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Updated: February 27, 2011 21:16 IST

The Saturday Interview - Serious about comedy

MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER
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FUNNY SIDE UP Samit Basu. Photo: K. Murali Kumar
The Hindu FUNNY SIDE UP Samit Basu. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Author Samit Basu talks about his latest release, a zom com, his long-term plans and more

When “The Simoqin Prophesies” came out in 2004, we caught our collective breaths at the sheer inventiveness of the narrative that bounded unbridled through Greek myth, literary allusions and zany situational humour with joyful abandon. The 23-year-old writer, Samit Basu, was hailed as India's first fantasy writer. With “The Manticore's Secret” (2005) and “The Unwaba Revelations” (2007), The Gameworld trilogy was complete. After a break, Samit was back last year with “Terror on the Titanic,” a wild ride through alternate history followed by “Turbulence,” a superhero novel set in millennial India. Samit talks about “Turbulence”, his fascination for monsters, and long-term plans that which include making a movie and writing a zombie comedy.

Why a zom com?

Why not? India is the perfect place for a zombie story. There are so many people!

Will this be a novel?

I have been planning it as a graphic novel. In fact, this is the only deadline I have missed. The artistes kept disappearing. The earlier story I was working on was this conspiracy theory involving Alexander the Great, greedy corporate houses and hidden monsters outside Kolkata. Unlike a novel, which is completely in my hands, a graphic novel is a collaborative effort. And, working on film even more so, as you finish your part of the work, but have no idea whatsoever when it is going to come out. But, am planning to do more work on film.

Why?

Because, I'm a sucker for punishment! The long answer is — after I wrote ‘The Unwaba Revelations', I worked on a couple of screenplays. After that break, I rediscovered my love for writing — which is how two books came out in quick succession. I have been writing for eight years now. I write now because I like to. I want the excitement of trying something new. But, this is all at least three years in the future.

Film is a visual medium. Won't you be sacrificing the joy of playing with words if you write for film?

Writing for comic books, which is much tougher than writing screenplays, has prepared me for the job.

How did ‘Turbulence' come about?

I planned ‘Turbulence' as a Physics-laws obeying book. I set out to write a mainstream novel in the here and now, set in cities we know and love. I then became obsessed with the idea of modern India. The only way I could throw a lasso around it all was to write a superhero novel, and so ‘Turbulence' became this urban, hyper-real novel.

Is ‘Turbulence' a superhero novel in the conventional sense of the word?

I use the term superhero loosely. There are no costumes or super villains. I would describe ‘Turbulence' as a literary novel that got exposed to gamma rays, and not a superhero comic turned to prose.

What about writing a serious novel?

I am serious about my work. My books deal with serious themes. If you are talking about a literary novel, I might very well write one, but it has to be for the right reasons. What I am sure I will never write is a whodunit or horror — they are just not my thing.

But you like zombies…

Zombies are funny. Anything becomes better with monsters in them. I'm talking about the scare-your-pants-off kind of horror. I don't enjoy reading those books. Unlike the West, here a whodunit calls for research of police procedure, which I do not have the time for now.

What do you have to say about labels?

I find them amusing and irritating. Labels help the reader make a quick choice — if you liked this book, you might like this one. I find labels annoying when I am called a science fiction writer when I have never written sci-fi ever.

One category I like is weird fiction. And, now there is something called new weird fiction, which just sounds so cool.

Are writers more social beings now?

The internet has made us accessible. I enjoy interacting with my readers even though I have people come to me and pick fights about my arbitrary killing of characters sometimes!

What next?

I have a sequel in mind for ‘Turbulence' as well as two more books in the Morning Star series. A couple of producers have shown interest in the rights for ‘Turbulence'.

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