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'Mistress sprung from Kathakali'

Author Anita Nair says that her latest novel is an aesthetic take on art and adultery.

books Updated: Oct 08, 2005 14:17 IST

Author Anita Nair, whose latest novel Mistress is an aesthetic take on art and adultery, says there are only so many ways a "triangle can explode".

In Nair's narrative, the marital infidelity angle is interpreted against the backdrop of Kerala's ancient form of storytelling, Kathakali, where masks play a large part.

"Kathakali was the most important motif and the book sprung from that. So much so that I have borrowed many Kathakali techniques in the writing," Nair, the author of Ladies Coupe, toldthis agencyin an e-mail interview from Bangalore.

"For instance, Chris (a foreigner with strings attached) is the catalyst that triggers change. In Kathakali, the catalyst is never given too much importance. Instead, the change is what is dwelt upon."

"Kathakali works best with Puranic settings because it allows the audience to concentrate on the calibre of performance rather than figuring out what comes next," explained Nair, who took about four years to write the book.

"There are only three ways for the triangle to explode. It is the unpredictability within the predictability that elevates Kathakali and, hopefully, Mistress."

"I wasn't very sure of how the book would end," confessed Nair, whose second volume of myths and legends in the Puffin series should be out soon.

"But there were three alternatives. The lovers could go away together or Koman the Kathakali dancer could bid goodbye to the performance world with an 'up-yours' gesture, which doesn't have much to do with Kathakali.

"And finally the one I chose (where the lovers part heartbreakingly), the one I think is an authentic resolution rather than the other two that are cinematic or unreal."

And the character she loved the most?

"Shyam (the cuckolded spouse) is my favourite character and perhaps the one I have most love for. At the end of the book, you may not like Shyam but you will certainly respect him. What's more, he is the only one in that cast who doesn't wear a mask. He is what he is.

"He is like Pandava prince Bheema - bumbling and super-efficient - and loves Draupadi more than she loves him. To me, he is the hero of the book, even if an unlikely one," said Nair, who is also working on a children's novel for Puffin.

How close is the concept of an ideal artiste to the ideal man?

"One and the same, I think. You live life on your terms and practise art on your terms. You compromise on nothing. You try to raise yourself to better your best," she said.

"And in the end, what counts is if your life or art is signified by your own satisfaction with it. And, most importantly, you don't lose a shred of humanity no matter what art or life demands of you."

First Published: Oct 05, 2005 09:00 IST