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Writefully altered

In the age of market sensitivity, even literary works are being repackaged, writes Anamika Chatterjee.

india Updated: Jun 22, 2006 16:05 IST

The account of how XYZ wove a tale, got a publisher and became an author is not a simple desktop-to-book shelf story. Post Kaavya Vishwanathan plagiarism scandal, we zoom within the subcontinent to find out how exactly a new author is born.

Is it pure genius or there’s more to the written word -- like a girl next door groomed and packaged to suit the screen?

As Kaavya’s case has brought the point forth, turning zeroes to heroes is quite a task even in the world of writing books, where a talent is suitably packaged to click.

Gift-wrapped

While publishers maintain that it is the content of a work that matters, many admit that a new writer needs to be packaged.

Bikash Niyogi, MD, Niyogi Books, says, “Many good manuscripts are often reworked to suit the taste of the masses. And sometimes, the text has to be rewritten.” And we thought that bad manuscripts were just rejected.

Rajdeep Mukherjee, of Pan Macmillan in the Indian sub-continent, prefers to play safe: “Publishing world operates primarily through the literary agents. However, it’s more visible in the West.”

Though he doesn’t say any thing about packaging content, he adds: “New authors have a curiosity value because their names have no image or idea associated with their names.”

But doesn’t packaging change the original character of the book?

Says Kapish Mehra of Rupa Books, “Instead of using the word ‘packaging’, I would rather say that we try to polish and fine-tune the works.”

The word tampered

Authors, obviously, don’t take too kindly to their words being tampered with, even if for the right effect. Rana Dasgupta, who attained fame with Tokyo Cancelled, believes in packaging and feels even established authors need to be packaged but adds, “the general idea that major changes are made in the manuscripts is a myth. Not many changes were made in my works.”

DN Chaudhury, author of Delhi: Light, Shade and Shadows, believes packaging is acceptable only when the essence of the book is not lost. “If one just wants to get published, then the changes don’t matter much to the author.

But when you’re concerned with writing, then you do have problems with your script being refashioned.” Even though packaging is practiced at some level in India, at least, our publishing world is still far removed from the machinations of the West.