Tag Archives: lolita

An Interview with Ashwin Sanghi

Ok. So I was a little blown away after reading Chanakya’s Chant. I mean, the plot intrigued me for sure but it was also the writing, which was hands down taut and had so much to say. And that is when I decided that Sanghi’s interview had to be a part of my blog and here it is…Hope you enjoy it. The review will soon follow…

Why historical fiction?

I grew up reading Amar Chitra Katha. In school, my favourite subject was history. Sure, I hated the boredom of memorization but I loved reading about wars, kings, revolutions and spiritual movements. I was transported into a mysterious and magical world of the past. I see India’s present (and our future) deeply rooted in the past. No matter how big a banyan grows, it has to depend on its roots for stability and strength. As economic growth happens, the new emerging generations of Indians will need to fall back upon their history, culture and mythology to keep themselves rooted.

Wasn’t it difficult to run parallels in the book, one historical and the other modern?

Not really. I usually spend around six months researching a subject before I get down to writing the story. By the time that I start
writing, I have before me a road map that plots every twist and turn in the plot. In the present instance, I had two independent plots
before me, one ancient and one modern. I simply needed to analyze the points of commonality and ensure that they meshed at the right places… a little bit like coordinating the arrivals and departures of two trains via the same platform.


A thriller and a semi-literary novel. How did you manage the writing for this one?

I don’t know which one of my books you’ve christened “semi-literary” because I’m not part of that exalted circle! I’m simply a commercial paperback writer who enjoys spinning good old-fashioned yarns. My primary objective is to entertain my audience. If you’re looking for allegory, intricately woven descriptive passages, hidden meanings or award-winning literary prose, I’m not your guy!

Ashwin, the writer…

During the release of Chanakya’s Chant, Dr Shashi Tharoor said that writers like me are writing for Indian audiences almost exclusively. In his view, my breed represents a new generation of Indian writers who don’t really care whether western audiences will appreciate us. Dr. Tharoor called it “the smuggling of Indianness past the immigration inspectors of English literature”. Thus, Ashwin the writer is also a smuggler!

Ashwin, the reader…

My grandfather used to give me a new book every week provided that I wrote a review about the one that I had read the previous week. This tradition started when I was ten and went on until I was twenty-two. I owe my love of reading to him and to my mother who would make reading more palatable by smuggling in a few more interesting paperbacks. Thus, Ashwin the reader was also created via smuggling!

From Jesus to Chanakya, what is the next on the table?

History gets my creative juices flowing, so it would have to be historical fiction… that’s more or less the DNA of my genre. Beyond
that, I can share that the story draws from from an event that happened in the 7th century AD. For the rest, you’ll have to read the
book when it’s complete!

How does it feel to know that Chanakya’s Chant was touted above Salman Rushdie’s books?

It wasn’t really. What Shashi Tharoor said was that Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children opened the door for Indian writers like me who are writing with an Indian sensibility for an Indian audience and that we have taken the process to its logical conclusion.

Why wasn’t there more detailing in the mind of Chanakya in the book?

The one single element that I cannot and will not compromise on is pace. Character development, building the scene, background
information and discussions of protagonist’s motivations… they all take away from pace. I use them sparingly, possibly to the chagrin of some readers, because I would not want my reader to have to consciously think about whether they need to turn the page.

Your top 10 all-time favourite books…

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle; War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy; Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie; Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer; Messiah by Ian Rankin; All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren; The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov; Roots by Alex Hailey; The Almighty by Irving Wallace.

Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi is available at all leading bookstores.

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Books to Movies

They say that a great book can never be made to a great movie. I beg to differ in some cases. There have been times when great books have come alive so well on the big screen. It’s amazing to see what some directors have done with these books. Here are few of my favourites:

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Vivien Leigh as the playful, bashful, and headstrong Scarlett O’Hara took my breath away. It was after watching the film that I read the book and it remains to be one of my favourite books and movie. I mean how can anyone forget Vivien picking up a handful of dirt in her hand and looking to the sky while saying, “I will never be hungry again”, or for that matter the famous, “Tomorrow is another day” as made famous by the on-screen Scarlett as Rhett Butler (played brilliantly by Clarke Gable) leaves her on the staircase of her house. This is one movie no one should miss.

2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: I am referring to the 1962 film version directed by the genius – Stanley Kubrick – the black and white imaging and play of light and shadow was brilliant. It was the component that propelled the story further. With James Mason as Humbert Humbert and Shelley Winters as Charlotte (played to the hilt) and not to forget Sue Lyon as Dolores Haze, the story was etched and controversial – of course only because of the book. How in the world could a man do this to a young girl? What I loved about the movie was its unfolding – Kubrick cleverly changed the order in which the events unfolded by moving what was the novel’s ending to the start of the film. Brilliant I say!

3. The Shining by Stephen King: Yes the book was longer. Yes the book was creepier. Yes we all loved the book. However, how can one discount the film? Jack Nicholson was brilliant. The past and future conjoined with what the child saw. I for one could not sleep for two days after watching this one.

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I am certain that if there is another adaptation of this book, no one will go and watch it. I love the story – makes me think I am reading Indian fiction for some strange reason – I mean come on – five daughters who need to get married – an intrusive mother, a doting father and the class and moral system of early Georgian England. The intelligent and spirited Elizabeth Bennett is one of my favourite heroines and I wish every girl their very own Darcy. The Lawrence Olivier version rules!

5. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje: Ralph Fiennes as the wounded soldier. Juliette Binoche as Hana the nurse who looks after him. Naveen Andrews as the enigmatic sapper Kip who loves Hana, a thief with chopped hands and the story of the english patient’s life. All the action takes place in a run-down war-torn Italian villa. The book had to be brilliant, but the film touched every single note right. Superb!

I don’t think one post will be enough for this. I have to come back with more…for sure…