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'Writing for TV is lucrative, but very restricting'

May 28, 2012 19:19 IST

Tuhin SinhaThe Edge of Desire, Tuhin A Sinha's fourth book, has an interesting plot, considering the immensely political times we live in. Shruti, former journalist married to a messianic IAS officer, is raped by the men he is out to get. With the system closing ranks behind the politically-connected goons, she is at a loose end, till politician Sharad Malviya throws her a helpline with an election ticket from the same constituency.

As things turn out, Malviya's nationalist party  replaces the existing corrupt one, he becomes home minister and Shruti his protégée… There's a speech at Lal Chowk, fundamentalism in Kerala, Maoist challenge, Kashmir abductions.. Sinha, a TV scripwriter when he isn't writing books, covers a wide swathe, keeping his narrative interesting while portraying Shruti's 'it's complicated' status, be it her rocky personal or professional life.

In an interview with rediff.com, Sinha says, "For me the issues were important, more than the events. The events only reiterate the issues. As such, they need be completely authentic."

How would you classify your book, political fiction, never mind there are so many allowances made to actual events?

I would simply call it contemporary, popular fiction. Interplaying the personal with the political, is a style which I first experimented with in Of Love And Politics. I was quite happy with the result. The Edge of Desire takes that genre a step ahead.

Well, at the end of the day it's a fiction novel. As long as the issues are represented adequately, allowances are fine. If I don't take those allowances, depicting the absolute truth can often be quite 

Kashmir abductions; Kerala's fundamentalism; Maoist problem.. You seem to have covered the entire gamut of current issues. But one missed out on the biggest of them all -- the Anna Hazare campaign. Was the omission deliberate?

Well, in my book, Sharad Malviya is the home minister and Shruti Ranjan his deputy. As such the thrust is on issues concerning national security and the home ministry. Given an opportunity I would love to explore the issue of corruption in one of my future stories.

What inspired you to write this book, and how long did it take to complete?

The Edge of Desire delves into two serious issues which sadden me immensely. The first is the unabated rise in gender crimes, making India one of the most unsafe places for women. The other is the death of political leadership in our country.

The challenge for me was to weave these two issues within the format of a commercial fiction novel. I was inspired to an extent by the basic idea of the Mahabharata: Can a woman's humiliation impact the destiny of the nation? Interestingly, the bond between my protagonists, Shruti Ranjan and Sharad Malviya, is in many ways similar to the bond between Draupadi and Krishna. 

I wrote the book in two phases. Hence it took me about two years to complete it.

As a reader one can see how much you have remained true to actual events -- but as the writer, how much do you think you have based your book on actual events, even if tangentially?

Well, for me the issues were important, more than the events. The events only reiterate the issues. As such, they need be completely authentic.

The names you have employed in the book, Yashwant Modi, Sharad Malviya… Telltale, are they?

Not really. Sharad Malviya in the book is someone who puts the nation's interests above everything else. He swears by the country. That is not the case with his namesake.

Did you base the female protagonist on any actual person from Indian politics (rape excluded)?

Nope.

This is your fourth book. How do you view your progress? Has writing become easier from the first to your fourth?

Well, after the huge success of my first book, That Thing Called Love, I had the easy option of writing a sequel. In fact, publishers and readers would keep asking me for it. But the challenge I wanted to take up was to make each book of mine as different from the previous one as possible.

As you would have noticed, I have experimented with a new subject and narrative style with each of my books. And I am pretty happy and satisfied to be known among the most prolific of the Indian writers.

If you ask me, writing has become tougher now, as I have the added responsibility of living up to the huge expectations that readers have from me.  

Why did you pick on politics as background? Do you think you are politically conscious?

Well, I have followed Indian politics very closely for more than two decades now and it fascinates me.

Your protagonist Shruti's personal life is a mess. Do you think it can be otherwise, for successful women politicians?

Quite possible. Sushma Swaraj and Priya Dutt, for instance, have balanced their personal and political lives fairly well.

The book ends with Shruti and Rhea coming together to carry forward Sharad Malviya's vision. Left yourself room for a sequel, is it?

Hahahaha! Well, the problem is I tend to move out of a story too soon. So while I'm open to the idea of a sequel, I doubt if I will have the motivation to pursue it.

Did you always want to become a writer? Is that what you studied/trained for, or was your life heading in another direction when you underwent course correction?

Well, most writers become writers by default. I mean, seldom does a child grow up aspiring to be a writer.. At least kids in my generation didn't.

I was born and brought up in Jamshedpur where my dad worked as an engineer with Tata Motors (then known as Telco) while mom had started her career as a lawyer but quit to bring up me and my younger brother. In Jamshedpur, it's very unusual for a kid to not want to become an engineer, doctor or a CA. And personally I wasn't interested in any of the three.

Of course, I had a flair for writing, which I never took seriously, besides having some vague notions that I'd do well as an actor.

Later I completed my BCom from Hindu College, Delhi University. In hindsight, I of course feel it would have been better had I done English. Post that, I did my post-graduate diploma in advertising and communications management from the National Institute of Advertising, New Delhi. After that I worked for a year in the ad-sales team of a TV news channel. At 23, I realised I was immensely dissatisfied. I was not enjoying my work.

That's when I shifted base to Mumbai with vague notions of doing something in the entertainment industry. For the first year or so, I struggled to be an actor. Then, my flair for writing helped to break in as a scriptwriter on TV. Now writing for TV, while it is lucrative, can be immensely restrictive, considering you almost invariably end up writing what the channel wants to you.

That's when I decided to write my first book. That Thing Called Love happened in 2006, The Captain (formerly 22 Yards) in 2008, Of Love and Politics in 2010 and The Edge Of Desire now.