THE REVISED IDENTITY OF KASHMIR, SHORT STORY AS A NOVEL, AND NEW STORY-BASED CINEMA IN BOLLYWOOD
Interview by Kulpreet Yadav
Anubha Yadav is a writer, academic and filmmaker based in New Delhi. Her short fiction has appeared in Wasafiri, Elsewhere, Café Dissensus, Himal, Indian Literature, Cha, Jaggery and others. At present she is guest editor of the literary journal elsewhere—curating their India fiction special issue. Her short fiction piece has won the Dastaan Award, 2014. She has been shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize. At present she is working on her first short story collection. Her academic research focuses on screenwriting studies and gender.
This interview was conducted over e mail.
Kulpreet Yadav: ‘The Song of Bismil’, your story that won the Dastaan Award in 2014, was one of the most powerful stories I’ve read in a long time. Tell us about your inspiration for this story and the relevance of the change in perspective when it comes to Kashmir, the place where it is set.
Anubha Yadav: I have been researching Kashmir for a while now—and I had been wanting to write a story on it since some time—but I knew that I had to careful—Kashmir is a difficult terrain for a writer who has not experienced the daily everyday reality of living there—one needs to be aware of this lurking danger as to the representation of ideas and politics in what you write when you write about Kashmir. So, this story happened because I have been collecting news articles on missing-people in Kashmir for some time now, as I want to do a longer work on it—but more so the story came together because of All India Radio, I was driving to work and on the car radio I heard a show where they were telling the meaning of a word ‘Bismil’. I got to know that Bismil also means—‘to dance with the pain of love’. The story just came together somehow as soon as I heard this. How apt is it for Kashmir.
KY: What, according to you, are the essentials for a good short story that no one puts enough emphasis on?
AY: No one should be able to tell what your story is about in two lines. It should have so much more than that tangible quality to it.
KY: Has the diminishing attention span and shrinking leisure hours turned the short story into the new novel? Your comments please.
AY: Nah, I think people who enjoy literature do not choose just on the basis of length, although it could be one of the factors, especially for very long, fat reads. Readers are more particular about details like the genre, the writer, the price etc. Although it is possible they might prefer one form over the other, a novel over a short fiction collection—but a good story is a good story—not sure real readers care beyond that.
KY: Your favourite short story writers from India and why?
AY: Naiyer Masood. Ismat Chughtai. Ambai Vilas Sarang. Anjum Hasan. Nirmal Verma. Tagore.
KY: There has been a perceptible change in the plots of the new cinema produced by Bollywood. As a filmmaker, who also writes short stories, do you think this a good start, or the popular cinema is still addicted to a content that can be best described as mediocre.
AY: Post late 90’s things have changed, stories have changed and small budget films with a strong script are doable (albeit with difficulty)—but at least they are there and there is a business model available to make them possible—but we need many more stories for it to become a real change, change that is here to stay—big films with star power and huge marketing budgets still rule the roost in Mumbai based Hindi cinema—which is also fine, I am sure there is place for both—right now that is not happening, the ratio is all warped in favour of huge budget star power cinema.