Aug 17, 2016

The story of a suicide: A rebellious novel for more than one reason

Image courtesy: micagoto on Flickr
Have you ever felt suicidal? I must admit here itself that I have not. But I am curious. What would that feeling be like? Is it cowardice or an act of great bravery? Will it be a sudden pang or a persistent voice? Is it the deep end of the well or the light at the end of the tunnel? Is it an escape or an entry? Is it morally right or wrong? Is it the solution or the confusion? Is it the easy way out or the best way out?

I have wondered about these questions for a few of times in the past when I was around a case of a suicide. Once, it was the suicide of a neighbour boy who was my senior in school. I was in the 8th standard and he was in the 9th standard. Nobody knew why he died. The next time, it was the suicide of a junior in college who had ended his life on account of love failure. The last time, it was the case of a friend who went through a very stressful episode in his relationship when his partner threatened to commit suicide. She still lives but the relationship died.

I recently read a novel that triggered these thoughts yet again. The novel 'A story of a suicide' by my friend and colleague Sriram Ayer is a very interesting read. This is his first novel and he has debuted in a rebellious way. You will not find this novel in the bookstores because it is not printed yet. It is an online novel accessible in this site - It is rebellious in both the content and the form. Let me write about them both without revealing much about the story.

It revolves around four central characters tied together in a gripping thread that runs in a college campus. One of them ends his/her life at the end of the novel. The answer to the question 'why' and several other questions as byproducts constitute the novel. As a privileged friend, I got to read the manuscript before the release of the novel and I get to discuss the issues around the novel with the author in person. This adds another layer of my experience to this book, which I seek to share in this blog post.

Sriram knows a lot of people. Literally, a lot. He meets a myriad range of characters across all walks of life. That gives enough hues for him to paint a character in his canvas. He chooses the canvas of youth and the colours that have come out are bold, dark and sometimes even taboo. His opinions about the young people are very interesting. He wants them to commit to something. He encourages youngsters to do something. He gets disappointed at youngsters who never turn up for the grand show of life. He has pulled out four characters as a representative sample from the vast pool of youngsters who seem very sure about themselves on the outside but are fragile inside.

They are defined by identity crisis, relationship issues, weight of expectations, resistance to order, fear of failure and knee-jerk reactions. But it takes a closer look to spot these rusty spots because they have mastered the art of coating themselves with indifference, aggression and sometimes even normal niceties. Are all youngsters like this? He neither says yes nor a no. He shrugs his shoulders and says 'maybe' with a meaningful smirk.

My initial response to this novel was that this can't be the general truth and it is a story of the odd ones out. It was a shocking experience. Not that I am a person who shies away from the taboo topics, but it challenged several assumptions of mine about the youngsters. I am still in the late twenties and hence it was even more surprising for me. I asked myself if I can connect with the world of youngsters shown in this novel? I could only say 'remotely'. But I could not deny that they don't exist too. Now after reading the novel, my perceptions have been challenged even further. This is why you should read it too. It poses several questions, dark and deep.

I never quite understand suicides. More so, the reasons for them. If people have to kill themselves for being rejected, I should not be alive and writing this now at the first place and most probably you should not be alive to read this too. But why are some rejections so unbearably painful and fatal? Is it the rejection's problem or the rejected's problem? Apparently, ever since the release of the novel, it has triggered several discussions around these topics and it has given a platform for several people to come to light stating their doubts and confusions and sharing their pains. That is a major success of this novel. Sriram plans not to stop here, now that he has set the rolling ball on fire. He wants to hold conversations and help the ones in distress. Bravo!

I firmly believe in a saying that goes like this. 'There is always the easy answer and the right answer'. Suicides are easy answers for me.

Another reason why the novel is rebellious is because of its form. As a writer, I know how uncertain the path towards the first book is. Publishers take you for a ride. Marketers take you for a ride. Reviewers take you for a ride. Unfortunately, most readers do not even know about the ride and somehow they miss the bus, always. People say that you should be backed by a big publisher to be widely read. Big publishers are more comfortable backing the authors who are already widely read. Where will a first-timer go? Self-publishing seems to be an easy answer but I have stressed enough about easy answers already above.

