Friday, April 29, 2016

Converting a Critic while Fighting the Green - Eyed Monster

There are few things that suck as much as a bad review.  And if the bad review is from a good critic it sucks even worse. A couple of years ago, Urmi Chanda - Vaz, who describes herself  as a psychologist by training, a journalist by profession and a mythologist by passion, had this to say about Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior - Prince in her article Indian Mythological Fiction: What to Read, What to Ditch for Scroll, "Another disappointment in the realm of Indian mythological fiction comes in the form of Anuja Chandramouli’s Arjuna. In yet another retelling of the Mahabharata, the author writes the story from the prime Pandava’s perspective. With so many character-specific retellings in the market and subpar language, there’s nothing new this book has to offer. Her latest book, Kamadeva – The God of Desire chooses an unusual character and one hopes there are more takeaways." (You can check it out here.)

Needless to say, I was crushed but consoled myself with the fact that Ashwin Sanghi and Anand Neelakantan,  were keeping me company on the 'Ditch' list and Urmi had some scathing things to say about their work as well. The thought offered a little solace till harsh reality struck - both are more successful and famous though I am younger and thinner, which last fact notwithstanding, Amazon still went with Ashwin for what I am sure was a super - lucrative advertising deal and the Gods of television chose Anand to script a mega serial. Damn it, no wonder they seem to handle criticism with such grace and poise, two traits I struggle to find in the aftermath of negative reviews! How on Earth does one recover from such trauma without wallowing in petty envy and resentment? Simple, one gets over oneself and keeps going. 

Cut to a couple of years later. I had been pestering Urmi on Facebook, with the occassional cringe - worthy message that went something like this: "Hi!
I just read your article, "Indian Mythological Fiction: What to Read, What to Ditch" and what can I say but ouch! That being said, I hope you do read Kama. Arjuna may not have been the right guy for you but Kama is irresistible and hopefully this time around, you'll be blown away! Regards, Anuja Chandramouli" 
Sometimes I am the world's greatest source of embarrassment to myself and still find it hard to come to terms with the lameness and desperate need to be liked part of me which clashes awfully with the don't - give - a - hot - damn persona, that I worked so hard to cultivate for myself. The critic in question meanwhile was sweet and showed a great deal of restraint while dealing with this pain in the posterior/ irritatingly insecure author. 
When Shakti was out, she promised me a review and was as good as her word. In her assessment of my third, which appeared in Swarajya she had a few observations, " This book had me both delighted and confused. Delighted, because in the realm of mythological fiction Anuja Chandramouli displays great skill...Confused, because its agenda doesn’t seem very clear.I cannot help but call this work ‘moody’ given that it swings so often from the sublime to the violent, from the lofty to the crass. 
When she assumes her beauteous stance, the author’s words sound mellifluous and poetic. But when she gets into her blood-and-gore mode, her language gets crass and the graphic details could put an Eli Roth movie to shame." (You can read the rest here.)
With Ashwin Sanghi, Anand Neelakantan and Arshia Sattar at OLF 2013

This is not exactly a rave review even though she commended me for tackling such a complex subject with "guts and gumption", but I am still over the moon, because it is awesome when readers get you. It was my intention to bring together the sacred and profane; profound and putrid in Shakti, because the way I see it, every single contrasting element in the world may be traced back to the same divine source and hence nobody and nothing is ever exempt from divine grace. That is a happy thought isn't it? Especially for one who admires and respects Ashwin Sanghi and Anand Neelakantan for being lovely human beings and wonderful authors, despite an awful tendency to be jealous of them and as a direct consequence, stooping to the level of making fun of their girth and advanced years. 

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