Indian Books You Should Read This Month

How to be a Literary Sensation: A Quick Guide to Exploiting Friends, Family & Facebook for Artistic Gain 




By Krishna Shastri Devulapalli



The author of two novels and a play, Devulapalli offers a hilarious take on what it means to be an author in India these days. Chapters with names like `Writer Bleeds his family’, ‘Eight Math Problems for Writers’, and ‘An Ode to Facebook’ give you a fair idea of the tone of the book. Humourous writing in this country is hardly ever funny, but Devulapalli nails it. His parodic takes on how publishers deal with writers, the bombast at literary festivals and book launches and on how authors use social media will leave you asking for more.


Waiting For Jonathan Koshy 


(Independent Thinkers)


By Murzban F. Shroff 



Shroff’s last book, a collection of short stories, got him into an unfortunate police incident, before the Bombay High Court came to his rescue. It was an incident that stressed him out to a degree that he decided to drop the idea of writing his planned first novel, based on the eunuchs of Mumbai, and instead focus on something more upbeat, the result of which is this book. The central character, in this seemingly semi-autobiographical story, is Jonathan Koshy, the kind of larger than life character that all of us have grown up with – big-hearted, sunny in disposition, a never-say-die spirit, and the life of a party. But beneath that exuberant exterior sits a life of intense pain and tragedy, which gives the story its irony. The book is also an ode to Bandra in the 1970s and ’80s, where the author grew up, at a time when it was still a leafy and quiet Mumbai suburb lined with turn-of-the-century bungalows.


A Picturesque Tour Along The River Ganges And Jumna In India 


(Niyogi Books)


By Lt. Col Forrest



This sumptuous coffee table book is a reprint of an early 19th century version of the history of medieval northern India, as recounted by a British army officer. He set out on the Ganga from Kolkata on 2 December 1807, on a journey that took him through a vast swathe of the country, through modern-day Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, finishing on the Jamuna in Delhi via Benaras and Agra. Along the way, he made 24 stunning hand-coloured etchings of monuments and vistas, a visual of record of what he saw in the pre-photography era, all of which are reproduced here. It is a great window into the way the British viewed India in the period, and the 24 plates are so good that you will want to tear them out and frame them.


The Village Of Pointless Conversation 




By Kersi Khambatta 



American TV shows like Fargo, Bates Motel and Better Call Saul have proved that famous screen characters can live beyond the original film, but it is not every day that you come across a novel that is an expanded version of a movie story. Khambatta co-authored the story and screenplay of Homi Adajania’s 2014 dark comedy Finding Fanny. He has since pumped more energy into the star-crossed lives of its five dysfunctional characters in this debut novel. He is even more merciless with his protagonists, providing the perfect back story to their twisted minds, which gives the book a dark noir quality, unlike the movie. If you liked the film, you will enjoy the book even more.


With The Village Of Pointless Conversation making it to the list, here is our exclusive interview with the man himself, Kersi Khambatta.




Talking Books


Kersi Khambatta turned the screenplay of the hit film Finding Fanny into his debut novel, The Village of Pointless Conversation, released last month. It was, as he says, `bloody  difficult’.



This is an unusual book, which first appeared as a movie.


The premise of a postman receiving an undelivered letter was an irony that Homi (Adajania, the director of the film) wanted to explore for a long time. When he approached me with the initial idea, I jumped at it and we started developing the screenplay right away. I was also writing my first book-manuscript at the time, my shot at being a novelist. As draft after draft of the screenplay unfolded, I started to get obsessed with these characters, the mad potential that lurked in each of them to just explode. The popular notion is, keep your first novel autobiographical, keep it simple, straight from the heart. But I wanted to delve deep into the lives of these strangers, these nut-jobs, and bring them to life; that was the challenge that kept nagging at me. I asked Homi if I could take a shot at it and make this my first book. He said, sure, so I did. Although the manuscript was finished first, the movie pipped the novel to the finish line, by a year.


How was the process?


Bloody difficult, as I found out first-hand. All this time I had been treating this story as a movie, with emphasis on scenes and dialogues, leaving the director and the cinematography to take care of the visual backdrop, the ambience. But in a novel, you have to do all of that. You have to paint the backdrop, the mood, the light, the shadows, in order to make the story live and breathe. It took a while to make that shift in my head. As a novelist, you are the director, DOP, production designer, the light and sound, all rolled into one. The upside, of course, was that in a novel I get to live inside each of the characters’ heads and muck around with their deepest, darkest thoughts, infect them with whatever madness I choose. That, and insights. Novels need insights into the human condition and of the world in general. That is the fun part, and the most challenging.


Tell us about your writing process.


Get out of bed, walk three feet to my desk, sit and write. I’d heard and read it all, that morning’s are best, write a page a day, come what may, blah blah. None of that shit worked for me. My most creative time was 3pm to 9pm, in which, on a bad day, only a paragraph would get written (on a good day, I’d bang out three pages). Then the inevitable alcohol in which ideas for the next day would slowly pickle. Fun.


What motivates you to write?


The knowledge that I can. The thrill of manipulating a language and vocabulary into its million-odd combinations of words and sentences. Musicians weave magic with just twelve notes. I have 26 alphabets and an entire dictionary to muck around with, any way I choose. That’s an ocean of creative possibilities, and I do the best I can.


What are the books you read recently?


Le Carre (Little Drummer Girl for the 2nd time, and The Mission Song), Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden and Cannery Row; what a discovery!), a couple of Stephen Kings (my fallback staple; love the guy), one Chuck Pahlaniuk (Snuff), two Toni Morrisons back to back (Tar Baby and Jazz), London Fields by Martin Amis for the fourth time (my autographed copy, no less). A couple of Batman graphic novels.


What next?


Book number two is about a third of the way in. Not the manuscript I dumped in favour of The Village of Pointless Conversation; that is still languishing somewhere. This is a new story, full of people with criminal intent, the slightly murderous sociopaths we meet in Bombay everyday. I’m not fishing this one out as a movie yet, but who knows?

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