Monday, October 21, 2013

Megastar Kasab - Hits and Misses: When a journalist writes a novel (Interview)

Many Indians may not be able to brook the idea of calling the protagonist of a novel Kasab, a name which could ring terror bells. Then, what would be the reaction if a Pakistani named Kasab is presented as coming to India to win hearts, not to kill?  Will you love or hate Kasab? Journalist Salil Jose is trying to create the same dilemma in the minds of his readers with his recently published novel ‘Megastar Kasab - Hits and Misses: The Story of a Pakistani Actor in Bollywood.’

In an interview to Litereads, Salil explains the idea behind calling his hero Kasab.
Salil Jose is an assistant editor with The Times of India, Chennai. He has to his credit a number of short stories and humorous articles published by various publications. ‘Megastar Kasab – Hits and Misses’ is his debut novel.

You called the protagonist of the novel Kasab. The name evokes images of terror. What prompted you to give the protagonist a terrorist’s name?
Well, a few simple questions provoked me to write the novel ‘Megastar Kasab – Hits and Misses.’ If Kasab was the most hated Pakistani in India, then who could be the most loved Pakistani /Pakistanis here? The answer is – the most loved Pakistanis in India are the actors from that country who have come to India to act in Bollywood movies. Pakistani actors like Ali Zafar, Imran Abbas, Atif Aslam, Veena Malik and others have won hearts here.
Is there any difference between the experiences of the most hated and the most loved Pakistanis in India? What would have happened had Kasab, the most hated Pakistani, come to India to entertain, and not kill, Indians?  The novel tries to give an answer to these questions.
The novel gave me a platform to explore the ironies and contradictions in Indo-Pakistan relations -- whether you are a terrorist or an actor from Pakistan, you can’t fully escape from prejudgments. From the reactions I got, I believe that many people have liked the theme of the novel.

Those who read the novel have opined that it is a short novel and that you could have made it tome since there won’t be any dearth of ideas when it comes to Indo-Pakistan relations. How do you react?
I could have added more pages to the novel. But my purpose was to make it a short read - One should be able to finish it during a short journey – say, during the four-hour journey on Shatabdi Express from Chennai to Bangalore. There is one more reason for it being so short and crisp - the editor in me worked overtime and deleted unnecessary sentences, sentences that won't contribute to the flow of the novel.
I take it as a positive comment when people say it is a short novel. I take it as a sign that they liked it and are ready to take some more. In short, I feel, it is a sign that I didn’t bore them.

There are comments that you should have used complicated sentences. I read this in some of the reviews.
I don’t know what they mean by complicated sentences. I don’t think I will ever be able to write using the so-called ‘complicated sentences’. Throughout the novel, you will see a simple yet dignified language. Many people who read the novel have told me that they could easily visualize the scenes thanks to the easily understood words I used.  Again, you must ‘blame’ the journalist in me for making things less complicated. 

There is a criticism that while you concentrated on Kasab, you ignored other characters that had the potential to leave a mark.
True. Ram Singh, Kasab’s mentor in Bollywood, is one such character. I could have made him a little more powerful character. However, people liked him since his character and mannerisms are based on some people I know. When it comes to Priya, people have pointed out that I could have made her a strong character.  I agree. But the same people have pointed out that I made Kasab a well-developed character.

You failed to explain why Kasab loved Priya.
Is there any explanation for infatuation? It was utter infatuation, and nothing else. Moreover, the novel is not a love story. It deals with the ironies and contradictions in Indo-Pakistan relations.

About the dedication of the novel
As you might have noticed, the novel is dedicated to the peace lovers in India and Pakistan. I could see a pattern in Indo-Pakistan relations, and some of the developments, especially those on the LOC, have shocked me. Like many Indians and Pakistanis, I also wish for a perpetual peace between India and Pakistan. So I dedicated the novel to all peace lovers in both countries.
The novel published by Partridge is available on Flipkart and Amazon.



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