“And Where Does One Find That Mystical Muse – Tinder?”: Samit Basu Unplugged

Posted on January 20, 2015 in Books, Interviews, Staff Picks

This post is a part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s coverage of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival:

By Gayaz Ahmed:

Samit Basu

Success is always relative, and I don’t see myself as tremendously successful at all” says Samit Basu, one of the first Indian authors to experiment with the English Fantasy genre in our country by creating the parallel-universes which one had till then only experienced in books like the internationally acclaimed ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ series. His love for writing novels crosses all those multiverses he writes about, as he says “I wrote my first book for the same reason I’m writing my ninth book now: I love writing and telling stories.”

A bestselling author, he has won critical acclaim for his sci-fi novels like the ‘Gameworld Trilogy’, ‘Turbulence’ and ‘Resistance’. For someone whose work is to imagine and create things un-thought of, a passion for what you do matters more than anything else, as he tells us, “Fame, money, and any other happy accidents come and go on a daily basis, and if that’s what you’re writing for you are guaranteed an extremely frustrating time no matter how well your books do. Loving what you do is everything.” His initial projects like ‘Devi’ and ‘The Tall Tales of Vishnu Sharma’ with Virgin Comics are perfect examples of what he thinks comics can do, like he says, “Comics teach you what is essential, teach you not to be precious about your words, and give you more sense than any other writing forms of what the skeleton of a story is.”

‘Turbulence’, which was considered as one of the best superhero novels of all time by superheronovels.com, was based on the idea of ‘How would you feel if you actually got what you wanted?’ The story develops as a group of passengers in a plane get superpowers, that too the ones they really want. So is there a particular power Samit would like to have? “Everything. I want everything…Though to start with, the superpower that one of the Turbulence characters, Tia, has – the ability to split into multiple selves, live several lives and never really make choices again – would be nice.”

But for now his vote goes to ‘Elastigirl’ – his favourite superhero based on Helen Parr, from the blockbuster Pixar animated movie, The Incredibles. Why we ask, and there is a ready list: “1. She’s a real person, with real-world problems, 2. She’s struggling to cope, but retaining her sanity somehow, and has infinite empathy and warmth of heart, and 3. She is so gorgeous…”

Samit is also currently busy with the script work for the upcoming film-version of Turbulence, to be directed by Rohan Sippy. So what does someone who has created so many superhero characters think of the Indian superhero movie seen? “I think the superhero movies we’ve already made are hilariously bad. But I’ve been trying to get Turbulence made into a film for the last year, and I can understand far better the challenges and limitations that the Indian studio system and star system imposes on films of this nature. So I have a far better understanding of why our Indian superhero movies are the odd behemoths that they are.”

For someone whose work transcends not just geographical boundaries but also demographics, there is only one thing that he desires from people that read him, as he says, “I need my readers to have an imagination and a sense of humour.

Sounds like a reasonable promise for his fans to make!

For more, make sure you catch Samit Basu live in action at the ZEE JLF, speak about ‘From Here To Hogwarts’ on January 23, this Friday!

[alert type=white ] Quickies!

What does your writing space look like?

It looks like a laptop. I write everywhere.

The view from your window…

… is a standard South Delhi neighbourhood. But I’ve acquired a flat in Bombay with a fantastic view of the sea and can’t wait to see the effect it has on the writing.

That what keeps you from writing/work…

Life. All the usual distractions everyone has, really. But I really enjoy my work, so if a distraction enters my life I’m usually fine with it.

What aspiring authors must Not do…

Make fools of themselves on social media pushing their work down everyone’s throats. Actually, they’re going to do it anyway, but it’s terribly annoying. Of course super-established writers do it too, so why blame the aspiring ones.

Tea Or Coffee?

Black Coffee and Green Tea.

Early Bird or Creature of the Night?

Any Time of Day or Night Bird, though usually early.

Road trip or Flying?

Flying.

Okay to sip wine while writing?

I know several writers who have to drink as they write. I don’t, because I think I would produce drunk-text-type writing if I did.

What do you do when you hit the mythical Writer’s Block?

Work on something else. Do something else. Meet people. Read the entire Internet. Writer’s Block is no more precious than Engineer’s Block or Dentist’s Block. It’s just that we’re writers and have a special name for it.

And where does one find that mystical Muse?

Tinder? I don’t know. Most of my heroines owe a lot to people I’ve been in love with at the time of writing, though.

If not a writer, you’d be?

Film director. Video game designer. Actually I want to be these anyway. Maybe when I grow up.

A character of your own creation you have fallen for?

I love them all. I do know they are fiction, though, so I haven’t had a Ruby Sparks situation happen yet.

A character from a movie or book you wish you could be…

That’s a really long list. Right now it’s Tony Stark.

A book’s ending you wish you could change (not yours) and how…

The Ramayana. Ram would actually be a little nice to Sita after all that effort.

The one author you’d be happy to swap lives with?

Neil Gaiman.
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