People Anuvab Pal on what makes him tick… and what tickles him

Everyone has that one great love that got away. And you never forget that love—you revisit it a thousand times—plagued by endless what-ifs and if-only. The romance of a time which once was plays in your head like the footage of an old black and white movie which stops mid-way while you are watching it. And although you discard it and move on to newer ones, a part of you always wonders how it might have ended.

Anuvab Pal’s latest book titled Chaos Theory, a spin-off of his play by the same name is based on this sort of love. “It is the story of two people who meet in the 1960’s and follow each other over a 30- year period—loving each other but never really expressing that love. They end up marrying other people but continue to be there for each other all through those years,” says the author at the launch of this book at Costa Coffee, Bangalore.

This book is the fourth written by this versatile man who also wears the hat of a playwright, screenplay writer and stand-up comic. Born in Calcutta, he took an undergraduate degree from Columbia and did a short stint with Reuters before writing scripts for television shows such as Frasier and Law and Order.

He then began his tryst with Bollywood, catapulted into it by his friend Manish Acharya, with Loins of Punjab. This was followed by a number of plays such as Chaos Theory, FATWA, Out Of Fashion, The President is Coming which also has a celluloid version and 1-888-Dial-India. He also has a number of stand-up shows and columns to his credit. “I have a different audience for my books, plays, movies and stand-up shows,” he admits “Each medium does its own service.”

“The biggest difference between plays and movies is the amount of collaboration required in a movie,” he adds “And yet nothing reaches the audience like the movies.”

The translation of a play into a book is equally challenging. “What is easy to emote in a play gets harder in a novel. Books are somewhat one-dimensional.”

Yet irrespective of the media, the brand of humour he prefers remains essentially the same. “I like intelligent humour. People say that the audience won’t get it but I think it is unfair to make a value judgment on intelligence. People are fundamentally more intelligent than we think they are. I frankly find the broader slapstick attempts at humour rather pathetic.”

It is this quiet, easy humour that laces Anuvab’s narrative and makes his work so effortlessly appealing. “I don’t like blood, violence and police stations. I prefer stories that have conversation, romance, time spent together” he says.

Chaos Theory, which boasts of having over 250 productions and went on to become the first Indian play to be The Finalist at The BBC World Playwriting Competition 2007 is certainly that sort of a tale. “Every time we do a show, someone comes up and tells me that it could be him or her. I guess it is simply that men and women love each other,” he says.

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