Sagari Chhabra talks about her new book, “The Talking Tree”, and her love for the written word
Sagari Chhabra has experimented with numerous writing styles and forms, earning recognition and success as a poet, a filmmaker and a playwright. She has previously written The Professional Women's Dream and The Gift. Having recently adopted her daughter and taken on the role of a single mother, Chhabra’s already present love for children has now grown, and the urge to write for children presents itself now as her new book, The Talking Tree. A story in verse, the book has been beautifully and colourfully illustrated by Priya Kuriyan, and tells the story of a little boy and his friend, a talking tree. Excerpts from an interview:
A little about your different projects and choosing the style to tell each story in?
To begin with, my writing has not been focussed so much, since the films usually take over. The body of my work includes 15 films, out of which 14 are non-fiction and one fiction. The one on rape, Now I Will Speak, was awarded by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television and also got the NIFA award for excellence in direction. It was made in 1992 but is still shown today, owing to the relevance of the topic. Tatva won the Rajat Kamal and I also worked on another film called Global Warming.
I have worked on a vast array of subjects, and I think it’s the subject and the different genres that tell you what to do, and which medium to choose. For example, The Gift was on the nuclear issue. I had felt it was such a travesty that India was going nuclear and began thinking about what would happen when the nuclear siren blew. It was such a dramatic thought that it had to be a play. As for poetry, one doesn’t plan it, it just comes from within, and that’s it. And I wanted to write for children because I had finally adopted and become a single mother. When it comes to films, I feel like they reach such a huge audience, but documentary cinema doesn’t get attention in the media, and very few people cover it like it should be covered.
Tell us a little about writing The Talking Tree?
I had written this before, I published after my daughter arrived. In fact, my almost-eight-year-old daughter took the author photo for the book, and she was a study for the whole book. She loved it and looked at every illustration and proof. Things would change around her input. It was great getting feedback from a child, since the book is for her age group.
I think there is not enough original work coming out of India for children on thinking issues. And we are such a rich country both spiritually and culturally. There can be so much done indigenously. I love to teach and I love children, and there is so much within me that I want to reach out and communicate about. I am a born communicator.
The book is set in verse, and the subject is really emotive, the illustrations bright, bold and colourful. Why did you choose this form of storytelling?
The book is a story set in verse because children love hearing verse. They relate much more easily to it. It’s not poetry. And today we need to reach out and touch minds and hearts. That’s what writing is about. The genre follows.
As for the story, all my writing is content driven. I am interested in getting the message out, and in this case, the message is about caring for trees. And it is the new generation we need to reach out to, for it is the future of the planet.