Has the time come for the great Bangalore novel in English? Five writers who have set their novels in town give their take on the phenomenon
Pros and cons: The pro is that there is very little fiction set in Bangalore so as a novelist writing about the city you have a free hand. The con is that it does not have too many recognisable landmarks so to evoke the city through its familiar features is hard.
Bangalore genre: Many different kinds. My novel Neti, Neti was about Bangalore as a brave new world driven by sudden money. The novel I’m currently writing is about Bangalore as a place where many different kinds of people have traditionally felt at home, an easy anchor.
Bangalore as a character: Easy-going, full of hidden charm, and unsentimental about its vanished past.
Favourite Bangalore space: I don’t have one. I’m currently writing a novel set in various Bangalores – geographically and culturally disparate parts of it – and seeing how they look filtered through the consciousness of a single character who feels great love for the city.
Novel that captures a city: I can’t help feeling that the best Bangalore novel is Zac O’ Yeah’s Mr Majestic even if I’m married to the author!
The Revenge of Kaivalya
Pros and cons: As such there are no cons of setting a novel in Bangalore. Authenticity is very important to bring the atmosphere to life. It is important to depict local culture including small details such as cuisine and slangs, customs and festivals accurately.
The Bangalore genre: Bangalore is an old, old city. It has seen many eras. At one time it had a homogenous culture; today it is a microcosm of India. So any genre - historical fiction, action, political, psychological thrillers or romance ....all will fit in well!
Bangalore as a character: I imagine Bangalore as an exotic, mysterious Roma gipsy fortune teller. She was beautiful ...now she's aged beyond her years...yet flashes of her mysterious beauty is visible now and then. People from all over flock to her...to see if she can foretell their fortunes. She’s a collector of people, hearts and lives.
Favourite Bangalore place: I would love to feature the old areas of this city especially Malleswaram, Basavanagudi and the Majestic areas.
Favourite novel that has captured a city: Gregory David Roberts has captured Mumbai beautifully in Shantaram.
Cut Like Wound
Pros and cons: The pros of setting a novel in Bangalore is that as a territory it isn’t exhaustive and hence would make for fine cameos. However the flip-side to that is Bangalore is made of several neighbourhoods and hence it doesn’t have a unique point of view that allows itself to be recognized outside Bangalore as a Bangalore state of mind.
The Bangalore genre: I would think Bangalore would lends itself to an urban novel; or a thriller perhaps as I have discovered from my own experience.
Bangalore as a character: Bangalore would be a slightly gawky teenager, but of a pleasant disposition, unsure of where he was going; enthusiastic at times and laid back at other times.
Favourite Bangalore place: M.G. Road-Shivaji Nagar-Lingarajapuram-Banaswadi-Hennur region – I have already featured these places in Cut Like Wound.
Favourite novel that has captured a city: Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series
Zac O’ Yeah
Pros and cons: The interesting thing is that Bangalore still has a relatively small shelf of city fiction dedicated to it especially in the English language. In a rapidly-growing cosmopolitan city like Bangalore at the centre of a globalized world there is great scope for fiction that tells us stories of the city from various aspects.
The Bangalore genre: Bangalore lends itself to basically any kind of novel. I think there is an urgent need to write novels set in old Bangalore, which is rapidly being demolished. Fiction by writers who still remember what the city was like before the year 2000 could be of enormous benefit in the future.
Bangalore as a character: Hot
Favourite Bangalore place: I’m personally fascinated by the Majestic area and so my previous novel Mr. Majestic was set there, as will be my upcoming novel Hari, a Hero for Hire. I think Shivajinagar has great scope as a setting for fiction. A yuppie novel could be set in Indiranagar or Koramangala. It would be interesting to read a Jayanagar style novel. Each part of town would probably produce a different flavoured text.
Favourite novel that has captured a city: R.K. Narayan did a splendid job with his Malgudi novels.
Colour of Gold
Pros and cons: Bangalore is multicultural and multilingual and has a varied population. It has pockets of modernity and tradition, affluence and poverty... a very colourful history and a promising future. There are so many stories that can emerge from Bangalore. At the same time the variety of Bangalore is so mind boggling that it may be quite difficult to push it all into one novel
The Bangalore genre: I think Bangalore would lend itself to an edgy modern day novel which also takes into account its sweeping history.
Bangalore as a character: Smart, on the move, a go-getter with a touch of Robin Hood.
Favourite Bangalore place: All of it. I am a blue-blooded Bangalorean and can trace my city roots back to several generations.
Favourite novel that has captured a city: Nothing comes to mind.