Actor-Writer Manav Kaul Reveals His Inspirations Behind His Literary Pursuits
Actor-Writer Manav Kaul On Uncomplicated World Of Vinod Kumar Shukla

Actor and writer Manav Kaul tells us why he draws inspiration from PEN/Nabokov Award-winner, Vinod Kumar Shukla, whose work has been seminal in acquainting Hindi readers with magical realism

In March, earlier this year, the Hindi novelist and poet, Vinod Kumar Shukla was bestowed with the prestigious 2023 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. It was the second instance in the last two years that the work of a Hindi writer got global acknowledgment after Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb Of Sand received the 2022 International Booker Prize. Shukla’s recognition has been long overdue. Not that it matters much to the 86-year-old, who currently lives with his family in Chhattisgarh, and has always maintained a distance from award shows, literary festivals, and other such glitzy affairs. But that hasn’t stopped his ardent readers from celebrating him.  



One among them is prominent actor and writer, Manav Kaul, for whom Shukla’s simplicity and matter-of-fact style of writing have been the biggest influence. “No one has ever constructed sentences like him,” shares Kaul, whose own writing style adds up as the perfect homage to the writer’s works  “It is language in its utmost simplicity; so honest and poetic that everyone loves it when they read it,” he says, adding that the simplicity could be a direct consequence of his lack of proficiency in the language. “He is from Chhatisgarh and their Hindi dialect is different. He was absolutely fascinated by Muktibodh [Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh, a Hindi Marxist poet], but since his Hindi was not that great, he started forming sentences that he could understand and write well,” Kaul explains.  


In Shukla’s wondrous world, the most mundane things are imbued with vivid intimacy. Fleeting thoughts acquire striking permanence. Quotidian affairs that we often overlook become a source of profound amazement. His writing is an observation of passing moments, and this heightened sense of evocativeness is achieved through the utmost simplicity of language and frugality of words. Kaul notes how Shukla manages to see the world with the wonderment of a child. “It’s like a kid watching the whole world and so beautifully,” he observes. 


Shukla’s prolific oeuvre is an exquisite embodiment of the French poet and essayist, Charles Baudelaire’s timeless adage: “Always be a poet, even in prose”. Very early on, he understood that poetry is not bound to big words or structure, says Kaul. “For Shukla poetry was nothing more than an act of forming sentences with honesty. His poems are always rooted in daily observation, and they are beautiful.” 


His magnum opus Deewar Mein Ek Khirkee Rahati Thi (Window Lived in the Wall) is a tale of a government teacher, Raghuvar Prasad, who lives in a small village with his wife, Sonsi. They live in a small room with just bare essentials and a magical window, outside of which their prosaic life veers into magical. The window also acts as a gateway for Shukla, where his fanciful imagination takes its flight in full glory. One night the newly-wed couple enters the window, and they talk about the moon and stars being washed in the nearby pond. Here’s how Shukla describes the dialogue: “Has the moon drowned in the pond?” “Yes, it has.” “The moon and stars have been washed clean in pond water. See them cool and clean in the sky.”


All of his novels are characterised by an absence of plot. Neither will you find any grand truth or philosophical sermons. His characters are plucked out of daily lives, and their stories flow at a natural pace. They don’t have any grand desires, nor do they have any great tribulations. And yet, Shukla manages to conjure up beauty from such monotony, keeping his readers hooked. The resonance is created mostly through the lyrical use of the language. Kaul tells, “there is no wall between Shukla as a writer and a person.” How he talks is how he writes. “He is the only person I met who is actually a poet in person and in writing too. When I talked to him, it actually felt like I’m hearing a poet speaking.” 


Shukla’s literary world has strong local anchorage, but the imaginative storytelling adds a universal element to his work. He creates his own reality through linguistic playfulness, one that is mostly devoid of rational conclusions. His comparison to the Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez is not ill-founded, but the world Shukla creates with his nib is vastly distinct from Marquez’s. It is highly possible that Shukla might not have even read Marquez, one of the pioneers of magical realism. He isn’t captivated by the noble pursuit of world literature. He lives in a different world and creates a story out of it with his impeccable observatory skills, notes Kaul. “He is a very unique writer, and you’d rarely find influences of other writers in his work. There might be some traces of Muktibodh, but mostly his work is very original,” Kaul adds. 


Shukla, undoubtedly, acquainted a generation of Hindi readers with magical realism, but traces of this mode of literary expression were already present in other regional works. Even in Hindi, long before Shukla, it was Uday Prakash, an ardent reader of Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges, who employed the magical element in his short stories. It was no coincidence that the genre that first gained prominence in Latin America found easy acceptance in India, since the latter always had an immense appetite for fantasy. Marquez became a household name in Kerala in the 1980s, and there’s a running joke about him being the most famous Malayali writer in the world. Originally published in Odia, Fakir Mohan Senapati’s Six Acres And A Third is often compared to Marquez’s 100 Years Of Solitude, even though the former was published 60 years before.  


Manav Kaul Picks Vinod Kumar Shukla’s Essentials 



  1. Naukar Ki Kameez (The Servant’s Shirt) 



  1. Khilega Toh Dekhenge (Once It Flowers) 



  1. Deewar Mein Ek Khirkee Rahati Thi (Window Lived in the Wall) 

contact us :
Follow US :
©2024 Creativeland Publishing Pvt. Ltd. All Rights Reserved