STOR­IZEN IN­TER­VIEW

Richa Lakhera

Storizen Magazine - - What's Inside - - by Pria

Why did choose that par­tic­u­lar face mask as the book cover?

Fi­nal­iz­ing the cover which would for­ever be on your book, it’s not easy. The­cover had to sug­gest the larger con­text of evil. Also, the ti­tle ‘Hun­gry

Gods’, is the story about a flawed god. There was no face which would match up, cover the con­text of the story so ef­fec­tively. The pow­er­ful face sug­gested to me dark in­trigue, power and dan­ger. And sim­mer­ing ten­sion. Oh and lots and lots of van­ity and de­prav­ity. The face of a man who would think the rules don’t ap­ply to him, a man who would start be­liev­ing he is God. It sug­gested un­apolo­getic re­venge, un­bri­dled greedand un­apolo­getic re­venge, com­pletely in sync with knew this is my flawed

God. The Hun­gry God could not have a bet­ter face. Also the sug­ges­tion that what if the god the hero and the mon­ster be­come in­dis­tin­guish­able?

Did the re­cent in­ci­dents about cast­ing couch and drug ped­dlers in our In­dian film in­dus­try in­spire you for the sub plots?

You are right when you talk about the re­cent in­ci­dents and in fact the nar­cotics con­trol bu­reauin­tel does bring up con­nec­tions be­tween many ac­tors and prom­i­nent drug ped­dlers. Some are in the pub­lic do­main but the fact re­mains the big ones are very much un­der wraps. That hap­pens when lots of pow­er­ful peo­ple and names are in­volved, and au­thor­i­ties are com­plicit in the il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties. In Hun­gry Gods, I have cre­ated a fic­tional town. It's not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Bom­bay or Delhi or Ban­ga­lore so­ci­ety and

nei­ther does it de­pict Bollywood or Mol­ly­wood or Tol­ly­wood and so on. It’s an open se­cret that there is a drug epi­demic of sorts and the lat­est stats re­veal that the high­est in­crease in con­sump­tion is in Mum­bai, Goa, Delhi, Pun­jab, Mi­zo­ram and Ma­nipur. A cru­cial stat in­di­cates that the great­est in­crease in il­le­gal sub­stance con­sump­tion has been seen in the class of peo­ple who are well placed. It could be the pres­sure of modern day liv­ing or to take the edge off, peer pres­sure, and as many are con­sum­ing sub­stances in pur­suit of that elu­sive ‘cre­ative edge’. Hun­gry Gods is about a cor­rupt dystopian so­ci­ety, a dog eat dog ex­ploita­tive ecosys­tem where ev­ery­one is out to ex­ploit the power dif­fer­en­tial. Of course you can see that in real life too, sev­eral on­go­ing bat­tles and al­le­ga­tions on prom­i­nent peo­ple are out in open. Pro­duc­ers ex­ploit­ing ac­tors, cast­ing agents ask­ing new­com­ers to com­pro­mise, singers, artists, news ed­i­tors, peo­ple from the art com­mu­nity, ad­ver­tis­ing, crick­et­ing and so on. In Hun­gry Gods its in­fin­itely more dan­ger­ous as a pow­er­ful cor­po­rate stands to lose a lot if its crazy self-ob­sessed su­per­star brand am­bas­sador does not mend his ways. Do you think celebri­ties en­dors­ing few prod­ucts like in the story will af­fect the au­di­ence? The celebrity cor­po­rate re­la­tion is com­pletely mar­ket driven. It’s a com­mer­cial trans­ac­tion be­tween the cor­po­rate and the celebrity, with the hope that the celebrity will be­come a

