In a candid conversation with SOHINI CHAKRAVORTY, author and blogger Arnab Ray talks about his fetish for horror movies and his latest book
In the blogosphere he is better known as the Great Bong and his love for films like Pyasa Haiwaan and Jaani Dushman is even better known. Calling the famous directors the Ramsay Brothers “India's answer to Ed Wood,” he has dedicated many blog posts to the horror genre in his inimitable humorous style. After his first book May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss, which was an observational comedy, author and blogger of the great bong.net Arnab Ray is taking a serious departure from humour in his latest book, The Mine.
“I would like to write books that I want to read. I love horror and have seen a lot of horror movies. My book has more of a cinematic appeal,” says the author. Even though the idea of a psychological thriller came to him in 2004, it was only in 2010 that his characters began to take shape. “I thought it was a risky idea for my first book and stuck to my comfort zone of humour in my first book.” The readers of May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss were an extension of his blog readership.
However, he stresses that his latest book is not inspired by the Hindi horrors of the 80s, famous for their kitsch and comic capers. “In fact it is the opposite of that genre of horror. It is a genuine dark psychological thriller and not the comedy horror which we generally see in the Hindi movies. The book is exploratory in many ways, where the monster is within the man,” Ray explains. He agrees that the book is a commercial risk as there are not many books on horror in the Indian market.
But through this book he wants to make a conscious effort to dissociate himself from his online persona of the Great Bong. As he metaphorically explains, “I consider Shah Rukh Khan to be a great actor but somehow he has stifled himself in the role of quintessential Rahul, which has worked against him. I don't want that to happen to me.” Ray says his writing style, not just the story, is different from that of his blog.
His first book was non-fiction, and he found that writing fiction was a challenge. “The chapters in my first were disconnected so I didn't have to worry about the continuity. But in this book, the challenge was to maintain consistency. There were times when I used to write after a long break and it seemed like two different people are writing,” he says.
While humour comes naturally to him, it is writing on serious topics that Ray finds more challenging. “I am a little schizophrenic in many ways. It is far easier to write frivolous topics than comment on a socially relevant topic,” he says. He agrees, however, that though social commentary can be made in the disguise of humour, sometimes it gets involved in controversies as well. “Manoj Kumar failed to get the humour in SRK's Om Shanti Om. A lot of people asked me why I internationalized the language in my book. One of the reasons is that I didn't want the characters to get involved in cultural stereotypes. The book has stories of great barbarity which actually happened in India. But I have removed the time and date so that the book is not politicized,” he explains.
A fan of Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Mario Puzo and The Mahabharata, he has gone all out with blood and gore in his latest book. His penchant for gore and horror is in contradiction with the style of the mild-mannered Bengali. Bengali men are often associated with poetry and the nicer side of literature. The author says that many Bengalis have a fetish for pseudo-intellectualism, which he steers away from. “I hate poetry with a vengeance. I don't get it, that way I am very non-Bengali. I am perfectly comfortable with me liking Rabindranath Tagore's Charulata and the Mithun Chakraborty movie Gunda,” he says.
As his latest book The Mine hits the book stands, Ray is already planning his next.
Apart from a political commentary, he wants to write on the Indian diaspora experience. “I cannot get bored with my work,” he says.