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At city's bookstores, it's a brisk season for Gandhi

Post Lage Raho., youngsters, jail inmates take to the Mahatma; record sales
at Gandhi book centre.


I RDIS Saiyad, a prisoner lodged at the Arthur Road jail was so intrigued by
the concept of Gandhigiri, which he learnt of through recent news articles,
that he wrote to Gandhi Book Centre asking for a copy of Mahatma Gandhi's
autobiography, My Experiments with Truth, to be sent to him.

''We were pleasantly surprised by the request and now, we've decided to take
this further by distributing free copies to those interested at the Thane,
Byculla and Arthur Road prisons,'' says TRK Somaiya, who is in charge of the
bookstore in Nana Chowk.

All debates on whether Gandhi is relevant today or not couldn't do what a
two-hour comic film, oddly, about a local goon, Lage Raho Munnabhai, seems
to have achieved. Not only has it brought back the leader into current
consciousness, even the film's coinage of the term 'Gandhigiri' has rapidly
made it into pop culture.

Arthur Road jail superinten dent Swati Sathe who helped Saiyad in procuring
the book is in favour of entertainment with positive impact. She has in fact
planned a screening of the film, once the CD is officially released in the
market. In the meantime, they will participate in a workshop about Gandhi
and his principles. "The change is slow but consistent. I am eager to see
the impact of the workshop and film on the prisioners," she says.

Post the film's release, interest in the Mahatma has increased so much that
the Gandhi Book Centre, which would usually sell 25,000 copies of books
themed on him, sold 3,20,000 copies during the Gandhi Jayanti week.
Firoze Vishram of the New and Second Hand Bookshop, Kalbadevi Road, that has
a separate section on Gandhi, also says that there's been a 20 to 30 per
cent rise in sales of books related to the man.

Dr Usha Thakkar, honorary secretary, Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sanghralaya, too,
has noticed an increased interest in Gandhi among the youth visiting the
institution. Interestingly, many of their questions are related to what the
film portrays.

"Every year we organise a competition on Gandhi and at least 10,000
youngsters participate. So, there has always been an interest in the leader.
There are so many pressures on the youngsters these days that they're
looking for an alternative in the Gandhian philosophy,'' she says.

So Satyagraha suddenly sounds "cool" and Gandhian principles, the plausible
solution to day-to-day problems. But not everyone is overly excited about
the development.

Director Jahnu Barua thinks that Gandhi is too serious and his philosophy
too vast to be tackled in a two-hour film.

Like filmmaker Anand Pat wardhan puts it, "The film is enjoyable but
Gandhigiri is just a superficial phenomenon. But even if it's just on the
surface, it's a good indication."