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Interview: Vinod Pande says, “There are a lot of books inside me”

Vinod Pande, the maker of the cult classic, Ek Baar Phir, has just released his first novel, The Don’s Wife. The filmmaker, who has directed the likes of Rekha, Shabana Azmi, Parveen Babi, Deepti Naval in his films, has conceptualized an intriguing and unusual female protagonist in his novel.

And now he has tasted blood … Pande is already penning his second.

We have seen many films with a don as the central character. But you chose to write a novel, The Don’s Wife. What fascinates you about the wife?

Yes, I agree that a lot of films have been made on the dons, but not on their wives. I found it interesting to explore the shades in the character of a woman who had no intention of being in a don’s family, but finds herself there because she discovers rather late that her husband is part of the underworld. What makes her story fascinating is how she transforms herself and rises, despite the fact that she once loved her husband deeply. I must add that though the book is named The Don’s Wife, the character of the don is equally amazing.

Can you elaborate?

I haven’t confined myself to the don’s involvement in murders. I have dissected the personality of a dangerous and fearless man, who also has intellectual aspirations. He is a writer who pens book on architecture. He’s a reluctant don.

With this novel, you have crossed over into a new medium. Do you think there is a writer within every filmmaker?

No. Every filmmaker is not a writer. Writing emerges from the deep recesses of your being; the emotions have to be heartfelt. Some people don’t have the sentiments of a writer. There are directors who can interpret the feelings in someone else’s writing; they can give it a visual form and recreate the atmosphere.

Did you hire a writer for your films, ever?

Whenever I hired someone, I found myself with a disaster on hand. When I write my scripts, they are so detailed, anyone can direct them. When I began, I had to write because I had no other choice. I couldn’t afford to pay a writer, so I wrote Ek Baar Phir (1981) myself. But I was not consciously aware that I was a writer. Later, I followed Ek Baar Phir with several other films and TV serials, however, I always tried to run away from writing. It was too much responsibility.

When did you realise that besides being a screenplay writer, you can also write a novel?

I first awoke to the fact that I am a writer after I wrote several screenplays. Somewhere I had a closet wish to write, and I started writing a novel, Beyond Frontiers. This was eight years back. Beyond Frontiers was supposed to be an epic TV serial about Indians who were taken to foreign lands in the early nineteenth century for slavery. But some problems erupted in Doordarshan and Beyond Frontiers was held up. By the time the issue was resolved in court, Doordarshan was no longer a viable option. I thought my serial won’t see the light of the day and I went into deep depression. So I thought ‘Let me snap out of it by writing a novel’.

Which are the elements unique to a novel that you can’t explore in a film?

Several. To begin with, a novel has a huge scale in terms of situations, characters and happenings. You are not circumscribed by financial constraints. There are no limitations to one’s imagination either. For a person like me who has always worked with affordable actors that can be very liberating. I have never had access to big scale filmmaking. In a novel, you can let yourself go completely and go into difficult and forbidden territories.

Was your book commissioned by a publisher?

I wrote the novel first. Thereafter, I searched for a publisher for nearly a year. I was turned down by half-a-dozen publishers. Being a first-time author, you are not taken seriously. Their first answer is regret. I didn’t flaunt my association with films. Even in my career description, I mentioned it but it didn’t matter. I am semi-retired.

Did you discover any of your own personality while writing?

Yes. A novel changes you. I have discovered myself, I am alive. I have discovered that I am a writer. My handwriting is lousy, I am happy we can write on computers now. This space is wonderful. I will not trade it for making only films. There are a lot of books inside me. In my second novel Saanwree too, the theme revolves around a woman. I realise I am drawn to stories that have a strong woman protagonist.

– By Dinesh Raheja, Bollywood News Service

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