Most authors confess that their characters often acquire a life and mind of their own. Eminent writer Kiran Nagarkar seems amazed by the exploits of Rani, the yoga teacher-cum-con artist, after whose pseudonym his recently-published screenplay Black Tulip is titled. He is also saddened when he recollects the torture she is subjected to by a mafia don while trying to help Regina Fielding, a cop Rani adores.
“On one hand you have Rani who operates entirely on her own and pits herself against Regina, engaging in a game of one-upmanship. Yet she respects Regina and wants to help her,” says the Mumbai-based author animatedly, as if he were talking about an acquaintance.
With this screenplay, which offers two alternative endings, Nagarkar tries to revive the heist genre. Using humour, which the author finds sorely missing in modern movies, he has created Rani, a quick-fingered con woman who does not find the need for gadgets to carry out her exploits. The text has been published by HarperCollins as a double bill, along with Bedtime Story, a controversial play he had written after the Emergency in 1977.
Seated in his living room, swept by the morning sun, the 72-year-old author talks about how he has been writing screenplays since he was a budding writer. “My first screenplay was around the time I wrote my first play, Bedtime Story, but this is the first one to have hit the bookstands,” he says. Even Ravan and Eddie (1994), Nagarkar’s most popular novel started out as a script made for the big screen. However, when the director who had approached him lost interest, the saga of the two Bombay chawl-bred boys turned into one of India’s most popular novels instead.
Since the Ravan and Eddie days, Nagarkar had written nearly six screenplays but never showed it to anyone. His Cuckold (1997), the Sahitya Akademi Award-winning novel was also wooed by a number directors and producers to be turned it into a period drama, but to no avail. “If Cuckold and Ravan and Eddie did not get made into a movie, who was going to read my other screenplays?” he quips.
Black Tulip has seen the light of day because of an innocuous discussion on movies with a friend. The author realised he had written a heist script between 2000 and 2001. Once he fished out the manuscript, he zealously rewrote and revised it before handing it over to the publisher. “I wanted the book to be read in an armchair without the reader wanting to put it down. If a director comes into the picture ever, they will change it, but that’s their business. I wanted to make it as readable as possible. I wanted to keep it very visual,” he says.
Apart from consulting German script-doctor Ursula Koehler and scriptwriter Tara Wilkinson, among others, he sent former commissioner of police Satish Sahney a draft of Black Tulip. His meticulous approach to the script was not always appreciated. He even came close to being thrown out of a bank when he met its manager with some queries regarding their cash delivery system.
This year, the final installment of his Ravan and Eddie trilogy — RIP Ravan and Eddie — is expected to be launched. Nagarkar does not have the release date yet but assures that the antics of Ravan and Eddie would be as delightful as in the previous two books. While giving the lowdown on his upcoming title, he stops midway. “Yeh Eddie kitna jhooth bolta hai,” he says, and nods his head in mock disapproval.
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