The art and craft of writing

Maria’s Room, novel by Shreekumar Varma.

Maria’s Room, novel by Shreekumar Varma.   | Photo Credit: R. Shivaji Rao

Author and playwright Shreekumar Varma on his novel-in-progress and artistic integrity

“Its a very long academic novel called Indian Scotch, which I started writing in 2004,” says author and playwright Shreekumar Varma. It was when he was writer-in-residence at Stirling University, Scotland after having been awarded the Charles Wallace Fellowship, he recalls.

Side by side he wrote and completed plays, poetry and another novel Kipling’s Daughter (2018) all of which have been published. The Indian Scotch has been slow, “ Because I am not yet satisfied with what I have done.” But he is confident, he smiles, that it will get over some day adding that Kipling’s Daughter just took four months.

The story of Indian Scotch is about a girl who finds some of his belongings 10 years after he leaves Scotland, and who pieces together clues to find out what sort of a person he was and then traces her way back to him in India.

The grandson of the last ruling Maharani of Travancore, Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, and the great grandgrandson of artist Raja Ravi Varma, was in city to be part of a World Poetry Conference organised by the Cultural Centre of Vijayawada and Amaravati

Shreekumar has been a prolific writer and says he always loved the sound and feel of words. He remembers how his play The Dark Lord (1986) bagged second prize in the British Council South India Playwrights Competition and another play Bow of Rama won first prize in The Hindu All-India Playscripts Competition (1993). “I used to write anthologies and novels, Lament of Mohini (2000), Maria’s Room (2010) and Kipling’s Daughter (2018) kept coming one after the other,” he says.

Shreekumar loves writing for children. His books for the young ones include Devil’s Garden: Tales of Pappudom, published in 2006, The Magic Store of Nu-Chaam-Vu (2009) and Pazhassi Raja: The Royal Rebel (1997). Besides, a couple of anthologies Five and Other Plays and Midnight Hotel & Other Plays were published in 2019.

Being a direct descendent of the legendary Raja Ravi Varma, he is often asked if he paints too. “I am not yet good enough. One consolation is that Rabindranath Tagore discovered that he could paint at the age of 70 . So, I have time for it,” he chuckles. He says he has all the material on hand to ‘swing into action’.

He has however done the sketch of a woman on the cover of Kipling’s Daughter. “Art is like a violin. When you draw the bow across the violin strings you touch various points and various sounds come out, one of it could be music, one poetry, another fiction and yet another journalism as an art form. Art is like electricity, your creativity is going on all the time but to tap that, you need to switch on the light and that is when it starts flowing.”

Shreekumar says his being a private kind of a person has helped him observe better. “When I sit back and watch, I get to observe the silences. Silence is more important than words,” he says referring to one of his yet-to-be -named poem on the power of silence. “Even in music or in movies, the silence conveys so much more.”

Shreekumar confesses that he has always wanted to be involved with films. “Because cinema is something where all the mediums come together — fiction, music, art and everything else”.

Speaking about ‘artistic integrity’ he says, that it is very important. He remembers how after his novel Maria’s Room was published, he was asked to produce a ‘racy piece’. “I couldn’t. You don’t sit down and say today I am going to write a racy piece of work. It doesn’t work that way!” But he believes categorically that, “Whatever you write, if you do it well, it will always find takers.”

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 8:43:28 AM |

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