It calls for great guts for a young, successful career woman, single to boot, to switch channels from a wonderful career in the media to full-time creative writing. But Sreemoyee is as gutsy as God can make a young woman. Her published novels suffice to underscore this reality. She is grounded and unassuming and above all, unlike many creative fiction writers, is extremely articulate and vocally expressive of what she writes, why and how. Kundu made her literary debut with Faraway Music, (Hachette) in 2013. Her second book, Sita’s Curse (Hatchette), an erotic fiction spilling over with sensual and scintillating descriptions, was launched in May 2014 and soon became a national bestseller. You’ve Got the Wrong Girl is her most recent book which is a sort of role reversal of the Abhigyanam Shakuntalam story set in contemporary, post-modern India. But let us switch over to the author herself.
YOU'VE GOT THE WRONG GIRL is being repeatedly labelled as lad-lit versus chick-lit. But I have often seen that the term chick-lit within the broader scope of fictional writing is used rather pejoratively. But you do not seem to be sensitive to the term. Can you please explain?
There has been an explosion of chick lit in India in the last few years and lad lit sadly has not quite taken off. Most chick lits are now standard and follow a set formula - largely emphasizing on the woman's coming-of-age saga and her search for Mr. Right. A man's emotional journey on the other hand hasn't quite been explored and that was my aim with You've Got The Wrong Girl! - to delve inside a man's head and heart and tackle the resultant travails - to be true to the voice of a man in love, searching for answers on who is his perfect soul match.
This novel and other similar fictional writing by very young novelists like you reveal an awareness of brands and styles in clothes, dress, perfumes, cosmetics and so on both for the women and for the men which is, to my mind, distanced from mainstream literature as we have come to know of it. Does this demand a different kind of labelling or genre classification? Please elaborate because for me, this is something quite novel.
At 38, I don’t know if I am very young – but I think all writers have their own readership dictated by the quality and calibre of their story telling skills. Yes, writers today are more active and reachable on social media and more directly in touch with their readers and that is something generational – which has its pros and cons.
How would you compare YGTWG with your two earlier novels, namely, Faraway Music and Sita’s Curse?
Faraway Music and Sita’s Curse were strong, bold, feminist centric books, with the latter being India’s first feminist erotica. This is different because the perspective is entirely from a man’s point of view. I think lad lit is a genre that is appealing because it is fresh and still an unexplored literary terrain. Looking at romance from a man’s point of view is something rare coming from a woman writer. I think this is what breaks new ground in the terrain of the woman writer of fiction in India. I hope the modern day Dushyant will appeal to a cross section of readers of both sexes who will find some connect to his journey in search of the woman he fell in love with after a sudden and chancy one-night stand.
Dushyant is fleshed out as a rather ordinary young man who has pretended all his growing years to be extraordinary. But he really becomes extra-ordinary with his first novel which turns out to be a bestseller. Would he have written the novel at all unless he had fallen in love with that lady he met that became a one-night stand? Have you thought of this possibility?
He did fall in love with the mystery woman he met in Agra. That’s the whole premise – but was in a sort of denial till he was forced to pen the sequel pressurized by his publisher, his agent and the demand from his fans. It’s when he has seek her out again – as a continuation of his first book that he’s forced to reconcile with left-over feelings, and also question his own life in a way – all the other relationships he has. The girl in the garden sets him off on his own personal odyssey in a sense.
Have you ever met a man like Dushyant Rathore in your personal life? If yes, just explain it briefly. If no, how did you conceive of this idea in the first place?
Yes I have. As I said, in life sometimes you meet, people, briefly and accidentally who alter the course of your life by touching your heart in an inexplicable manner. They are the middle people – not always ones you end up with or are married to, but memories and moments you always retain in corners of your heart.
How does Sonagachhi come to the story? Is it a plain romance or does it have tinges of social realism involved?
Sonagachhi is the most notorious and oldest red light districts of Kolkata. When I grew up in Kolkata, I would sometimes pass by that area and always wanted to go in. But I was always told it was a ‘dirty’ place. I discovered that marginalized communities and women have always found a place in my consciousness. So, when I was working on You’ve Got The Wrong Girl – I knew in my heart, it was where the book should touch down. My exploration of the inner lanes and bylanes of the city, the Hooghly Bridge, the River Ganges, the street food corners would remain incomplete unless I took my Dushyant through Sonagachhi touching on those women in flashy polyester saris and gaudy red mouths – what goes on in their minds – is love forbidden in Sonagachi? And Sonagachhi entered into my script.
Have you visited Sonagachhi yourself?
I have, both Kamathipura in Mumbai and Sonagachi in Kolkata and some day I would like to do a full book on prostitutes, pimps, their children, the men they may have loved.
Written byShoma A. Chatterji
Dr. Shoma A. Chatterji is a freelance journalist, film scholar and author based in Kolkata. She has 20 published titles, has won the National Award twice and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rotary Club of Kolkata Metro. She has done her post-doctoral research on cinema and has juried at national and international film festivals over time.