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Updated: March 2, 2014 20:14 IST

Battle of roses

SWATI DAFTUAR
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Author Madhuri Banerjee. Photo: K.Bhagya Prakash
The Hindu Author Madhuri Banerjee. Photo: K.Bhagya Prakash

In “Advantage Love” Madhuri Banerjee talks of the single independent woman again

Madhuri Banerjee doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects, and surprisingly, neither does she avoid the softer aspects of love and romance. After the bestselling successes of “Love and Other Dumb Ideas” and “Mistakes like Love and Sex”, Banerjee is back with her new book, “Advantage Love”. Published by Rupa, the book is Banerjee’s attempt to write a little more than just another frothy, romantic story; a shot at penning a chick-lit with guts.

Excerpts from an interview:

I read that originally, you had a trilogy planned for “Love and Other Dumb Ideas”, but after “Mistakes like Love and Sex” you’ve moved from charting Kaveri’s story to a stand alone novel.

Yes, the third part was supposed to be on marriage and other dumb ideas. I had an entire thing planned where Kaveri, as a married woman, might have an affair with Arjun who was single. But I didn’t feel that people were ready enough for the marriage concept to be such a dumb idea. It is still extremely important to people. I also wanted to branch out into something different, a stand alone, with a different heroine. This way, I am not holding on the baggage of what Kaveri is. I am hoping that I may be able to come back to the third part later, maybe in a year or so. Once I feel that the Indian society is much more receptive to the idea of an Indian modern independent woman and can understand her identity within a marriage better.

That suggests that Indian society is more receptive to independence in a single woman as opposed to a married one?

Absolutely. For example, as a single woman, the society is far more accepting of you going out at night. As soon as you are a married woman going out on a Friday night, people will ask you questions like ‘Who’s the kid with?’ and ‘Did your husband give you permission?’ In this book, I wanted to explore the single independent woman again, but in a different way.

And you are comfortable with being tagged a chick-lit author? Many authors today have begun to find the tag restrictive.

I understand that book-stores need categories, and they need to slot a book in a particular genre so it fills a bookshelf. If “Advantage Love” as a chick-lit, standing with other chick-lit, can stand apart with its beautiful fresh green cover, and people pick it up, and realise it’s about identity, and alienation, and then acceptance, then I don’t have a problem at all. I have a problem if somebody reads the entire book and then says oh it’s regular chick-lit.

When Rupa approached me, they wanted me to write a typical Mills and Boons. I told them that I had already written this strong independent woman for India, didn’t know if I could or would be able to go back to writing a Mills and Boons, E.L. James sort of book. I do believe in love and romance, but I don’t want the woman to be a downtrodden where the man lifts her up. Though, I still wanted a prince charming, a dynamic changer in the woman’s life. That’s why I wanted to explore Trisha, a small-time Lucknow girl who comes to Delhi and has these dreams of becoming the head on an NGO. She is swept off her feet in a Mills and Boons kind of way by Vedant.

Your books give the impression that your male characters are chosen very carefully.

As an author, even though I might be categorised as a chick-lit author, I focus a lot more on the male characters. I etch out my male characters before I figure out my female characters. I don’t think any other chick-lit author does that. I work with the male characters and then see how a woman would react to them and the situation. I write pages on what they will look like, who they will be, and then figure out who’s the girl who will be with them. Honestly, a lot of men who’ve read my previous books have enjoyed and responded to them. In every book I project very strong male characters and their ambitions. It’s not just the woman who is very important in the book. You’ll always see that there will always be two very strong men in my book. I make sure that they come from different backgrounds, have different ambitions. The story isn’t a one sided exploration of the woman. It’s a dialogue. The men I write aren’t cardboard cut-outs, they are vulnerable, and they are also grappling with questions of identity and exploring themselves.

And the next book you are working on?

It’s called the “Scandalous Housewives” series, being published by Rupa. It’s targeted towards women between the age groups of 25 and 40.

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