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The write way

Upamanyu Chatterjee, who is soon going to release his latest book, Way To Go, cannot fathom the sudden interest in his book, English, August, 22 years later.

books Updated: Mar 12, 2010 02:24 IST
Jayeeta Mazumder
Jayeeta Mazumder
Hindustan Times

How would you describe Jamun’s journey in Way To Go?
It’s about accepting the death of relationships following the disappearance of Jamun’s father, Shyamanand. It’s a sequel to my previous book, The Last Burden. I’ve redeemed some of the characters, certain human values needed to be added.

It was easy for the ’70s generation to identify with the protagonist’s identity crisis, his apathy towards his job, his escapism into smoking pot and sexual fantasies in English August. Does Way To Go have the same connect?
Hey, English August received its share of bad reviews too when it came out. It’s only now that it’s being applauded. I’m happy that people still remember my story about two Indias, about feeling like an outsider in your own country.

I think Way To Go will appeal to the readers too since it’s about fathers and sons; about basic human relationships. The opening line — ‘For not having loved one’s dead father enough, could one make amends by loving one’s child more?’— sums up the book.

English, August was probably one of the first Indian books to unabashedly use a language that shocked our sensibilities even as it comically described the state of affairs in modern India.

It’s only now, after 22 years, that people seem to find it funny. It wouldn’t be right to claim that it was ahead of its times. I didn’t intend it to be the voice of a generation. August just had a dirty mind, so what?

Jamun is 40, still single, bored of sex but still fantasising about it and a secret father. Another twisted mind?
Most people do live terrible lives. To me, life is a dreadful business.

The father in Way To Go is central to the book even though he’s never present.

Yeah, half of the book happens in Jamun’s head. His father is either dead or has been carried away by Monga. But he has left behind memories and his voice in Jamun’s head is really the way to go.

Is dark humour the ‘way to go’ for you?
(After a thoughtful pause) I don’t know, maybe. I find things funny but perhaps, my way of looking at things can sometimes put people off.

Dev Benegal’s adaptation of English, August was the beginning of a wave of independent new-age filmmakers taking up urban themes. What’s your take on this kind of a cinema?
I haven’t seen too many of these films. There’s no hard and fast rule that a good film is based on a good book. They are two different mediums and techniques, one doesn’t need to be dependent on the other.

Have you seen Benegal’s Road, Movie?
No, I haven’t, but I plan to.

First Published: Mar 11, 2010 12:57 IST