Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Ram Gopal Varma of Indian Writing in English


Vikram Chandra is out with his new novel, Sacred Games. The book was released in Bombay and ever since Vikram is travelling the length and breadth of India promoting his new book. I have just read his zillionth interview, not even in a magazine, but on a blog. Though Vikram rocks as a writer (I still remember his brilliant writing in Love and Longing in Bombay), what is the need to give so many interviews? Just a personal opinion because even though he comes across in his interviews smart and sagacious, it often gets repetitious and adds to the reader’s ennui.

Now to the point of the heading. Why am I calling him the Ram Gopal Varma of Indian Writing in English?

My contention is simple. Like RGV, Vikram is also attracted to stories of cops and underworld characters. Both of them are fascinated with the city of Bombay. Both of them are sharp and daring in their presentations. Both of them are frank and outspoken. So there…

Nothing against him or RGV, but it is interesting how Bombay fascinates our writers and filmmakers. Rushdie, Naipaul, and now Vikram—all have written so much about Bombay. And Suketu Mehta has made a career out of this city with his book, Maximum City. His book has given a lot of dignity and humanity to a number of stock in trade Bombaiyya characters like the bhais, the dance bar girls, the pimps, the politicians, et al. Hope Sacred Games does the same and more, in its own unique, fictionalised way.

Though I look forward to reading Sacred Games, its sheer volume is going to be a challenge to me.

PS: Trawling through the reviews of this novel at his website, came across this review by Ashok Banker. He has also likened Vikram’s work to that of RGVs…what a coincidence!

9 comments:

Jabberwock said...

what is the need to give so many interviews?

Strange question, Zafar. It's part and parcel of any book tour, and happens around the world whenever a high-profile writer has a new book out. If the author is "hot" enough, there will be as many interviews as there are publications with a books page. You know how the media/promotional machinery works.

I agree though that Vikram, to a greater extent than most other writers, seems to repeat phrases and examples very often while answering questions - which possibly adds to the ennui. A long profile I did of his ended up reading very much like one that subsequently appeared in the HT - similar quotes, etc.

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks for you comments J.

I agree with you that a book tour entails all these interviews and all writers generally go through this rigmarole, whether they like it or not. But this time, in my humble opinion, everything has gone overboard. I mean it is my feeling, and you may feel completely different from me. In the past, I don't remember Indian writers were giving so many interviews in so little time. Vikram looked exhuasted in the pics in his rediff interview.

To be fair, I think his Salmanness did the same when he released his Shalimar The Clown.

Lotus Reads said...

Not sure if and when I'll get to Vikram Chandra's "Sacred Games". I'm only halfway through Suketu Mehta's "Maximum City" (which I am enjoying, btw) and I have the voluminous "Shantaram" sitting on my nighstand. When I'm done with those two I think I am going to need a break from thugs,pimps,beggars and everybody else that makes up the underbelly of Bombay!

Read@Peace said...

And we haven't even got to the writers festivals yet. I have counted the number of times, a particular author has used the same quotes in three festivals held in three different countries. The third time round I couldn't even groan!

Zafar Anjum said...

Hi Lotus Reads, Shantaram was another book that has Bombay in it. I did read a large part of it but could not quite finish it. Thanks for your comments.

Zafar Anjum said...

That's right Deepika. That is what irks me. Writers must exercise some kind of balance. They are not actors or models, things to be seen. Writers are people who need to be read.

Read@Peace said...

True, Zafar. But the PR machinery, when it comes to books is in such major over-drive that Kaavya Vishwanathan's are made even before a word has been inked. The competition is so intense that if you are not seen and heard, someone else's book is going to be sold. Guess, the marketing blitzes have made it a Catch 22 situation for authors and as we all know not everyone sells like J K Rowling.

Btw - I loved Shantaram. You have to finish it.

Manzoor Khan said...

Is this dude the same as one Vikram Chandra of NDTV?

Zafar Anjum said...

No, dude, Manzoor.He is the brother of filmmaker Tanuja Chandra. Vikram Chandra of NDTV has also written a novel on Kashmir.