We at Bookaholicanonymous feel privileged to bring to you this interview with Koral Dasgupta, an author, painter, entrepreneur and professor. She’s a writer who dons many hats and excels in all. Meeting her at a Lit Fest was a special moment, even though we had never met before it felt as if I knew her forever.
Interviews are a great way to know how a writer’s mind works, hope you’ll find this interview insightful!
About Koral Dasgupta: She is a compulsive storyteller and has authored four books which include three fiction and a non-fiction on Bollywood. Her fourth book has been optioned for screen adaptation. She is the founder of www.tellmeyourstory.biz, a story ecosystem led by crowd-sourced narratives. She consults with educational and corporate organizations on content and communication projects. Koral is recognized in the list of Innovator25 Asia Pacific 2019 prepared by The Holmes Report.
Let’s get started with your latest release Ahalya. And the other four books that are to come out soon on women from our mythology like Kunti, Draupadi, Mandodari and Tara. Tell us why or how did you select these five women? What were your criteria?
Indian mythology leaves a vast scope of interpretation. Hinduism is one such philosophy where Gods are various representations of nature, thus indicating that nature is more powerful and mankind should bow before nature. Every story, every character, every incident is loaded with metaphors. But these texts never impose their dictats. They just tell the stories and leave them at that. People interpret them as per their social, interpersonal and political leanings. That's how every person's truth is different. Following the same path, my reading and interpreting of the Panch Kanya is way different from the existing narratives. I have my own logic while putting those forward. My interpretation of the Panch Kanya will attempt to convincingly steer the popular belief about the women in mythology from overtly sacrificing to compassionate but independent - thus disrupting, questioning and reconstructing the transformational power of these legends.
What will we get to know about Ahalya? Why was her story needed to be told?
Ahalya's story has always been told from a very linear perspective. From the little that we know about Ahalya, we either feel it is regressive - because of Gautam's curse, or we feel she is wronged - because of Indra's advances. The magical elements from her existence are vastly ignored. The possibilities of unexplored treasure lay there. There is deep rooted philosophy and a fantastic observation of how modern our epics are, in the way they have introduced the women in ancient writings. Does Ahalya's relationship with Indra have a conclusive logic which is beyond sin or guilt or socially unacceptable conduct? Also, who is Indra - a true lover or a philanderer? These are some of the questions I have tried to address.
Now about your first book Power of a Common Man. Are you a Shah Rukh Khan fan or his journey fascinates you?
Both. I started off as a fan, doing everything that a girl from a middle class family is permitted to do as a fan. As I grew up to be a thinker, the information I collected as a fan started talking deeper and I could see certain fascinating trends. Given that I was teaching Consumer Behaviour and Branding in a management college in Mumbai got me to correlate certain aspects and I used them in my class discussions. I was documenting them to be used in the next year for the same semester. It became a book.
Your book The Success Journey of Chennai Express Extracted from Power of A Common Man, what is it about? What part was extracted?
Chennai Express was a rare success. I am talking about its marketing success and the numbers it collected. I had included a special case study in the book, discussing the marketing innovations applied for this film and how they worked. That case study is available for a separate download. This was the publisher, Westland's decision, not mine.
Fall Winter Collections this is an interesting title, tell us why you gave this title?
Fall Winter Collections is usually used in the context of the fashion industry. But Santiniketan is one place where you get to experience the change of seasons through the blooms of nature. Fall Winter Collections - the name comes from there. The book ends with the woman collecting the fallen flowers of the fall, as she prepares to let go of some painful memories and embrace a vast change with new hope.
Being alumni of Visva-Bharati did you deliberately decide to write about Shantiniketan and Visva-Bharati in the above book to keep your nostalgia alive?
I had written a large part of the book, in Bengali and English, in my diary when I was studying in Viswa Bharati. I would sit anywhere and scribble. People asked me what this was about. I didn't have an answer. I wanted to be a sculptor. I was studying economics. I created fantasy characters where a sculptor and a professor meets. Other than the protagonists, almost everything in the book is lifted from reality. I rewrote everything later, after Power of a Common Man was published.
The two protagonists are from two different states of India…were you trying to show the contrast of cultures and lifestyles of this vast nation?
While writing Fall Winter Collections I didn't have so much in mind. I was just creating interesting characters and allowing my imagination to flow. I didn't know much about a Rajput man, so it was interesting to explore the community and the culture. For authors, I guess, even a simple imagination is demanding, a fantasy is also ambitious! This was an attempt to show Bengal from an insider's vis-a-vis an outsider's perspective.
Rasia: The Dance of Desire is such a fulfilling book to read. Tell us did you base your characters Raj Shekhar Subramanian and Vatsala Pandit on real people, they seem so real.
Thank you. No, there were totally fictitious characters. I am a great lover of art and perhaps that comes out with deserving honesty. You find them relatable because people like them exist in real life. There is jealousy, there is insecurity, there is obsession, there is helplessness, there is unspoken angst and there is undefined love. When they manifest in real life characters, we judge them immediately. That's why we can't realize their beauty. Literature allows us to look at life with optimum attachment and sufficient detachment. Literature helps enhance tolerance and helps human minds to think beyond individual limitations. Readers behave intellectually and rationally, empathising far more than being mere social participants.
In your book Summer Holidays you have written on ruminations on marriages, the sense of claustrophobia that relationships can produce, cousins and siblings etc. Is there a slice of your life while growing up in the story?
Summer Holidays is a comedy. Though not directly, there are many indirect personal influences. I am very close to my cousins. We still conspire against our parents. We still make inter-country calls to each other to discuss how unfair our parents are. After we have vented enough, we remember things of the past to justify the claims and start laughing. In our laughters we 'forgive' our parents. I believe claustrophobia happens when you are not appropriately connected to your near and dear ones. If there is love and bonding, and if everyone is equally ready to work on those, there is only joy. That is the foundation of Summer Holidays.
Lastly, tell us about a day in the life of Koral Dasgupta.
It starts very early. On an ideal day it starts at 4am. It allows me to concentrate on a few hours of writing before the day has formally begun. It is mentally empowering. Rest of the day, especially now that everyone in the house is working from home, I don't get 15 minutes of uninterrupted stretch. The other day I dozed off while teaching Maths to my son; I suddenly opened my eyes and found him staring at me weirdly as he has hardly ever seen me sleepy. I am usually very energetic. I make lists and keep ticking them off. That's how I run. And yes, coffee is the biggest motivation of my day!
Bookaholicanonymous thanks Koral Dasgupta for graciously accepting to do this interview…here’s to many many more books and successes to you!
You can check out her website for more information: www.koraldasgupta.com.
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