Sriram has cleverly stayed out of this vortex. He has opted to release it on his own as a web-novel with great illustrations, a classy trailer and even a promo song. He pulled it all off with the help of his friends and well-wishers. Why does a writer write? To be read. This is the simple answer. Selling huge number of copies and making money are all secondary. People are reading this novel and that is all that matters. The response he has received so far has even beaten the traditional route's reach.

We may see a print version of this book soon backed by a big publisher. We may see a movie adapted from this novel soon. I am just saying it is all very probable because of the reach it has generated. This is a curious takeaway for budding writers.

And if you are a budding writer who is feeling suicidal because no one is ready to publish your book, you get two solid reasons to read this book!

- GS

Jul 25, 2016

Kabali da

The three major stakeholders of Kabali to me.
3. Pa. Ranjith:-
Directing Rajinikanth is a pressure in itself. That too when he gets the chance to direct Rajini when he himself wants a rebirth on the screen?! He will be judged. He will be scrutinized. He will be glorified to the top or stamped by foot. Should he have played it safe? No, that is not why he was chosen in the first place. He needed to see Rajinikanth through new glasses which were probably never worn before by anyone. Rajinikanth is a magician but people have only seen him do his parlour tricks lately and were so content with just that. However appealing they were, Ranjith had to move on and set the stage for his next grand act. He had to make Rajini age gracefully with dignity and style on the screen without losing his charisma. He had to tickle the memories of the past with a few adherences to the Superstar expectations but then stick to his movie. He has fit him in a deserving character in a well-researched script.
Good job, Ranjith!
2. Rajinikanth (not Thalaivar) (not Superstar)
This movie does not happen in Rajiniland where Rajini is invincible and everything is so easy to him. He is not immortal. He is not thalaivar. He is not the Superstar. He is a mortal, vulnerable, ageing gangster who is finding his way back. He is the big fish in a dangerous pool and he could be finished anytime by anyone with just one wrong move- not only in the movie, but also figuratively in real life.
Remember the lion Alex from the film Madagascar? Rajini has been that performing lion so far and we have loved his moves like crazy. With years of practice, he perfected it to such an extent that all he has to do is turn up. For once, he wanted to leap out of the cage and hunt like a real lion. It will be slow, devoid of comic reliefs and probably less glamorous. But when the lion pounces on the prey, it fulfills a moment destined for its potential!
He wanted a challenge. He wanted to act in a movie which he can be proud of when he looks deep into the mirror. He had always been successful in giving orgasms to his fans by just fingering them, but is he not more than mere finger tricks?! He has finally said, 'Fuck it. let me act like I am meant to'. By deciding to be a mortal actor, he has discovered himself again in a whole new light with this movie.
Happy for him. Proud of him.
1.The fan (aka me)
I was a kid when I watched Basha. I just wanted to beat up the bad guys with a hand pump. I adored Manick Basha. I was a college student when I watched Shivaji. I wanted to hoot and dance in the front rows and celebrate every moment of the Superstar. I loved Shivaji. I am a young adult (or an old youth) who has travelled a bit, watched some good cinema and understood how fucked up the world is despite loving it. I see Kabali now. I get goosebumps.
I have always wanted to see Rajini like this in the recent years. Acting his age but with the same magical charisma; slipping into a character rather than towering above the movie; avoiding the boyish stunts and gimmicks; and daring to fly out of the golden cage he was locked in. Like he says himself in the movie, the very love that we showed to him has been the biggest load that limited him. He has let it go to take the plunge now and he has an exciting world of characters to choose from here. I want to see more of this Rajini. I am so delighted that this is happening and for that I can accept the few flaws in the movie and gear up for more. Because I know that the more this happens, it will only get better.
Proud of Rajinikanth.