Nandini Muralidharan interviews author, Madhuri Banerjee, whose debut novel, Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas, sold over 40,000 copies in the first year of its release.
Madhuri Banerjee is a comprehensive media professional, having worked in all forms of the visual medium – as a Senior Producer with Zoom TV, advertisements with White Light Motion Pictures, Director in her own production house Gray Matter Solution, documentaries as a freelancer with PSBT and commercial Bollywood films as an Assistant Director.
She has worked with stalwarts like Subhash Ghai, Kaizad Gustad and Rohan Sippy, and music director Anu Malik. Madhuri graduated from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi with a Bachelor’s degree in English Honours.
She continued her education acquiring a Master’s in Mass Communication and Films from Jamia Millia Islamia. Her thesis film, “Between Dualities” won her the National Award for best documentary on women’s issues.
She is an avid reader, world traveller, and film watcher. She gives relationship advice in a column called Love Guru in the Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle every alternate Monday.
She has currently finished working on a commercial film script. Her debut book, Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas, sold over 40,000 copies in the first year of its release and was on the bestseller list for over 10 weeks. She also authored a sequel to it called Mistakes Like Love And Sex.
Her website is www.madhuribanerjee.com. She is active on Twitter @Madhuribanerjee, has a Facebook page for Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas, writes for the CNN-IBN blog called Chastity Belt, and publishes a blog at MadhuriBannerjee.
We all love Kaveri, the protagonist of your two novels. Is “Kaveri” inspired by someone real?
Kaveri’s dilemma of being a 30-year-old virgin was inspired by a friend of mine. But her experiences and adventures are pure imagination.
The two books take Kaveri through a series of failed relationships – Arjun, Aaron, Ray, and Siddharth, before she finally meets the guy she loves. Do you think today’s 35-year-old woman finds it easier to stay single while she waits for that guy, or is it still about settling down when you reach the “right age” regardless of with whom?
I would not consider any of the men as “failed relationships.” With every man, Kaveri gave a part of herself and believed it made her happy. That’s what relationships are about. Someone who can make you feel ecstatic. And sometimes it is not about a lifetime. It’s about moments.
Age is just a factor in people’s head. And marriage is just society’s way of declaring a relationship a success. Aditi, in Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas thought that she needed to settle down because she had reached a particular age.
Then in Mistakes Like Love And Sex, she realized that was not the reason to get married. Kaveri doesn’t make the same “mistake.” She always believes there is love in every relationship and the one she wants for a lifetime is the one she stays on with at the end of the second book.
The friendship between Kaveri and Aditi is special. It’s that girl bond that stays no matter what else goes wrong in life. Do you hang out with your girlfriends regularly? Did one of them (or maybe all) inspire Aditi?
I love my girlfriends. They are my family. That’s why I dedicated my debut novel to them. And even in Mistakes Like Love And Sex, I’ve mentioned all my girlfriends who have been a part of my life.
Two of my friends inspired Aditi. However, the decisions that Aditi makes later, is very unlike them. That’s more like some other friends!
Films are an important part of these books – with Aditi being an assistant director, and later Kaveri getting involved as a translator. Can you tell us a little bit about your involvement in the industry?
I was an Assistant Director, like Aditi, for three years. I too ran around for hats and other things that the Director demanded of the actors. It was fun but harrowing.
Bela Bandhan in Mistakes Like Love And Sex is very true to real-life actresses. I have met a few and understood them well enough to know they’re all hard-working like her. Therefore, the story, scenes and dialogues are not just an exaggeration. They’re partly real.
What’s next after “Losing my…” and “Mistakes..”? Can we expect more of Kaveri?
The third part of the trilogy is left. So there will definitely be more of Kaveri. There will be more about her business and life with a family, a husband and maybe even trying for children with old loves re-entering! And her friends Shyamolie and Aditi will also have a series of new love problems that they tackle. So more spice and sizzle to follow!
Today’s Indian woman juggles a career and family; she’s a mother, wife, in your case a successful author, a businesswoman, and so many other people rolled into one. Can you share some of the challenges you’ve faced while writing?
Disciplining yourself to take time out to write is the biggest challenge I’ve faced. After looking after a child, cooking, cleaning and managing the minutiae of daily domesticity all you want to do is sit back and relax.
But writing is not only therapeutic for me, it is also a job. I cannot neglect it. I’ll share a tip: The key to success is time management.
And time management is about prioritizing what’s important. And to know what’s important you need to be clear about what you want to achieve. All along, I knew I wanted to publish a book and everything then fell into place with time.
Who are your favourite authors? Have you been inspired by any of them in particular?
Elif Shafak, Agatha Christie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Paulo Coelho. Reading inspires in general. I have understood from my favourite authors and others that you definitely need a good plot and strong characters for a good book.
I’ve tried to build that with my writing. I hope that all the characters in my books and especially Kaveri will remain in readers’ minds for a long time.
On a lazy Sunday afternoon, what’s the one book that you’d love to curl up with?
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I could read it repeatedly.
How important is social media in a writer’s life?
Quite important. We’re not famous like Bollywood stars. For people to know our work, and us we need a social media platform.
In addition, largely the people who will buy our books and read are the ones on social media as well. It’s important that people know your work or you a bit.
There are tons of people out there trying to get published, today. What’s your advice to budding authors? What sets a great pitch apart?
A great story is all you need. Most publishers are looking for powerful characters that remain in a reader’s mind and a great plot that sets you apart. Work on that and it’ll be published!