valu­able as­set ef­fec­tively uti­lized as a mar­ket­ing tool. But the fairytale re­la­tion­ship with celebs doesn’t al­ways end in a hap­pily ever af­ter. Celebri­ties are not eas­ily con­trolled and cor­po­rates in their bid to pro­tect the brand, ex­pect them to toe the line whether it comes to what they say, how they be­have and to an ex­tent their per­sonal lives. One of the fall­outs of the social me­dia is that its be­come im­pos­si­ble for celebs to es­cape pub­lic scru­tiny. Any mis-step be­comes a trend­ing hash­tag and im­age con­scious com­pa­nies, their ad­ver­tis­ers and com­pany part­ners are not very kind when the as­set be­comes a li­a­bil­ity. In Hun­gry Gods the ex­tent to which a cor­po­rate will go to pro­tect its brand and com­merce is a cru­cial as­pect. The story at places in­tro­duces the read­ers with bar­baric ways of sex­ual acts. What did you think the re­ac­tion of the read­ers will be? I am not a fan of the sort of writ­ing which dis­guises what I feel is Gen­der Stereo­typ­ing un­der the ban­ner of well­cho­sen safe ad­jec­tives. Nor will I or­ches­trate a nar­ra­tive that per­suades women to stay within their al­lot­ted space of sex­ual, social or­ders or be­have like women, what­ever than means. I can­not talk about old houses, and jel­lies and jams and kitchen gar­dens, and beauty of de­vo­tion sac­ri­fice and such per­haps be­cause I am not too in­vested in the ex­ter­nal gaze. To those who ques­tion the graphic con­tent or those who feel that its not in our cul­ture to talk about sex toys may I point out that acc to

a sur­vey 41.8 % of in­di­ans prac­tice some form of dom­i­na­tion/sub­mis­sion role­play and In­dia is sixth most sex­u­ally ac­tive coun­try in world. Two of my char­ac­ters are sub­jected to vi­o­lent sex­ual ex­ploita­tion, the nar­ra­tive is ex­pected to be graphic, the third is caught in the flesh trade and lives in a ghetto, pop­u­lated by ad­dicts, crim­i­nals, de­praved per­verts where men grab­bing women any time is not un­com­mon. Sad re­al­ity is that even our so-called safe cities are not safe for women in­fact ac­cord­ing to a poll con­ducted by Thomas Reuters Foun­da­tion In­dia is one of the most un­safe coun­tries for women.If that’s the state of cities to imag­ine the con­di­tion of women who be­long to a bracket who for­get about hav­ing social and eco­nomic rights lack ba­sic hu­man rights. Also one is born with a tem­per­a­ment one can­not change it. As a writer one has tolearn to rec­og­nize it and own it. I don't think any­one could have made me write this way, or pre­vented me from writ­ing this way ei­ther.I’m just a writer and what I see around me is what I try to un­der­stand. How did you cope up while writ­ing the sub­plots with many char­ac­ters and en­twin­ing them to the main plot of the story. Was it not stress­ful? There is this dan­ger in a sin­gle story… I have al­ways thought it im­pos­si­ble to en­gage with a place or a per­son with­out en­gag­ing with all of the sto­ries ofthat place.The con­se­quence of a sin­gle story is that it robs peo­ple of their unique iden­tity.Sto­ries mat­ter sto­ries. Per­spec­tives mat­ter. Sto­ries

are used to ma­lign the good but sto­ries can also be used to hu­man­ize the bad. There is this dan­ger in a sin­gle story. Ev­ery man is happy in his own way and mis­er­able in his own. If we limit our story to the pop­u­lar im­ages. Most sto­ries boil down to who wants what, what hap­pens when they don’t get it. It’s not about mak­ing good choices, crime sto­ries is about your char­ac­ters mak­ing hor­ri­ble choices. Sto­ries mat­ter. Per­spec­tives mat­ter.

The very first de­ci­sion is through whose eyes we will see and through whose ears are we go­ing to hear?I find that I like to change viewpoint, one chap­ter can be through the voice of the po­ten­tial vic­tim, next through the mind of the mur­derer and to en­able the reader to par­tic­i­pate in emotional pitch of the char­ac­ters. What is the first book that made you cry?

