Damyanti tries to showcase Indian writing in Western countries

Damyanti tries to showcase Indian writing in Western countries
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Damyanti Biswas

Highlights

Damyanti Biswas, who lives in Singapore, and works with Delhi's underprivileged children as part of 'Project Why', a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities writes short stories for magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine.

Damyanti Biswas, who lives in Singapore, and works with Delhi's underprivileged children as part of 'Project Why', a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities writes short stories for magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. Her debut crime novel 'You Beneath Your Skin' has been optioned for screen by Endemol Shine, and her next, 'The Blue Bar', will be published in USA by Thomas & Mercer in January 2023.

Damyanti, in an exclusive conversation with The Hans India, share about her journey. Let's have a look into it.

Speaking about her new book 'The Blue Bar', She says, " 'The Blue Bar' is set in gritty, glam Mumbai, where a police inspector and a bar girl in love are unaware that the same predator is watching them both. After years of dancing in Mumbai's bars, Tara Mondal was desperate for a new start. So when a client offered her a life-changing payout to indulge a harmless, if odd, fantasy, she accepted. The setup was simple: wear a blue-sequined saree, enter a crowded railway station, and escape from view in less than three minutes. It was the last time anyone saw Tara."

"Thirteen years later, Tara's lover, Inspector Arnav Singh Rajput, is still grappling with her disappearance as he faces a horrifying new crisis: on the city's outskirts, women's dismembered bodies are being unearthed from shallow graves. Very little links the murders, except a scattering of blue sequins and a decade's worth of missing persons reports that correspond with major festivals. Past and present blur as Arnav realises he's on the trail of a serial killer and that someone wants his investigation buried at any cost."

She adds, "My first novel, 'You Beneath Your Skin', was in some ways darker than 'The Blue Bar'. It was born out of the despair after the Nirbhaya murders and a few grisly cases that followed. 'The Blue Bar' deals with some of the same issues of violence and corruption like 'You Beneath Your Skin', but I like to think of it as a more hopeful book, and an experiment in sticking closer to the rules of the genre than its predecessor. Readers will decide whether I've succeeded."

Damyanti says that publishing an Indian genre book in the US market has not been easy. She says, "Honestly, it has always been my goal as a writer to be published in the West simply because of how much I learned of the craft via Western teachers. I write about India, but not literary novels. Genre writing in India has had some catching up to do, and I'm very much a keen work in progress."

"'You Beneath Your Skin', was also submitted outside of India, but as often happens with a first book (a genre one at that), which sticks too close to the concerns of a particular setting, it didn't find takers outside of India. Now that it's been optioned for screen by Endemol Shine, and the option extended this year, we're seeking publication in various markets," says Damyanti.

"Publishing an Indian genre book (like crime/ romance/ fantasy, as opposed to literary) in the US has not been easy, terrific books like Vikram Chandra's 'Sacred Games', 'The Inspector Gowda' series by Anita Nair, and 'Witness the Night' by Kishwar Desai notwithstanding. But after the BLM movement there's been a new awareness of, and some hunger for, genre novels set outside that country."

"Recent successes in South Asian genre books like 'A Burning', by Megha Majumdar; 'The Henna Artist', by Alka Joshi, 'Kaikeyi', by Vaishnavi Patel, and 'The Bangalore Detectives Club', by Harini Nagendra. I look forward to upcoming work by Samit Basu, Aparna Verma, Tanvi Berwah, Maya Prasad, all being published in the USA," Damyanti adds.

When Damyanti was questioned does OTT market influence the quality of writing, she says, "Like I said before, the structure of Indian writing is very different from that in the West—we have a lot of build-up and then a huge explosion in the end, but not a lot happens in between. We tend to have less individual glory and more faith in communities working together. Indian stories would often contain a pair or a group of detectives working in tandem, whereas in the West, there's a very clear protagonist, who is super-smart, physically powerful, and strong-willed. There's no better or worse between the two narrative styles. They are just different, mainly due to a difference in world views."

"The OTT market is growing, like you said, so it is hard to predict its influence on the quality of genre writing in India. It is possible that the high production value of the OTT series and the quality of stories will draw Western audiences, thus creating a hunger for Indian thrillers and crime novels, and arguably even an increased emphasis on Western storytelling structures," she concludes.

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