Utpal Borpujari

February 2, 2010

‘My book is a personal rebellion against the system’

Madhav Mathur’s day job is of a banker with a leading bank in Singapore. But once he is out of his office, he turns into something else. A of the city-state, Mathur turns into a writer, or a filmmaker, or a painter, as his mood suits him, outside his office timings. “Life is strange but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Without outlets for expression and creating new things I would probably not survive for long,” is what he says explaining his other avatars. Mathur’s debut novel, The Diary of an Unreasonable Man (Penguin) was recently released to enthusiastic response. Mathur speaks with Deccan Herald’s Utpal Borpujari on his book, which has its protagonists (“anarchists” as they are called) rebelling against the system in an innovative way:

Where does the genesis of the book lie?

The book is my personal rebellion against the ‘system’. The things that my anarchists try to address are very real and prevalent today. The ways that they choose are crazy and born out of my imagination. I wanted to provide a different kind of protest, one that originated in a very real sense of cynicism and anger but was novel in its form. To quote a Ben Harper lyric: “What good is a man that doesn’t take a stand? What good is a cynic with no better plan?”  

Is protagonist Pranav Kumar an alter ego of yours?

Pranav is a stronger, more courageous and more unreasonable version of me, yes. He does things that I wish I could. He acts on his convictions in a manner that is larger than life. 

Do you think that going by the way many things work in our country, we actually need something as radical as The Anarchists?

I do believe that something this radical is needed to make people take note and think. All the experiences that my anarchists create are meant to trigger a personal introspection. I hope I have succeeded in doing that to some extent. We’re all too jaded and over-exposed to conventional protests and means. I am sure we will see bigger, sicker and more meaningful forms of protests in the future. It is all born out of necessity and helplessness. I did not let that negativity take the form of violence, on purpose. Violence loses you your credibility and leaves you in the ranks of common criminals. If you have something important to say, don’t drench it in the blood of others. Be outrageous, speak your mind, but stay relevant. 

Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap has picked up the rights of the book for a film. How did this happen?

I am a huge fan of Anurag’s work. After watching “Black Friday” and “No Smoking” I approached him through his blog in the website PassionForCinema.com. He liked my ideas and a short film that I had made for an online film competition. We started talking and soon I was asked to come and see him in Mumbai. He read the entire manuscript in the car on the way to Pune and told me that he wanted to make this into a film. It was surreal, lucky and is still sinking in.  The film project will hopefully kick off soon. I will be working with him to write the screenplay. 

Has the film linkage helped in the book’s visibility?

It definitely has. There has been a lot of extra media interest because the film deal is already locked. A lot more people, who would have otherwise not cared about another English language book by an Indian author, have got interested. It’s good. 

What is your philosophy as a writer?

I think my work is representative of the person that I am. If there is a philosophy that I prophesize, it shows up in my work. As far as writing itself is concerned, I write for myself. I try to stay true to what I want to say and be interesting to myself. The moment you start writing for other people, you end up going down a dangerous path. You should be your only compass, really. 

As a young banker who is a filmmaker, writer and painter, how do you manage your time to indulge in all these passions?

Honestly, it has taken time to find a rhythm or a routine that works for me. I think I have finally managed to find some comfort in the way I do things. I gave up on sleep and other things long ago, so that helped a lot. In the end, if you love something, you find the time, resources and energy for it. I love to write, make films and paint. I am happiest when I do these things. Everything else falls into place. 

You have also made a film. Tell us something on your filmmaker’s persona?

With my independent film production company, Bad Alliteration Films in Singapore, I have made about eight short films and one feature length film. The feature film titled “The Insomniac” is an experimental fast paced romp through sleep deprivation and pain, fuelled by music and madness. It is about a struggling writer dealing with the challenge of covering events that are alien to him, like war and rebellion. He is shown to be a pathetic failure who slowly realises his smallness and ineptitude. It released in Singapore and was very well received. Each film of mine has been a great learning experience. I am currently working on a new project too.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 31-01-2010)



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