Happy Prince by Os­car Wilde. Do you think some­one could be a writer if they don’t feel emo­tions strongly? No. You have to feel strongly about the theme, believe in your story, know your char­ac­ters, in­vest in the at­mo­spher­ics and all that can­not hap­pen if you ap­proach the blank page lightly.

I think if a writer tries to write like some­one else that would be ex­haus­tive. When one has the guts to own one’s process it would en­er­gize you at a cru­cial level. But the ex­haus­tion re­lated to the ac­tual phys­i­cal sense of writ­ing for hours is there. Not many writ­ers are re­ally able to get to that

per­fect thing that was in their head, so they may con­sider the en­tire process about fail­ure. I think that’s the main rea­son why more peo­ple don’t write. It’s very de­press­ing in that way. What was an early ex­pe­ri­ence where you learned that lan­guage had power? I can’t pin it down to a sin­gle point of ori­gin or even a se­ries of mem­o­ries so this could be a com­pli­cated an­swer to a sim­ple ques­tion. As a kid I was a story teller not al­ways for the greater good, would spin sto­ries to get my brother my cousins in all sorts of trou­ble. But also be­cause some­times it was eas­ier to tell the truth in the form of a story. I was a bit of a word col­lec­tor as a kid, would be for­ever scrib­bling the most dif­fi­cult words and took par­tic­u­lar joy in us­ing it to bull­doze through and crush the op­po­nents ar­gu­ments. There were sev­eral trysts, writ­ing was born out of a need to de­scribe, in­trigue ex­cite shock, some­times ex­tract re­venge— But mostly seek and seek­ing is never born out of hu­mil­ity. I don’t think writ­ers in that sense are hum­ble. One doesn’t re­ally like to go back to qual­ity of old work, all I can say is if one pub­lishes early then one is cre­at­ing a pub­lic record of Learn­ing to Write. Un­der­stand­ing the process, know­ing one’s punch­lines all that came later. As also the knowl­edge that ev­ery­thing one says from the 1st sen­tence to the last is lead­ing to a sin­gu­lar

goal, and per­haps con­fir­ming some truth that deep­ens an un­der­stand­ing of who we are as hu­man be­ings. So sev­eral slow af­fairs, lots of flirt­ing with gen­res till guts and in­stincts and ba­sic tem­per­a­ment took over and here we are. What ad­vice do you have for writ­ers? So there are guide­lines but not hard­fast rules. But there is a strong uni­fy­ing theme. The se­cret sauce the magic in­gre­di­ent is could be can you in­voke gen­uine wonder. To take that lit­tle mo­ment in their life where you are able to do that is the whole ball game.We all love sto­ries. We want af­fir­ma­tion that our lives have mean­ings, and noth­ing has greater af­fir­ma­tion is we can con­nect thru sto­ries. It can

cross the bar­ri­ers of time , past present and fu­ture and al­low us to ex­pe­ri­ence our­selves thru others.Frankly there isn’t any­one you wouldn’t come to love once you hear their story. "Richa Lakhera is a Mum­bai-based jour­nal­ist and crime writer and her 3rd book, Hun­gry Gods, is get­ting a lot of at­ten­tion from both the me­dia and the read­ers. 'Hun­gry Gods holds a mir­ror to our so­ci­ety and its ex­cesses' - says In­dia To­day. 'A com­pelling and much dis­turb­ing tale of cor­po­rate greed and celebrity en­dorse­ment cul­ture', says Busi­ness Stan­dard , 'Hun­gry and thrilling' says Dec­can Chron­i­cle. Hun­gry Gods has also been short­listed in the top 100 crime thriller nov­els at Ama­zon and it has been de­scribed as a new age crime novel with an end­ing which 'will leave your mouth hang­ing open'. Richa works as deputy edi­tor at NDTV and is the re­cip­i­ent of the ICUNR award for jour­nal­ism. Hun­gry Gods has been pub­lished by Rupa pub­li­ca­tions & is rep­re­sented world­wide by Siyahi lit­er­ary agency."

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