Short Summary of Mr. Sampath: The Printer of Malgudi by R.K. Narayan

The publication of the journal The Banner has soon to be suspended because of a strike in the press, largely an offshoot of Srinivas’ own mismanagement. Resourceful Mr. Sampath now decides to turn film producer, sets up the Sunrise Picture Studio with Srinivas as the script writer, his friend Somu as the financier, and a young man, Ravi, as the accountant of the company.

The Burning of Kama is the first film to be shot with Mr. Sampath acting the role of Shiva, and a beautiful actress Shanthi, that of Parvati. She is the idol of Ravi, and when he discovers that she is acting the role of Parvati, runs on the stage, embraces her and takes her off. There is uproar in the studio leading to the damage of much equipment. So the film venture is abruptly suspended.

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Ravi turns mad, and has to be sent to the police lock-up. Srinivas is disgusted, snaps all connections with the film-world and revives the publication of The Banner. Mr. Sampath carries on sometime with Shanthi who then leaves him for good. Mr. Sampath himself has to leave Malgudi to escape the net of his creditors, Somu and others. The novel ends as Mr. Sampath bids farewell to Srinivas.

The novel has some strong passages, nevertheless. It gives us Narayan’s first glimpse of independent India, where he shows the old colonial world being cracked open, infused with the vulgar new energies of people with plans for the future: ambitious men who fail to transcend their limited environment. But, on the whole, Mr. Sampath must be considered an example of the hit-or-miss quality of Narayan’s writing after independence.

It is where the natural novelist, the unprejudiced observer, stays dominant over the philosopher, where Narayan’s belief in the oneness of being the vision of Vedanta philosophy offered on the last page of The English Teacher translates into an openness to experience and a recognition of human diversity, that the novels work best; where they possess human interest and moral complexity, even a kind of mature beauty.

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