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Friday, September 30, 2016

Author Interview : Kavita Mandana, author of 'Trapped'

Kavitha Mandana
Read up, Interview with Kavitha Mandana, Author of ‘Trapped’. This is a winner, only because it mentions Pink Floyd, with a blend of ghosts, rock music and mystery. We explore Amit's 'ghostdom', get to explore the twins' characteristics, along with Lingamma’s histrionics.We also have the father of the triplets giving us a few more details. In this, Mandana tells us, how the journey began, how she blended Pink Floyd lyrics into the book, how she relates the lives of her characters to lives today, the next book she has planned and also who her favourite authors are, and much more, Folks...

How did ‘Trapped’ happen? Could you describe the journey?

The idea of these triplets has been floating around in my head for years. In an early draft of the story, they were much younger. It was my editor at Puffin who suggested that the concept would work better for older kids. 

So interestingly, while rewriting the book, almost everything changed. Apart from the music, the mother’s fretting and the father’s job – turning the triplets into 16-yr-olds meant a whole new plot! 

What about the ghostly/scientific element? What kind of research did you put in?

There was no research involved. The nice part about writing a book is that momentarily, you’re playing God. So, you get to set the rules for what this ghost can or cannot do!

What about the children’s band? Pink Floyd is a favourite, how did you manage to blend their lyrics into the book?

Over the years, I’ve found it interesting that so many teens enjoy the music of their parents’ generation. Pink Floyd, in particular, has really been timeless.

So, one of their ‘anti-establishment’ songs seemed a good choice for the three siblings to rewrite the words for.

What according to you is different about your book?

Amit, the ghost sibling and his totally hopeless situation vis a vis his parents.

Are you considering a second part for this book?

Not at the moment. My mind has wandered off to other untold stories. But maybe later…

How would you relate the lives of characters to the lives of teens today? Any similarities?

Apart from the ‘ghost brother’ that you probably won’t find in any home, the twins Arjun and Anandita are pretty much like today’s teens.

Stressed out with all their parents’ expectations – yet escaping into music, masti and a whole lot else.

What was the most challenging part about writing ‘Trapped’?

The paranormal aspect.

Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?

That would have to be Lingamma. She is really an amalgam of many warm-hearted women who worked at either my parents’, my own or my grandparents’ homes – interesting women who were part of the family, yet not quite.

Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?

Nobody did! It wasn’t an ambition or even a vague idea when I was younger. My dreams were related to joining an art college. Writing happened quite by accident.

When will you next book be out?
Harper Lee

I’m still in the process of writing that ‘next book’!

Which book are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished a book of Alice Munro’s short stories and Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’.

Arundathi Roy from Wikipedia
Who are your favourite authors and why?

Roddy Doyle from Wikipedia
There are just zillions of writers that I love… for entirely different reasons – Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth, Arundathi Roy and Mohammed Hanif from the sub-continent. Otherwise Anne Tyler, Roddy Doyle, Zadie Smith, Toni Morrison… I could go on!

What else do you do on a daily basis?

I have a full time job, editing tech magazines. I also illustrate other writer’s stories – for the Deccan Herald school edition.

What advice do you have for the young writers of today?

At some of the school visits I did for ‘Trapped’ I realised that they don’t need my advice. A lot of them are passionate readers – the first requisite for any budding writer.

Some of these 12, 13 or 14-year-olds discussed the books they were writing, and where exactly they were stuck…all seriously adult conversations! I could use their advice!

You can  Read the Review, right here and Buy the Book, here too.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Book Review : 'The Girl Who Chose' by Devdutt Pattanaik

'The Girl Who Chose' by Devdutt Pattanaik has a unique start it starts off with telling the readers of Rishi Pulastya, an ancestor of Ravana. This seemed to be an interesting one, as it gets the readers to think. (Pulatsya was the father of Visravas, who in turn was father to Ravana. That bit in brackets was not part of this story, but I just had to tell it)

Anyway, Ravana’s was Pulatsya’s descendant and his killing was known as Pulatsya Vadham. This story, basically led from the point when Sita makes her first choice. She chooses to follow her husband into the forest, where he is forced to go. Since we all know the Ramayan, I will not go into the whats and whys of it. 

Anyway, now for the second choice that she makes. The second choice is one, which she makes when she is all alone in the forest. She has to feed a hermit, for which she has to cross a line that Lakshman had drawn for her. The line, which would protect her from all evil, which lay in the forest, was now breached.

So, Ravana abducts her and takes her away to Lanka. In Lanka, when Hanuman finds her, she tells him that only Ram must find her and take her home, rightfully (though she can be saved by the powerful Hanuman).

Devdutt Pattanaik (from Wikipedia)
There are two more times when Sita makes her choices, which are revealed in this story. The entire story is brought on because of a few choices, which are made by Sita. It is proved again, that this one would have been better as Sita’s perspective. It was a time, when rules were set and most of them followed. But it shows Sita, making a choice, at a time of this sort.

Devdutt Pattanaik has done all the illustrations in this book, which are excellent and add to the additional beauty of the book. A children’s book, it is called, but it is up to us, whether we treat it as such. There are lessons to be learnt in the book, illustrations and in Pattanaik’s chocolate eclairs, where you have to make the effort to get to the soft sweetness or the idea, inside. 

You can Buy the Book, right here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Author Interview : BS Sarwagna Kumar, author of 'Kaliyug : The Secret Plot'

BS Sarwagna Kumar
Read up, the Interview with BS Sarwagna Kumar, author of 'Kaliyug : The Secret Plot'. The book was a good retelling of the story, in part one, which we have heard before, but the author manages to clear some doubts, I had expressed earlier for part two. In this Interview, he tells us how Kaliyug came about, what the kind of research was put into his book, whether his character or the storyline takes precedence, the most fulfilling parts, and what book is coming from him, next and much, much more, Folks...

