Paulami DuttaGupta is a post graduate in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University. She graduated in English literature. She has done her schooling from Loreto Convent. She is currently a full time writer and work on movie scripts, novels, articles and short stories. She is associated with Bangla Television for six long years and have freelanced with Guwahati-Shillong Plus of the TOI and The Shillong Times. As a student she was associated with Youth Programs for AIR Shillong. Her first film as script writer- Ri – Homeland of Uncertainty was awarded the Rajat Kamal for the Best Khasi film at the 61st National Film Awards. Let us know more about her writing.
What inspired you to start writing?
I would write ‘Once upon a time there lived a king/ little girl’ etc stories as a child and then wrote a features for newspapers and plays for radio. But that habit died as I was sucked into television. My job in TV was rewarding but essentially not fulfilling. One day mingled into another and I was thoroughly bored with life. I wasn’t essentially creating anything. That was also the time when I surfed a lot of TV channels and one particular serial inspired me to write fan fiction. My blog had some dedicated readers and they urged and inspired me to write more. My stories inspired a colleague (taught in vernacular medium) to start reading in English. Another girl said she found the stories inspiring. Those made me write more and more and publish my first novel. After that there were no second thoughts about writing.
What did you like to read when you were a girl?
I was three or four when I started getting books as gifts for my birthday. Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Snow white and the Seven Dwarfs were part of my initial library. Another prized possession of Little Red Riding Hood, a book I won as a proficiency prize in school. There were also a lot of Bangla folktales and bed time stories that my father used to narrate. Ma would read nursery rhymes to me and I loved those sessions. Then as I grew I started reading Noddy and Famous Five and Nancy Drew. Things changed when I was in seventh standard. I read Pride and Prejudice and life was never the same again. Jane Austen gave me a taste of English classics and Darcy has remained with me ever since.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
Not being preachy, or trying to force an opinion on readers I believe is a challenge. Also creating realistic characters, authenticity of plot and not using repetitive language is essential. The pace of the narration is also important.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
Story ideas come to me first. But then as the plot is fleshed out research starts coming into the scene. I have a bad habit of get too involved with historical facts, data, case studies etc. Sometimes that slows down the pace of my creative writing. And since my previous novel Ri is on terrorism, research was a key aspect. Even for my current book, the plot demanded a certain amount of research. Fiction is pleasurable. But if we create characters inspired from real people or incidents there should be no compromise with research.
What motivated you to write the book “A Thousand Unspoken Words”?
The idea of “A Thousand Unspoken Words” has been with me for almost four years. It was also around this time that I took to fill time writing and the idea of writing a story where the central character would be a writer started to intrigue me. Then one day the famous song Waha Kaun Hai Tera Musafir , by SD Burman played somewhere and I knew my protagonist got a name. Then there was no looking back. Little by little the idea developed in my mind. I have almost romanced Musafir for a long time, and felt his heartbreak and struggles as if they were a part of my life. When my publisher expressed interest in making this into a book, the ‘real’ writing began. The other characters and sub plots started to fall in place.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “A Thousand Unspoken Words”?
‘A Thousand Unspoken Words’ is a classical romance set in Kolkata. Riddhimaan has come back to Kolkata, the city of his birth. Circumstances have forced him to stay away from there. On his return, Riddhimaan comes face to face with Tilottama a woman who had saved his life in the past. There are fireworks between them. Debates and lust lead to a hasty marriage. But there is always Musafir between them. Musafir makes sure they do not become soul mates. Because Musafir plays with Riddhimaan’s thoughts and enchants Tilottama.
A writer’s block, a terrible clash of ideology and an emotional breakdown lead to A Thousand Unspoken Words. Does Tilottama ever realize her love for Riddhimaan is greater than her adulation for Musafir or would Musafir be able to keep his pen alive? Would Riddhimaan fight his inner demons and seek his soul mate? The readers would have to find out more.
How did you come up with the idea of writing fiction genre book?
Though I read a lot of nonfiction, fiction makes me passionate. If I had to write it had to be fiction. The charm and the challenge of creating characters- you don’t get that anywhere else.
Who are your favourite authors?
The list is actually too long. But if there are twenty books one side and old classics (probably those that I have read and reread) on another side, I would pick up the classics.
How much time do you dedicate to writing on a daily basis?
This varies with the kind of projects I am doing. If I am doing a movie script, the entire day is gone writing, deleting and rewriting. Also staring at a blank screen is part of the exercise. Novel writing time is smoother, where I can keep writing without even checking the spellings. When I am writing a novel, I stay with it for two to three hours at a stretch. For other writing – commercial that is, duration is directly proportional to deadline.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t give too much importance to those rejection slips. Do not count the number of readers you have. That would never do any good to writing. Also writers need to create fresh characters. We are all inspired by some writer, but we should not create characters or plots that are clones of our favourites.
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