BOOKMARK: Writers Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee on their horror anthology “The Other Side”, and the challenges of activating fear in the reader

It didn’t come as a surprise when Faraaz Kazi called the recent launch of his book “The Other Side”, co- authored with Vivek Banerjee, a “tribute to the power of light that guides us through dark times.” After all, the book is an anthology of 13 horror stories, and purveyors of horror know the symbolic value of exaggerated rituals.

At a launch in another city, the event paid tribute to Vikram Bhatt, who Kazi, a member of the Film Writers Association of India, considers the finest exponent of horror in India. “The raw horror I like giving a feel of to my readers is well captured by Vikram sir,” he added.

These stories here aspire to the effect of raw horror. While in “That Fateful Night”, things take an unpredictable turn for a doctor and his wife who intend to celebrate their wedding anniversary, in “Dream Girl”, the protagonist, upset by repeated rejections, sets out to ‘create’ his dream girl. While the authors had several other stories, they chose to publish only 13 in this volume, again, for its symbolic volume. Incidentally, one of the stories deals with a celebrated horror writer, whose famous book is an anthology of 13 horror stories, being visited by his muse.

According to the authors, the collection aims to acknowledge the element of fear. “Fear is something all of us face, whether we believe it or ignore it. It exists even for the bravest man, it’s the fear of the unknown,” Kazi said. Being a writer makes it difficult, however, to activate fear. While the fear in horror films derives from the clever and extensive use of sounds, the horror writer is limited in this regard. “What we tend to do is depend on shock factor, the twist of events, the suddenness of things. When your reader can visualise it, and the sound comes by association, that’s when true writing begins. I am trying to introduce an audio book in a paper back so that it plays along as one reads.”

After a dramatic reading, he went on to explain that marketing, and not writing, the book is the tougher part of the process. For the purposes of this book, apart from the trailer, an animation comprising the different elements of the book cover has also been put together. Moreover, the trailer is being played to unsuspecting viewers in Mumbai’s cinema halls.

While Kazi and Banerjee have both written a book prior to this one, horror is new territory. A doctor by profession, Banerjee has seen birth and death from close quarters, and gradually lost his fear. “But if you ask me if I would like to go to a cemetery at midnight, I would say no,” he said. Explaining his foray into horror, he added, “Horror is a big genre of entertainment which has got somehow ignored...I grew up reading so many wonderful Bangla books, and a magazine for children which had such wonderful ghost stories that they are still with me. I think they are what inspired me to write these stories.”

Kazi’s previous is a young adult romance novel titled “Truly Madly Deeply”. Asked why he has moved away from the genre, he said, “Somewhere along the way, every writer wants to write romance. Romance has become a saturated market. “The Other Side” is a tribute to the rich history, tradition of this country which we seem to have forgotten.”

Also present at the launch were singer Shibani Kashyap, designer Sanjana Jon and ‘paranormal expert’ Gaurav Tiwari. After they shared their experiences of encounters with ghosts, Shibani and Kazi sang a few songs. The compere of the event used every pause to emphasise how scared she was, reminding those present of the thin line between horror and farce.