How did ‘Kaliyug : The Secret Plot’ happen? What’s the research that has gone into it?

I think that the research process had begun from my childhood. My parents and my grandparents had transferred to me, the knowledge of Puranas and Dharma, since then.

In a way, I already had the raw elements to construct something beautiful. But the motivation for writing Kaliyug, came when I stood at the centre of our cruel society today. I watched moralities crash and cruelty prosper. One thing that shook me the most was a rape case where one’s own daughter was victimised.
Then there came films that portrayed Lord Shiva kneeling at the feet of people. Nobody did anything. Then there was the rise of hypocrisy amongst people that paved path for destruction of humanity. I had to ask myself ‘what gave way to this’. Kaliyug, the secret plot was born.

I knew most of the Puranas... I cooked a recipe with the raw stories in hand to bring sense out of ‘Kaliyug’.

What about Kalki’s parents? How much similarity do you see in the lives of parents and Kalki, as compared to children and their parents today?

Kalki’s parents are the victims of an era that has no peace at its heart. Everything they do is to at least protect their child from the cruelties in their society. It is a world where the cruellest species – humans – have declared their supremacy over the rest of the living.

More than the parents, rest of the people have more influence on their child’s life. In a way, I could say, Kalki’s parents are no different from the parents today. They face the same misery.

Kalki from Wikipedia
How would you relate the life of Kalki to the lives today? Any similarities?

Absolutely not. He is a man, who would solely stand, against all odds for Dharma. He is someone who would die and come back to life for the smiles of his mother. I think there is hardly a lot who would stand so strong today.

How much of your thoughts and feelings are included in your book?

A lot. If you know the original texts, you will know there is a huge leap in the Kaliyug plot from the original mythologies. Except for aspects of Dharma, it is a tale told in my perception, of the greatest stories ever told.

Dharma is something I cannot change, as per my wish. I consider it supreme. Majorly, readers will notice which anti-social elements, I address in the second part of the book. It is all intentional. The sole purpose to pen down Kaliyug is to portray a package of good then and Evil now in the same painting and challenge to note the differences.

Authors have different ways of telling their story, with elements that are most important. Between your storyline and your characters, which takes precedence?

It all depends. For character elevation, a writer might have to shoo away the plot for a while.

Although it might have nothing to do with the plot that is happening, giving weight to one particular character might just be the perfect pinch of salt. Easing it into the plot ahead is pepper. Happy meal.

How would you relate the book and its characters, to lives today?

As I said, Kaliyug : The Secret Plot is more of a satire on the world today. ‘My god is the only true god’ is the line that provoked many battles among goats, rogues and brainless idiots throughout our history, our present and the future.

Blindly believing in god because it is a sin not to, is the reason we have mass hysteria in our society today. The day people realize that spirituality doesn’t mean yelling god’s name, but SEEKING godliness in everything and everywhere – there shall be peace. There are few characters in the book that show what spirituality is…and then there are characters that portray what spirituality shouldn’t be.

The latter preceding the former, they stamp their shadows on the kind of people we have, today.

Which is your favourite character? Why?

Undoubtedly, Parashurama and Jamadagni. Because, the sacrifice they do to keep their word is something no one would ever do.

Lord Shiva from Wikipedia
Lord Vishnu from Wikipedia
And of course, for ‘The Secret Plot’, the masterminds – Shiva and Vishnu are my favourites. I kind of like the Kali ‘mannerisms’ I put forth in the book, as well.

What are the most fulfilling parts in your book?

The first half that deals with depths of spirituality is what I am proud of. I don’t think any book of recent times has explored so many angles deep in the ocean of Dharma.

That too to squeeze it all into a plot driven tale was further challenging. To my own interests, the first four chapters of the second half get to my nerves. It is, in a way – a mirror to idiocy today. Needless to mention – the sentiment between Kalki and his mother…it made me shed some tears, while penning it down.

What are your expectations from this book?

I did not write this book to tell a story. Neither did I write this for money or fame. Like I said in the novel (where I make a guest appearance in front of Kalki)…the ten people that looked at life differently after reading the book are who, matter to me.

At least, if ten people walk down the path laid down by ‘Saptarishis’… I would consider myself the luckiest man on earth.

You have managed to make most of the gods and goddesses not look so, divine. How do you differentiate them from the usual understanding of these characters that we get to read about?

The words I put did not make them divine. ‘He is god. Respect him’, is not the way I adopted to portray gods. That conventional way irks me. ‘He has godliness. Understand him’ is the way I prefer it.

They do look divine – not in the regular way…but in their actions that define their divinity.

What book is coming from you next? When do you see it released?

Maharishi Vyasa from Hindupedia
There is a lot I couldn’t discuss in 'Kaliyug : The Secret Plot'. Even after being extremely cruel, Kali too, is said to have had a momentary love story. 

That itself speaks on behalf of Dharma in detail. In ‘The Secret Plot’ Kali’s end was depicted in a very short version. But Vyasa Maharshi’s depiction goes on and on – which, I still have to research a lot on… and then mould it in a ‘secret plot’ fashion. 

So I’d say – not anytime soon. But I have three novels away from mythology genre sitting on my desk to be edited and published. With that in the pipeline, I am bound to work on some screenplays right now, because – LIFE. God knows what is next; when it is next. After all, everybody’s life has a secret plot. :)

You can Read the Review and Buy the Book, right here.