in the narrative are the Diegetic sounds and the narrator’s voice, narrative tone, descriptive sounds and imaginative sounds are the Non-diegetic sounds .Sound alerts, disturbs, shakes whereas silence quiets down and provides space for imagination and thought.   

      The effects of sound and light are captured in The Bungler with all their subtleties to the perfection. Each narrative situation provides space for these audio visual effects. Gopichand employs the description to posit the cinematographic audio-visual effects in the narrative that makes the narration more authentic and lucid. Even the most unbelievable narrative situations are accepted without much difficulty. 

Narrative Soundtrack: 1 

       Suddenly, lightening struck. …..They become immobile, standing as they were   standing, sitting as they are sitting, roaming even as they were roaming. The sound of thousand gigantic drums was heard. (The Bungler, Pg.38) 

 Narrative Soundtrack: 2

     “Sitarama Rao fixed his thoughtful gaze on Siva. He had to ask for a boon, what boon?  

Vaiswanarudu said, “Bhaan!”

“Food,” Said Sitarama Rao.                                                                         

From  within the Vaiswanarudu cried again, “Bhaan!”

      At that cry, the earth shook, mountains turned to powder ,monkeys fell from trees like ripe fruit, birds pierced the sky like rockets ,snakes sloughed their skins, peacock tails snapped, the whitened bear turned red. 

            “Bhaan !”

        At the sound, the anthills and snake pits that had transformed around Sitarama Rao scattered. The beard came off and danced in the wind.

     Nails broke loose, turned into swords drawn and cut up the entire jungle into shreds. “Bhaan!” (The Bungler, Pg 39-40)

Narrative Soundtrack: 3

  The coconut sapling near his cot rustled in the wind and made a crackling sound .

            Someone was calling across the barren wall. They were quarrelling in the neighbor’s house.  (The Bungler, Pg 43)

Narrative Soundtrack : 4

              The pyre in the distance burned high, flames leapt as if to burn up the whole world, rattling and crackling.( The Bungler, Pg 159

            The pyre flapped and fluttered. The adjacent samadhi moved, as if sobbing.  (The Bungler, Pg 160)

            “Mother.. mother.. mother..” He fell at the feet of the Samadhi and sobbed. (The Bungler, Pg 164) 

In the above Narrative Soundtracks, varied sound effects are achieved through words, descriptions and situations.

NS 1: Struck, immobile, standing as they were, roaming. The sound of thousand gigantic drums, heard                                                                        

NS 2 : Bhaan!, Cried, cry, shook, mountains turned to powder, fell from trees, pierced the sky, rockets, snakes sloughed, snapped, at the sound, scattered, Nails broke, swords drawn, cut up the entire jungle.         

NS 3 :  Rustled in the wind ,a crackling sound , calling ,quarrelling 

NS 4 :   Rattling ,crackling,  flapped, fluttered, sobbing, sobbed. 

        Diegetic sounds of the above narrative are the direct references to sounds like sound of thousand gigantic drums in NS 1. Some sounds are descriptive like fell from tree. Some sounds are objective like sounds of rockets, drums, swords. Few more sounds like sobbing, Nails broke are subjective. Words related to speech like call, quarrel, sob, heard, flab, flutter create a amazing score of sound between words in the narrative.

     Non-diegetic sounds in the above soundtracks are the sounds that are rarely heard in real life. The narrative refers to Snakes sloughed, the mountains turned to powder (imaginative sound), Vaiswanarudu’s cry, Bhaan! (fantastic sound). Vaiswanarudu is an epithet of Agni, the God of fire which implies the digestive fire or hunger pangs in Sitarama Rao’stomach.

And, there are words related to silence like immobile, standing as they were.

          The most powerful sound effect that Gopichand employs is silence.  Silence is the universal language with enumerable expressions of emotions. Silence agitates, resists, rests, ends, begins and settles down. Silence explores, explains and  even explodes.

          Varied shades of silence appear in the novel:

Narrative Silence: I          

      “Then, it doesn’t matter if I don’t eat ? “ he asked.


      “It is good for you that I don’t eat ! “


    “Infact, you don’t want me to be happy?”



She served his meal.  (The Bungler, Pg 91 to  97)

Narrative Silence : II

Silence. Silence. Endless Silence. To Grandfather Ramayya, Sitarama Rao seemed a part of the silence, silence itself. (The Bungler, Pg 156)

Narrative Silence : III

“Let me stay here for a while, Grandfather .All this silence in the world, let me assimilate it. “Whatever he might have thought, Grandfather Ramayya got up and walked away slowly. Sitarama Rao turned in the direction of the bridge and sat still, like silence personified” (The Bungler, Pg 156)                                                                                                      

In the above quoted narrative silences, NS I is spread over nearly 7 pages (The Bungler, 91 to 97) Indira responds to her husband with silence and silence alone. Just before this long conversation began, Sitarama Rao takes a pause from his questions to his wife and then tries to converse with a gecko on the wall which ends up as a monologue as the gecko is silent. The common household conversation between wife and husband is brilliantly narrated with the silence that captures the anger, anguish and compromise. Silence clearly reflects hurt feelings, insult and passive resistance. Sitarama Rao’s mindset, his relation with his wife, his malevolent behavior are dramatized perceptively with the aid of silence. 

        In NS II, silence is described by the narrator. The silence is spread all around the character who becomes a part of the silence itself.

