Follow Us:
Thursday, May 19, 2022

‘I am not a bad writer’

Ruskin Bond on his two new books,writing for Vishal Bhardwaj’s next and being ‘too old’ to star opposite Priyanka Chopra

Written by PiyasreeDasgupta |
November 22, 2009 10:52:27 am

Ruskin Bond on his two new books,writing for Vishal Bhardwaj’s next and being ‘too old’ to star opposite Priyanka Chopra

Tell us about the story you are writing for Vishal Bhardwaj’s next film,The Seven Husbands.
I can’t tell you much about it,what if someone reads this,steals the story and makes a film? Vishal asked me if I could do another story for him and I saw no reason why I wouldn’t. He liked a four-page short story of mine,Susanna’s Seven Husbands. I expanded it into a 200-page episodic piece that can be filmed. My protagonist is a femme fatale who bumps off her seven husbands… I had to find ingenious ways of bumping seven people off while writing the story. Not something that I am used to contemplating generally.

There are talks of casting Priyanka Chopra as the lead in the film. Do you think she fits the bill?
I haven’t actually seen her films. She gives a lot of interviews on TV so I have seen her occasionally. My protagonist comes from an Anglo-Indian background,she is a beautiful lady,but reserved. She isn’t very glamorous like Ms Chopra and doesn’t try to charm men in obvious ways. I hope Vishal will keep that in his characterisation. She is very smart too. She even gives an old husband of hers an overdose of Viagra in my story,who of course can’t take it. No,no,I can’t give out anymore of the story. My only regret will be,I couldn’t be cast as one of Ms Chopra’s seven husbands. Guess I am too old for that (laughs).

Do you agree with Vishal Bhardwaj’s interpretation of the Blue Umbrella?
As a film-maker,he has the right to interpret a story the way he wants to. I shouldn’t be complaining about it. Pankaj Kapur’s character in my story was that of a grumpy,selfish little man who has a change of heart. He was also a very small character. However,in the film he was magnified,almost as much as the protagonist,the little girl. More because,I think,Kapur is a powerful actor. Overall,it was a charming film.

Best of Express Premium

On marital rape, regressive notions undermine autonomy of womenPremium
Inflation up, FMCG firms hike rates, cut pack volume and weightPremium
Explained: Lucknow’s Laxman connection, and a large mosque built in...Premium
‘Pigeon closes eyes as cat advances’: 1991 Lok Sabha, when Um...Premium

Does the collection of stories for adults,(tentatively-titled Five) that you are currently writing have the feel-good quality of most of your work?
No,these stories have a more sombre feel. They talk about loneliness,about desperation,things you usually don’t find in my work. I have also tried writing a bit about physical relationships.
One of these stories is about a man I knew as a child. When I went for holidays in Dehra in the 1950s,I happened to climb up a wall in a house in our neighbourhood,like most little boys do. I spotted this man sitting in the garden,who had contracted leprosy and was getting slowly disfigured. I kept going back and we sort of developed an unspoken bond of sympathy. I went back to school soon after. When I came back,the family was gone. I presume they had taken him with them.
Another story is about this very beautiful girl,and very bad things which happen to her in her youth. I am yet to write the rest.

Are you marking a deliberate departure from your brand of writing?
As a writer,I have always been open to experiences. I have written a lot of feel-good stories. I am writing a children’s book simultaneously with this. So,it felt good to experiment with a new emotion. I am not trying to change or move away from what I think is my style.

Tell us about the children’s book you are writing.
It’s called Mr Oliver’s Diary and will probably release in January. It is about a middle-aged schoolmaster at a residential boys school and how he is bullied by his students. These are experiences I had while I was studying in school. It’s written in the form of a diary of the teacher,who is driven up the wall by the students. At the same time,he feels romantically inclined towards a pretty young teacher. Then again,he wears a wig and the boys paint it green. It’s a riot! It’s a boy-gets-girl story,rather old man gets young woman story(laughs). Vishal mentioned that it could be turned into a really fun film.

Where do you get the prototypes for completely crazy characters like these?
Most of my characters are based on people. I know or have met in real life. For example,Uncle Ken. I had an Uncle Ken for real.
And the character had parts of him,and parts of me too. I take cues for my characters from my own blunders. And when I am on a hunt for characters,I look at my relatives. I have quite an eccentric bunch of them. And only when I run out of relatives,I have to cook up characters (laughs). I am not highly inventive,my works are rather subjective.

What is it about big cities that doesn’t interest you? And what about small-town India does?
I have stayed in Delhi and in London for quite sometime. So,it’s not that I can’t survive cities. But when I did move to Mussoorie from Delhi,it was an escape of sorts. Cities are impersonal. It’s easier to get to know people in small towns. At times,you can’t help knowing them even if you don’t want to. But that’s a good thing for a writer. Over the years,the hills have become a part of me. You see it every day,it’s right outside your window. In fact,at times it’s inside your window too,if there’s a severe fog or if the monkeys want to be your guest.

Most of your works try skirt past negativity. Some are set in nearly idyllic backdrops. You have been writing for over 55 years now,but time seems to have not affected you as a writer.
You’re right. I try and not think about how things have changed,or if they have changed for the worse. There are so many people who talk about changing times,you see its imprint every day in papers and TV. I don’t feel the need to remind people of all that they already know about,and probably want a way out of. Personally,I am techno-phobic. I still write in long-hand. I got myself a mobile phone and while trying to get a proper network,I dropped the phone down the window. I could have fallen down the window myself.

Children today are no strangers to violence,political orrectness and speed. Where does your work figure in all this?
You’re right that the changing times have forced children to grow up early. But at the end of the day,they are children. Every human being likes and dreams of happy endings,a life filled with humour and quirks. And this is least likely to fall out of favour with children. My publishers say that my readership is growing,so I probably have a reason to believe that I am right.

Are you happy with the way children’s writing has shaped up in India or the popularity of foreign fantasy fiction?
Children’s writing has been developing quite consistently,I think. But if you don’t get to hear a big name,that is because it takes time to build a reputation. Also,there’s little publicity and the media is more into reviewing books which have heavy socio-political or economic implications. They aren’t interested in light-hearted writing. I am not a great fan of Harry Potter,but you have to give it its due. At least it was one book that outsold adult fiction and brought the focus back on the genre. Now,everybody wants to write a Harry Potter!

You have written both for adults and children. But you are still branded as a children’s writer.
I have no problems with that at all. In fact,I love how children react to my works. They are not diplomatic. They call a spade a spade. I remember an incident,when in a certain school,where I was invited,the teacher asked her students what they had to say about my works. So,a nine or ten-year-old girl stood up and said,“Sir,you’re not a bad writer”. I think she’s right. And I’ll settle for that,‘not a bad writer’.

For all the latest News Archive News, download Indian Express App.

  • Newsguard
  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
  • Newsguard