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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Author Interview : R Sreeram, author of 'Kalyug'

R Sreeram
I must say that this book was a surprising one. To expect a thriller such as this, in times when authors are all about mythology and all on a philosophical tune, it took quite a bit of ‘Balamurali Selvam’ to figure this out.
So, ‘Kalyug’ is quite the book. Not only does it have a lot of twists and turns, but it required all the patience to put it together. It was a well thought out book and to bring it out, quite so deftly was what makes this author, R Sreeram different from the rest. So, Read up this Interview (Part 1), Folks...

You could also buy the book Right Here.

How did ‘Kalyug’ happen? Could you describe the journey?
Kalyug actually happened over the course of a week! That’s how long it took me to cook up the prologue. :) I sat down one Saturday, told my wife I was writing ‘something’ and when the chapter was done, I showed it to her. And when she exclaimed that she liked it… that was when I knew I had started something special.

The rest of it took about a year, in two phases. The first phase was the first ten chapters, with me writing one every Saturday continuously. Then I didn’t write for a week, and that break just became longer and longer. The next phase started after it had been acquired by Westland and was completed in about 2 months or so.

It has been – if you’ll pardon the cliché – a roller-coaster ride so far. You get to thinking a book is all it takes to make you successful, especially if it’s as well-received as ‘Kalyug’ has been, and then you realize that’s only a small part. You have to promote the book, sell it, get it talked about… sometimes, you wonder if it’s all worth it. And sometimes, you catch sight of it at the bookstore and the thrill is indescribable.  

How did the main character, Balamurali Selvam come about? How much of you, was in there?
I wanted a character, who was relatable to the readers, and I also wanted to have an argumentative voice – a conscience, if you will – without making that character into a Dabangg-style hero. 

The result was Selvam. And when I was thinking of a suitable background for him, it struck me. A disgraced author isn’t usually a protagonist in novels. Why not have one?

What according to you is different about your book?

The book takes a seemingly outrageous premise – an overthrow of the democratic system – and tries to make it sound plausible. There aren’t many political thrillers and the few there are often formulaic (not all, but most). 
I aimed for a style that’s subtly satirical without losing the seriousness of the times we are (or were, at the time of writing) living in. And I wanted to bring in both sides of the argument, instead of merely using this book to spread, what I feel is right.

Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?

Selvam, of course! :) He’s not a superstar. He’s had failures, he’s uncertain about how committed he wants to be to a certain cause and he’s an armchair critic – fits me to a T!
How did you come up with the core idea and develop it?
I have heard a lot of people speak of the Emergency of ‘76 as a blessing in disguise. You had excesses on one side – forced sterilization, arbitrary arrest, surrender of freedoms we take for granted these days – but you also had discipline. Trains ran on time. Government offices worked as they are supposed to.

And it’s been a common refrain that India needs a bout of benevolent dictatorship to knock off the complacency of the bureaucracy and get things in shape.

So I thought, how could this happen? The average Indian citizen isn’t going to participate in a movement like we’ve seen in Egypt; we speak and we get outraged, but it’s all short-lived. Besides, there are many levels of government. How do you replace each and every one of them?

That’s when I thought of an Emergency-like coup. And a situation like that needs a trigger. Granted, India in 2012 (when I started writing Kalyug) as a tinderbox, with so many scams, a disconnected government, a discontented populace, an unhappy military, etc. And thus, ‘Kalyug’ was born.

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