Of Cities, Cinema and Childhood
Nikhil Sachan is making the most of the lockdown to catch up on pending work from formatting his book and finishing a film script to writing for a web series. But what he has been enjoying the most is the time he has been spending with his daughter. The author shared his lockdown routine in conversation with Ehsaas Woman of Delhi, Huma Mirza, at a virtual session of Kalam. The innate simplicity and the informal narrative of Sachan's works are what draw readers. He uses the dialect of the common man in his narration and the local lingo in his characters' voices. Even slangs are gracefully stitched into the narrative to evoke empathy. Sachan's Kanpur connect is evident in his works. His short stories, the author revealed, reflect his life story and experiences. Carefully picked anecdotes have found their way into the stories. Sachan has published two short story collections — Namak Swaadanusar and Zindagi Aais Paais. Speaking of his novel UP 65, Sachan said the book revolves around his student days in Varanasi. Prior to Banaras Hindu University (BHU), his only aim in life had been to clear IIT, but BHU turned out to be his 'Eureka moment' and made him realise that he could create magic. Sachan describes the campus environment as being "happy-go-lucky". "Everything in UP reflects the extremes," he said. The author said his writing has always been influenced by cinema. He watches a lot of Iranian movies and one of his favourite directors is Majid Majidi. Many of Majidi's films are about children though the films are not meant specifically for children. This influence can be seen in Namak Swadanusar. Sachan feels that if a story is told from the perspective of a child, the depth of the message is greater because what might be unimportant to an adult might seem very significant to a child. Namak Swadanusar draws from Sachan's childhood and reflects the thoughts of a child. His characterisation of Papa Man shows how all children see their father as a superhero. It is the story of a man who wants to embark on a new journey in life and is ridiculed and discouraged by many. It is his little daughter who holds his hand and leads him on to follow his dreams. "There is no retirement age for parents," said Sachan. Though most people retire at 55 or 60 now, that could be the time to start following one's dreams and hobbies; it is the perfect time to change oneself from being ordinary to extraordinary, he added. Talking about the waning popularity of Hindi books in India, Sachan said literature needs to be reinvented and nobody put in the effort to reinvent Hindi literature. Also, Indians associate English with class and when people stopped reading Hindi in schools, it became tough to read it even though they enjoyed listening to stories in the language. But Hindi is gaining in popularity and more writers have returned to the fold. The need to revive and rediscover the language persists, but a lot more books are being published in Hindi and the gap is closing, Sachan said. He concluded the session with his poem Woh bas musalmaano se darta tha, influenced by the amended citizenship act and also read out an excerpt from Namak Swadanusar.