#TSOF (The Scope Of Fiction, June 13, 2015):

SynTalk thinks about narratives & stories, while constantly wondering whether it is the stories that ‘make us up’ and give us our self-hood. We delve into the worlds of literature, film making, video games, philosophy, cognitive sciences, and linguistics to explore why & how we tell & understand stories. The concepts are derived off / from Aristotle, Coleridge, Diderot, Georges Polti, Hitchcock, Labov, E M Forster, Lumière brothers, de Beauvoir, Augusto Boal, Chomsky, Salim-Javed, David Lodge, & Dennett, among others. How identity, time, memory, & emotions are knotted together by fiction. Is story telling like a flight simulator, with most of the rewards but none of the risk? How narratives however, are not synonymous with fiction and, cover both fact & fiction. Do we remember narratively, & create causal links (with mnemonic durability) between the past, present and the possible futures? The difference of a story from a (film) script, & the importance of the dramatic centre? Is narrative experience a (playful) exploration of the space of possibilities – i.e., is all fiction a game? How incompleteness is also a valid possibility in narratives. Why are morals so critical in any satisfying story? How important is it to have a sense of the ending, & how can one return the narrative time to the present? And, in the face of the crisis of our death, is our life more like episodic TV serials, rather than a Greek tragedy? Is lying or cheating a related ability to telling stories? Are stories (video games) more about tying (dying) and untying (undying)? Are there cultures without stories? How there are real physiological reactions and a willing suspension of disbelief on seeing (say) a film in a dark theatre. How can a screenwriter be moved to tears by her own story? Why can’t there be stories without characters or emotions? Are there only a finite number of plots or narratives? What do you see when you look into the mirror in a first-person shooter game? Is there a serial killer inside you? The links between ‘queen died’, 36, spect-actor, chaos, Gilgamesh, Spiderman, Flower, Lagaan, Alzheimer’s, Max Payne, jumping over the chair, alienation, Psycho Mantis, & cheat codes. How are we able to create stories, but are not able to count the number of words in our head? Is social reality the most fictionalized, & is monologue always secondary to collaborative dialogue in story telling? Why aren’t video games laugh-out-aloud funny, & does it have anything to do with the fact that you can’t tickle yourself? Is the future of fiction likely to involve a range of affects & small scale emotions? Can the story strike back at the player (or the reader)? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Souvik Mukherjee (game studies, literature, Presidency University, Kolkata), Prof. Rukmini Bhaya Nair (linguistics, narrative theory, IIT Delhi, New Delhi), & Anjum Rajabali (screenwriting, Mumbai).

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TSOF show.

Dr. Souvik Mukherjee  (game studies, literature) is Assistant Professor of English Literature at Presidency University (earlier Presidency College), Calcutta. Dr. Mukherjee has been researching videogames as an emerging storytelling medium since 2002. He completed his Ph.D. in English Literature and Cultural Studies from Nottingham Trent University in 2009. His thesis was titled ‘The Zone of ‘Becoming: Game, Text and Technicity in Videogame Narratives’. His research examines the relationship of videogames to canonical ideas of narrative and also how these games inform and challenge current conceptions of technicity, identity and culture, in general. His current interests involve the analysis of paratexts of videogames such as walkthroughs and after-action reports, the concept of time and telos in videogames as well as the representations of colonialism and empire in videogames. Besides these and a range of topics in Game Studies, he teaches Early Modern Literature and maintains a keen interest in (the) Digital Humanities. His other interests include literary theory, Early Modern Studies and Romanticism. He completed his M.A. & M.Phil. in English from Jadavpur University. He has received Charles Wallace India Trust top-up grant for PhD, the ORSAS (Overseas Research Students Awards Scheme) scholarship from Nottingham Trent University & the SARAI Independent Research Fellowship, India.

Prof. Rukmini Bhaya Nair (linguistics, narrative theory) is Professor of Linguistics and English at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), New Delhi. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and has since taught at universities ranging from Singapore to Stanford. Awarded a second honorary doctorate by the University of Antwerp, Prof. Nair’s main research interests are in the philosophy of language, critical and narrative theory, linguistic pragmatics and evolutionary approaches to the emotions, in which areas she has received major grants from the Government of India She has published five academic books, of which ‘Narrative Gravity: Conversation, Cognition, Culture’ (Oxford University Press, Delhi and Routledge, London and New York) is representative, as well as about ninety papers and articles. An award-winning poet, with three published volumes with Penguin, Prof. Nair is referenced in the standard reference Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry which covers the world century from 1910-2010 and includes all time greats like T.S. Eliot and Pablo Neruda. Prof. Nair’s first novel Mad Girl’s Love Song appeared in 2013 and was long-listed for the prestigious DSC Prize. She says she writes poetry for the same reason that she does research in linguistics – to discover the possibilities and limits of language. University of Antwerp noted that the core idea permeating Prof. Nair’s entire oeuvre is the idea of ‘people as narrators’.

Anjum Rajabali (screenwriting) is a prolific Indian screenwriter. He has spent over 20 years in the Indian film industry with films like Drohkaal, Ghulam, The Legend of Bhagat Singh and Raajneeti to his credit. He was the script consultant on Prakash Jha’s crime-drama Apaharan (2005) and this association extended for the next four successive films that Prakash Jha directed, with Anjum writing for Raajneeti (2010), Aarakshan (2011), Chakravyuh (2012) and his latest release Satyagraha (2013). He is also known for his leadership and contribution to various writers’ rights initiatives in India, most notably recognized for lobbying with other prominent writers and activists for amendments in the Copyright Act in favour of writers. Also, as an active leading part of the ‘Progressive Writers Group’ (PWG) India, Anjum has been working tirelessly for improvements in writers’ rights in the Indian film industry. In mid-2014, he joined hands with Mumbai Mantra as Convenor for the Mumbai Mantra CineRise Screenwriting Programme – 100 Storytellers A Year – a detailed step-by-step process of nurturing screenwriting talent, planned with 8 defined stages of creative intervention, which invited applications from Indian screenwriters from any part of the world. He is also the Head of Screenwriting at Whistling Woods as well as the Honorary Head of Screenplay Writing at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).

ŸNote: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.