“The greatest strength of the book is that the denouement goes beyond the pessimism, the grim reality and the sordid drama to offer more than a dash of hope.”
“Lights! Camera! Action!”…we all know these three words flag off the juggernaut of filmmaking. What we see later on the screen is what has been captured on camera, edited, processed, mixed, passed through the censors and finally shown on the wide theatre screen.
What goes on behind those scenes hardly ever reaches the audience. Just as the film industry is a massive continuing celebration of creative talent and innovation, it also hides within its folds a grim underbelly of politics, back stabbing, crude opportunism and the never ending game of one-upmanship.
Mohini, the saga of a wannabe starlet who makes it big in the film industry, goes behind those dark curtains and peers into the inner lives of these stars, wannabe actors, pocket-heavy producers, maverick directors, the “Mr Fix-it” star-makers, and the influential star companions. Ramendra Kumar, an award winning author with 23 books to his credit, talks to L&C about ‘Mohini’, his first novel for the adult reader.
L&C: You have a remarkable repertoire of writing for children – both fiction and non-fiction. What encouraged you to venture into writing fiction for the adult reader?
Ramendra: My tryst with creativity began with satire, fiction and poetry. When my kids were growing up I shifted tracks and started writing for children. However, I continued dabbling in other forms of creativity. Hence, though this is my first novel for adults I have always been reaching out to the adult reader through bonsai versions.
L&C: The film industry spins stories in each movie that comes out of its studios. And the industry itself has served as a backdrop for many a story, Dirty Picture being a recent example. What made you choose Bollywood as the context for your novel?
Ramendra: I have always been hugely fascinated by Bollywood – both its on screen as well as off screen avatars. My parents too were film buffs and our conversations often veered to the art and craft of film making as well as the happenings beyond the celluloid. I loved watching movies, reading about films and collecting trivia. I regularly participated in Movie Quizzes and in my college days, at one point of time, my team was the best in Hyderabad.
Thus it was quite natural that whenever I would decide to write a novel for adults it would be on films and filmstars.
L&C: You admit that you have been always a film buff. The character of Mohini or for that matter most of the leading characters have faint shades of well known film personalities. Were the resemblances a deliberate part of your story telling or did they creep in as you wove the characters?
Ramendra: None of the main characters is based on actual personalities. Any resemblance is coincidental, as the disclaimer goes.
However, a few of the minor characters do bear a resemblance to actual persons. For e.g, Kaka Kundan has distinct shades of Rajesh Khanna and Didi is based loosely on Rekha’s amma. This is a deliberate strategy on my part to make the narrative more realistic and also arouse greater interest. It is almost as if I’m asking my reader to join me in a guessing game.
L&C: Just as there have been stories about the murky and sordid side of the film industry, certain films and stories have also thrown light upon the positive aspects. For example, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Guddi reveals the generous side of actors who are known to the audience as villains and misers. Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool looks at how love struggles to emerge above the transitory nature of fame and success in the film industry.
Your novel insists on looking at the grim underbelly of the film industry where exploitation and self interest rule above all. Any particular reason for choosing to look only at the darker side?
Ramendra: I wanted to paint a realistic picture of Bollywood, beyond the gloss and glitter. Also, I wanted to take a comprehensive look at Bollywood in all its nuances and not confine the narrative in any kind of a straitjacket.
And I don’t quite agree that I have looked only at the darker side. I feel the greatest strength of the book is that the denouement goes beyond the pessimism, the grim reality and the sordid drama to offer more than a dash of hope. It is not unbridled manipulation, naked ambition or overpowering obsession that can bring happiness. Joy and contentment can come from a simple, yet all powerful four letter word called Love.
L&C: Some episodes in the book are heavily inspired from actual incidents, such as the episode involving the award for the best supporting actress for Shabnam. Comment.
Ramendra: Yes, the episode of the best supporting actors was based on the actual incident involving Vyjayanthimala in Devdas. Similarly Mohini’s Kajri act is ‘inspired’ by Zeenat Aman’s successful attempt at convincing Raj Kapoor that she is the best choice for Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram.
L&C: Unlike your short stories, Mohini the novel is heavily dialogue dependent. In fact, the details of the story unspool through dialogues. Did you plan this narrative structure at the outset or did it slowly take shape as the plot unravelled?
Ramendra: I did not plan this type of narrative structure. I think this kind of a story line demanded this type of structure and it happened on its own.
L&C: Did you write the novel with a clear objective of turning it into a film script at a later date?
Ramendra: Not really. In fact I wrote it as a possible story for a TV serial.
L&C: In an era of sequels, are we looking at the possibility of Mohini 2?
Ramendra: Quite a few of my readers have been asking for a sequel. But I am not quite sure. Let’s see…. Que Sera Sera …..
About The Book
More to read on Learning and Creativity:
Read the book’s review: Mohini: The Implosion Of The Brightest Star.
Read Ramendra Kumar’s Review of Guru Dutt’s classic film: Pyaasa: Pristine Poetry On Celluloid
Read Ramendra Kumar’s posts published in Learning and Creativity.
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