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Why is the story more powerful than morals, truth, and characters

Manjushree Abhinav
20/05/2019 0 0

Writing the Story is fun because it takes you up on a parachute, and you get to play God. If God wants you to get uplifted, he will inspire you to write a story.

It is the first session in the creative writing class, and it is inspired by a master scriptwriter of the Indian Screen: the writer of excellent films like the 'Legend of Bhagat Singh', 'Rajneeti', 'Satyagraha', 'Ghulam', etc.

A story is more potent than morals than truth than you. -Anjum Rajabali.

Why is a story more compelling than

a) Morals.

I remember a textbook called Community Work, from the pre-primary level of school. After every chapter, they had a subtitle in bold, 'Moral of the story'. So it is drummed into our heads, that stories are all about morals. However, in our experience, our Life long and ongoing love affair with mythology, movies and literature,  proves the opposite. Stories take us beyond morality. They make us to the field which is beyond good and evil, where Rumi promised to meet us.

A story can take you from good to bad in moments. A master storyteller, like Alfred Hitchcock, does this so effortlessly in the film, Psycho. A young woman is murdered ruthlessly in the shower by this invalid character called Norman Bates. After she is dead, Norman cleans the mist of all the blood stains. Then he wraps her lifeless body in a carpet and takes it down the stairs in the dark of the night. He puts her in her cars dickie and drives away. He reaches a pond, where he manages to push the car in. And he stands there, watching the car sink slowly in the water. Just as it is about to sink totally below the surface, the car stops falling. We see Normans tense face, and at that moment, all of us have a profoundly immoral thought: the car should sink. And it does.

The point here is not that it is ok to murder and then try to hide proof. The end of a story is that it gives you an experience of Life which you otherwise wouldn't have had. In Psycho, you become the Psycho. You feel what he feels, at least for a moment. The bravest, the most righteous person, can sense fear in a horror movie. And in this, the Story is more potent than morals.

Why is a story more powerful than

b) Truth

All stories, by definition, are false — Ramayan, Mahabharat, and what happened yesterday. When Tulsidas narrated the Ramayan, he exercised his creative license to delete, add and change Valmiki's version at crucial phases of the text.  They all are made from the stuff of the imaginary mind, which itself does not exist. Cinema itself is an illusion of twenty-four still frames projected per second on a massive screen in a dark theatre. Even a documentary film has a perspective of the director on which it heavily depends. On the other side of the spectrum, a movie like Superman is a worldwide hit.

A film should be believable. It need not be realistic. When you buy the tickets of a movie like Superman, you buy into the belief that in the world of Superman which you are entering for the next couple of hours, Superman can and does fly.

The root of all stories is drama. Be it art or commercial, realistic or bizarre,  a film's success depends largely on to what extent the audience brought into the belief in the narrative.

A story like Cinderella is retold across centuries, and to date, its theme ( socially odd couple ) is repeated in every other film.

Mahatma Gandhi, a great exponent of truth, once had an interesting conversation with Birla, his host in Delhi.

'Bapu,' said Birla reverently, 'You have done so much for us. Indians will never forget you.'

'That's not true, and I will be forgotten sooner than you would like to imagine. The only two characters, Indians will never forget are Ram and Krishna.'

So even the father of the nation knew that stories are more powerful than truth.

Why is a story more compelling than

c) You.

A story is always bigger than its characters. However great Bhagat Singh is, his sacrifice is what made him great. Rajesh Khanna became a star because the romance was in the air. Amitabh took over because the excitement gave way to frustration and anger. Angry became the new wave.

A story is more powerful than the writer. Once the producer buys the script, the chord is cut. The text may be written by whoever. A film is always the director's baby.

The script may be adapted from a book, but anyone who has loved a book will never be happy with the film. I am sure Chetan Bhagat wept when he saw three Idiots, which was inspired by his book, Five point someone.

A story is what pulls the audience in the cinema halls. The actors, or the stars, are there to act out the Story.

And the most prominent story writer of all, the mighty, thinks nothing of popping a character he has so lovingly breathed Life into when he loses interest in the sand castle. Savitri was perhaps the only woman who convinced God to give her back her husband. Amitabh's character, in film after film, had to leave the earthly abode. What does not leave us, however, is their Story.

Ek Baar Waqt se, lamha gira Kahin.

Waha dastan mili, lamha kahin Nahin


Once time lost a moment. All we count find there was a story.

So the ocean is more potent than the wave.

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