We now have evidence that besides running that wonderful book-lovers haven, Duckbill Books, and singing her version of the 12 Days of Christmas, this wonder woman has powers beyond imagination – novelizing a children’s film in less than 6 days, for one! Anushka Ravishankar speaks to Harshikaa Udasi about Dhanak – her first movie-novel based on Nagesh Kukunoor’s award-winning children’s film. And more challenging than the race against time, was retaining Nagesh’s vision yet giving the novel her touch.

I read the Duckbill blog. You completed the novelisation of Dhanak in 5 3/4 days? That's quite a task. How did all of this come about? (Read: How did you manage?!)

A friend told us about the new film being made by Nagesh Kukunoor. So my colleague Sayoni (Basu) called Elahe Hiptoola, one of the producers. She was enthusiastic and sent us a preview. It was such a lovely story of hope and magic that we felt it would work beautifully as a book. By the time the discussions were done, working backwards from the proposed released date, I realised I had about a week to finish the novel! I lost a couple of days in between, so effectively, yes, I wrote it in under 6 days.

You are certainly setting a precedent. Do you think more books should be written on films - in the children's genre?

The short answer is yes. There are many really good children's films being made. While children's books are seeing some really good writers now, the really unusual stories, which deal with children from different economic and cultural milieu, are happening in films. So if these stories could be published as books, it would really enrich our children's literature.

Before sitting to write the book, what kind of preparation did you have? How was your interaction with Nagesh Kukunoor?

I saw the film multiple times. I spoke to Nagesh, mostly about some of the characters and plot points. Then I did that essential part of the creative process – staring at the ceiling. Then I was ready to start writing.

The film has won accolades internationally. Also, it releases after your book does. Did it stress you out a little?

When I wrote it, we were not sure if we'd have the book out in time for the movie release - it was going to be tight. But then the release was postponed. But no, the fact the film won accolades didn't stress me. My only thought was that I needed to do justice to both, the story and to the form of the novel.

Does a novelisation of a film allow the writer space to interpret it and add her point of view? Or did you largely go with Nagesh's who has not just directed it but also written it?

No, I did not attempt to interpret. I spoke to Nagesh about what he felt about certain ideas in the film, and even if I’ve differed in the treatment, I've tried to stay true to his vision, because it is his film and his story. This was always meant to be the movie novel, not a novel loosely based on the movie.

What challenges did the medium present? I understand you had to change the protagonist of the film to the sister - Pari while the movie shows the brother Chotu as the protagonist. Was it an easy decision to make?

That particular decision was easy. Having Chotu as protagonist would have thrown up too many problems. Besides, even in the film, it is Pari who's the driving force, even though it's Chotu who is the focus.

Are you planning more such movie-novels by other Duckbill writers or by yourself?

We would love to do more such projects, if the opportunity presents itself. But it depends on a lot of factors that need to come together. This just all fell into place beautifully, not least because Elahe and Nagesh were so positive about it.

Most people dread their favourite books turning into films. How do you think the reaction will be to this?

I think, going by the sample readership so far, that it will be positive. The book and the movie are not identical, the experience is bound to be different, and that makes it interesting.

Duckbill has launched several books with topics that force us to question our perception of 'normal' - Simply Nanju, Muskaan, now Dhanak. How do you think children/young adults react to these?

Children are more open to new things than we give them credit for. It's adults who resist and exclaim over things that deviate from what they consider 'normal’.

And, the readers will certainly kill me if I don't ask you for some trade secrets on how to write a spectacular novel. Please do and save a life. :)

Oh oh. Prepare to die. There are no trade secrets, I'm afraid!

Copyright: Book Trotters Club

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