Young Kerala author debuts with mass fictionApril 18th, 2010 - 9:31 am ICT by IANS
By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) Young India is opting for “mass fiction” that is easy to read and at an attractive price, though the winning script is different in the global context, says first-time author Mathew Vincent Menacherry, a native of Kerala.
The price of an “Indian mass commercial thriller should not exceed Rs.100″, said Menacherry whose book “Arrack In The Afternoon” was released in the capital last week.
“It ensures bulk sale as in the case of Chetan Bhagat’s books. His books connected to a lot of non-readers and have lured them towards reading,” Menacherry told IANS.
But in the global context, the winning script is “a little different”, he said. The writer feels “an English fiction by an Indian author based abroad strikes a chord with the audience when narrated from a Western perspective”.
“The spectrum of the audience is wider because it includes the large population of expatriates and the diaspora. But I chose to narrow my focus to India for my first book,” he said.
Menacherry’s book is about failure. It narrates the eclectic saga of Verghese Konnikara who has failed at just about everything. Depressed and suicidal and an alcoholic to boot, he decides to end it by throwing himself under a speeding truck on the highway. He fails at this too, but through a strange set of circumstances, is propelled into a new way of life which he could not have imagined even in his wildest dreams.
From a failed poet, Verghese is transformed into a “new age godman” sought after by some of the most powerful people in the country. Over the years, his unlikely journey wields its way through the underbelly of the metropolis and “into the homes and mansions of the rich and famous”.
“The character Verghese is a leaf out of real life. My private tutor, to whom I was very close, was an alcoholic and a dabbler. He tried his hand at many things, including journalism, but in the end hung himself. That affected me deeply. His death was the source of inspiration,” the writer said.
The novel is set in Mumbai because he felt that “the megalopolis was like a melting pot - a city that was changing rapidly with great disparities between the haves and the have-nots”.
“A new aspirational culture is gradually emerging in Mumbai. One can call it the Page 3 culture in which people with little ability can find themselves in positions of power through luck and circumstances. I wanted to explore whether they found fulfilment in success or were they as empty as they used to be despite their happening lifestyles,” he said.
Mumbai is also a city which has a story beckoning you from every streetcorner, Menacherry said. “It provides the entire mix - poverty, the movie industry, gangsters, corrupt cops and politicians. The only city that matches Mumbai in spirit is New York,” the novelist said.
Verghese is “like a twig tossed in the rain” in the chaos of Mumbai. “I did not want to make him a strong protagonist,” Menacherry said.
The novelist is now writing a love story. “It is set in Goa with a hero painted in dark shades like Verghese. He is an alcoholic ex-soldier, who goes to meet his girlfriend to give a last shot at their relationship,” he said.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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