Like Khuswant Singh, Arundhati Roy also made it to The Week's list of '25 Most Controversial Indians'. I enjoyed writing both pieces since I admire both writers...
There can’t be another ‘Catch -22’, ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ or even a ‘Gone with the Wind’. Some books, some authors are like that, only. One memorable book and khatam. Place in history guaranteed. They are the blessed ones. For the rest, it’s a slog. One book follows another, follows another, follows another. Till it’s all over. Author gone, books gone. But Arundhati Roy belongs to that elite league of one book wonders. She doesn’t need to pen another. As a matter of fact, she shouldn’t. What could possibly top the spectacular success of ‘The God of Small Things’? Arundhati rewrote thwe rules of the game with her very first book. And with that, she walked into history. Admirers say gushingly, she was probably born with a golden quill in her hand. She is that gifted. It doesn’t matter a jot whether or not she writes another novel or even another line. Her spectacular debut into the literary world will forever remain one of the strongest, most defining moments of the early English writing\publishing scene on the sub-continent . And it has a lot to do with fortuitous timing, a canny literary agent and India’s 50th Anniversary. That’s fate. Fame and fortune meekly followed!
But beyond the Booker – well beyond the Booker – Arundhati would still have made her mark as an original. A very attractive original. It was always there. Today, she may have chosen to step off the conveyor belt of controversy and concentrate on the music of grasshoppers or the dance of spiders, but whatever she chooses to put her petite self behind, is touched by magic – and she is smart enough to know it.
Arundhati breaks rules in style. Starting with punctuation. While lesser writers ( everyone else, stupid!) struggle to get those p’s and q’s in place, here is Arundhati ignoring – no, defying – those silly diktats of some antiquated grammarians, to create her own rhythms, her own unique sentences with capital letters arbitrarily strewn around in unlikely arrangements that challenge common usage. But hey – that’s the whole point! ‘God…’ was a carefully crafted work that scrupulously avoided clichés and forged a brand new language from the same old words – only, Arundhati’s way with them changed everything. She knew exactly what she was doing, even why she was doing it. That book was no accident. It was genius. Nothing about Arundhati is accidental – not even the throwaway acceptance speech at the Booker Awards (“….I was in the loo.”). And certainly not the burgundy coloured silk saree ( looked great in photo ops) she wore for that glamourous occasion. Arundhati’s clever construct is a brilliant marketing device that has been put to great use by her to draw attention to all that she finds wrong with the world ( pretty much everything!). Her passion for the many causes she espouses is not fake even if critics wonder how her focus shifts from the Narmada dam to nuclear proliferation to expressing her sympathy for Maoists ( current concern). The one common thread remains a consistently pro-Left, anti-establishment position that has won her an international audience of like- minded supporters who loyally hang on to her every pronouncement and utterance.
In India, her fan following seems to be dwindling, but blame that on the ATS ( Attention Deficit Syndrome) afflicting Gen-Y.This generation doesn’t read – it tweets. For them the Maoists could be the name of the latest rock group. If it’s not on Facebook, it doesn’t exist. Not that Arundhati cares. Her constituency lies elsewhere – mainly overseas.Seen more as a political activist than a writer these days, Arundhati picks her wars\adversaries very well. She takes it this far, and no further. If she courts arrest, she spends a night… not years… not even a week, in jail. But the international press is invariably around to record these dramatic moments and flash the images to the world. The image becomes the message. It works!
For all that, there is something most compelling about Arundhati Roy. Critics find her calculating, others call her naïve. It is hard to tell whether it is the head or the heart that propels her into taking controversial positions vis-à-vis the state. At one point she had sweetly declared herself a “republic” and threatened to secede from India. That didn’t happen. The guess is she still belongs to the Union Territory and has not raised a personal army so far, nor printed her own currency. But nothing can be put past this ball of fire. India needs an Arundhati Roy. So does the rest of the world.
About 'Avatar' - excuse me for saying this and shattering several illusions - it is no better\worse than any cheesy formulaic commercial desi film. Take away the special effects and huge budget - what do you have? Yet another soppy love story with zero depth . The only thing missing was a rain dance. I also found it condescending and racist, offensive and bigoted. The 'superior' but exploitative white man Vs the nature worshipping natives who are so 'pure' and ... and.... primitive! Good fighting evil...come on, Cameron.... we do it better in India. At one hundreth the cost, too. The dialogues were a joke , rarely going beyond, " Holy shit! Let's go! Let's go. Go. Go. Go!" If it was Cameron's way of sending out some sort of an eco-friendly message via those weirdly conceptualised blue 'savages', I didn't get it. Rather, the package was so obvious and naive, it certainly didn't justify that indecent budget, which, if better employed might have saved many more forests. As for that clumsy kiss between Jake and the blue chick - help me, while I gag. Couldn't the two have just touched tails and connected as they'd been doing all along with those banshees and other bizarre creatures?
Not worth the 3-D glasses - mind it!