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More than just a game? Investigating how Moti Nandi used Football as part of the narrative in his works

Introspecting Moti Nandi's literary works

Feature 25 Nov 2015, 19:55 IST
Author of many a celebrated novels, Nandi never quite got his due internationally 

The sport of football is a tantalizing subject for any student literature. For no other subject, is a more constant preoccupation in the physical lives of Bengalis. Like other heavily discussed topics, football is obsessively written about and created through the imagination in all sorts of narratives to feed into the main circuit of our lives. 

Language itself becomes the riddle as we try to approximate the exhilaration or freedom our bodies feel at play, while we also tally through sport the body's wondrous evanescent victories and shattering defeats. We also like to read about it, in formats ranging from tabloid sports coverage to high literature. 

Today’s following of the game is mostly based on the matches telecasted on TV or wriiten about on the internet. However, behind this contemporary mutation of football narrative lays the printed word, through which the contemporary fan's pre- occupations were born. 

Though a lot of Bengali writers use football in their novels, Moti Nandi stands out for the way he has looked at the sport and its mass appeal, but they feature completely different assumptions about writing, narratives, and their creation and reception, and they speak to very different audiences. Nandi writes with football in the backdrop by way of multiculturalism, pluralism, and narrative. He is one of the pioneers when it comes to using a particular sport to great effect in literary works. Might be too big a comparison to make, but his football stories are almost similar to how PG Wodehouse’s works started with a story on golf being narrated by the eldest member of the family.

From the beginning football had the most captive audiences for reporting to shape. As Nandi notes, in the nineteenth century most Bengalis accessed football via the newspaper and through physical presence in stadiums. Football had the intimate flow experience attached to play and also a nostalgic one. The followership, in fact was initially class driven, as discussed in the second and chapter (as a sport played by the Britishers, before it moved to the masses and into the working classes in the villages). Football's ultimate triumph is perhaps seen in the power of stories which use it as a medium to appeal to the readers. All the time, narrative has been its transmitter. 

Two of his works Striker & Stopper were later translated by leading publication house Hachette

Football is traditionally thought to be a physical and a least imaginative sport. Its collisions and the running around by players, have for years been deprecated next to the aesthetics of cricket’s subtlety, in which finesse and beauty of the sport are highlighted. Nandi, however, provides a suppler and variegated football text from the last century, and he shows that it can provide images that fuel romance, melodrama, and sentimental accounts. 

In one of his most famous works, he gives an admirable reading of one football play from the viewpoints of different spectators. The reading demonstrates pragmatically that spectatorial purification within a game frame is never an easy call, which it relates to team identification, age, gender, race, size, experience, personal life, and specific viewing frame, among other variables. Nandi loathes instrumentalism of any sort and argues for football spectatorship as a very complex individual and collective act. He also shows how perspectives and biases enter into the interpretations of one player's disqualification from a game. 

He, however, soon moves away from the action on the field to its witnessing, to the act of reading and interpreting the game. Although previous authors have argued against “essentialism” in football's various plots, he goes to great lengths to discuss the importance of establishing the family and societal line of thought, thereby moving away from the strictly technical works. It’s almost as if Nandi is trying to conclude that in football the on-field action is less significant than the happenings off the pitch. For him and a lot of other writers/journalists the crowds thus become an integral entity, an essentialism that shapes all future football narratives. He perhaps overdoes some of the drama, as if only football led to all the circumstances, but his identification of “enhanced narrativity” is important.

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