       NS III, happens just before the end when Sitarama Rao’s mind explores into itself. Silent, Calm, Quiet and Peace. The silence around creeps into the two major characters and fills their thoughts, ideas and inner selves.  External silence expressed in NS II is internalized very effectively in NS III. With the few words used in simple description of late evening village scene, all sounds withdraw into silence. Silence of the curved half moon, an endless tunnel and the desolated bridge. Reader is at once drawn into the tranquility and peace of the silence and gets time and space to ponder over the words of old Ramayya. As the Telugu proverb goes, it suggests the silence before the storm (thoophanu mundari nissabdam ). 

         The Bungler has interesting space and time structure. The narrative in the first chapter has a very large canvas with quick movement of the narrative time. Sitarama Rao’s introduction, his ideals,  his father’s death, his generosity, his mismanagement, his marriage, his job, his first social expression of abnormality and so on appear  without any concern to the gaps of  unities of time. 

       The later five chapters have a time-frame, every chapter deal with a single day. The second chapter begins in the early hours of the morning, when Sitarama Rao’s wife starts the daily chores and, ends with night. These five chapters have the spatial shift as quickly as a blink. In the last chapter, Sitarama Rao leaves the house, goes to a traffic police post, hotel, prostitute house, public meeting, bridge, cremation ground and in between goes to jungles to do penance and rob people. The narrative visuals move faster and faster.

      Freud’s psycho analysis facilitated the narrative to explore the psyche of the characters. As Walter Benjamin points out, “The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.” (Walter Benjamin (1936) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction reference/ subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm Pg.15)

Even when the focal point in broad spectrum shot is panoramic, the minute details of the scene are captured on a broader canvas.  The cinematographic close up shots dwell the inner spaces where the back drop fades to the distant mode and at times gets blurred. The later five chapters in the novel reflect this technique. The use of long and close- up shot techniques strengthens the simultaneousness of the narrative. 

         The study of the incipit of the novel indicates an overt narrator with omniscient narration .This   narrator has a neutral or matter-of-fact voice that presents a sequence of carefully expressed words, terse and laconic. The position of the narrator or the point -of -view is authorial with the focus on Sitarama Rao. 

Sitarama Rao himself indulges in his own narratives which are different from each other. The duality in thought, action is reflected in the point of view.     

        He thinks something and immediately another view replaces it. He wants to acts in some way and acts exactly the opposite. He himself indulged in his point of view about his lineage which precipitated into his ancestral pride, only to realize in the last chapter that, it was his father’s point of view about him, his ancestry and his life and he never had his own. 

      When his maternal uncle’s letter shatters his arrogance and pride he realizes the truth. Old Ramayya, provides an authorial point of view to the narrative. Such “multiperspectivism or the depiction of a different points of view,” (Walter Benjamin, Pg.687) is the influence of the film on the narrative of the fiction.

            Sitarama Rao’s private talks with his friends usually end in inconclusiveness. Ramayya’s private talk with Sitarama Rao is didactic .They review Sitarama Rao’s ideas, challenge his actions and offer advice. Sitarama Rao’s private talks with his wife are futile as they are answered with passive resistance, silence. His private talks with his child, reveal his mistakes innocently and expose his lack of natural knowledge and common sense. He considers a prostitute Andhra Matha, a sewage of the society. 

            Public speech takes place twice in the novel, once at the police post. Next, in the last chapter, on the dais of the dignitaries. One speech leads to the other. At first Sitarama Rao wants to kick the society but he ends up kicking charcoal .He draws graffiti and gets into a public speech filled with philosophical comments along with songs and poems that entertain mob.  The next speech is on the dais of the dignitaries, addressing large crowd. He exposes the hollowness of faulty gentlemen, the leaders of the town and the mob enjoys his speech and encourages him to talk more. Then, he starts criticizing the mob. The mob at once turns against him. When Ramayya tells them that Rao hit his wife, the mob gets furious and hits him.  As D.S. Rao comments  in the introduction, Gopichand’s understanding of the mob mind can be compared to Shakespear’s “but his Sitarama Rao is no Mark Antony.” ( The Bungler, Introduction)

        Dialogical plurality in the novel is rooted in the open debate that Gopichand indulges in the presentation of different philosophies. Sitarama Rao is a rationalist to begin with.  By the time he understands it’s limitations, he gets affected. So, the narrative treatment is twofold, the mind and psyche of Sitarama Rao. As Koduri Sirama Murthy rightly says, “Gopichand achieved two clarifications with this novel one the limitations in rationalism are defined and secondly, it hold a mirror to the mind of a rationalist who was stuck in the frame of rationalism and was struggling to come out but couldn’t. The first is related to intelligence and the second with the heart.”     Sitarama Rao is a rationalist and atheist. He was curious to reason since he was a child. His education and philosophy strengthen his questioning ability. He questions and questions.  His questions lead to more questions. This novel explains the sequential change in him from rationalism towards naturalism and from existentialism to nihilism.  

“We are born for no reason; if we can live without one, we will; else we die!” (The Bungler, Pg. 55)

But according to the Indian concept of kaarana janma, one has a reason to be born, One shall live to know it. The other way, we have a purpose for our life. Kaarana Janmulu, are those who are born for a reason. Like the legendary heroes like Rama who is born to kill the Demon Ravana. Interestingly, Sitarama Rao compares himself with  Rama who is described as the “complete man,” and who forced his wife, Sita, to walk through the fire and sent his pregnant wife into jungles. His rationalism helps him to gather reasonable argument for his behavior once again and by the time he realizes the truth, it is too late. Thus, Gopichand, a rationalist, tries to make a serious point that rationalism has limitations. 



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