'My book is a work of fiction, not friction'
Fahad Samar on his new book, Scandal Point, and why it is not only for the mass market but also for those who enjoy more serious literature
What prompted you to write Scandal Point? Tell us about the experiences, or things you may have overheard over time, whichlent themselves to your book. And why did you choose to write it now?
Several friends, some of whom happen to be editors and writers, have been reading my columns in newspapers and magazines over the past 15 years. They urged me to write a full-fledged novel and so, about two years ago, I finally decided to take the plunge. Scandal Point tells the tale of two young rivals, one a handsome star son poised to be launched in Bollywood and the other a drug-addled playboy from London who checks into a rehab clinic in Mumbai. I have long been an observer of the foibles and shenanigans of Bollywood and high society and felt this was an ideal milieu within which to frame my story. Someone asked me how long was Scandal Point in the making. I replied that it took me one year to write it and 30 years to research it.
To what extent is Scandal Point inspired from people you know?
I would be lying if I said my novel doesn’t borrow from real life. No writer exists in a vacuum and there are always stories that inspire or influence you, even if subliminally. But, in India, truth is always stranger than fiction. No matter how outrageous a tale I might write, one has only to pick up the newspapers to read about some scandal that is far more sensational and sordid than anything I could have ever imagined. The novel is peppered with a slew of characters that readers will find familiar from randy film stars and buxom socialites to corrupt cops and wily godmen. Eventually, it’s the freshness of approach and the ability to infuse twists in the tale that makes Scandal Point such a rollicking read.
The past few years have seen several tell-it-all narratives written by those within the fashion or Bollywood industry (Wendell Rodricks, for example, wrote The Green Room). How, according to you, does Scandal Point stand out from the rest?
Scandal Point is a work of fiction rather than friction. I set out to write a wicked, well-crafted page-turner that would both inform and entertain readers. It doesn’t intend to be autobiographical or a searing behind-the-scenes expose about the rich and famous. On the contrary, it is a social satire with traditional elements of good storytelling: compelling characters, a strong plot, fast-paced narrative with unexpected twists and turns, and incisive social observations. Scandal Point is as much a lampoon of the super rich as it is a comment on our obsession, as a society, with media and celebrity.My publishers slot Scandal Point as literary commercial fiction. I am not only writing for the mass market but also for readers of serious literature, like me, who enjoy a rollicking yarn.
Tell us about the things that did not make it to the book.
Since my novel is titled Scandal Point, it is expected that it will contain some racy and salacious stories. But readers will realise that these are deliberately ironic given that I am writing a social satire about our obsession with sex, scandal and celebrity. What was gratifying for me was that my publishers, Harper Collins, didn’t want to change a word of my manuscript. There was zero pressure to add or subtract anything so I am grateful that my debut novel didn’t suffer any censorship. I was allowed to write the book I wanted to write.
Similar books have often relied on cliches and stereotypes to push sales and readership. How, in your opinion, does Scandal Point make or break stereotypes surrounding the tycoons, the actors, the media glare and so on?
In Scandal Point, I have employed social satire to hold up a vanity mirror to the high and mighty. It’s easy to be disparaging of the milieu inhabited by spoilt rich brats and their power crazy parents. It was a challenge to write about the humanity and heartbreak of Ricky Kumar, a star son and Gautam Goyal, a drug-addled playboy who has done nothing but snort and shag his way through life. Though my observations are often barbed, there is enormous affection for my characters. I am less sparing of those that abuse positions of authority like journalists, policemen and politicians. But rather than simply rant on what ails our society, I am sympathetic to both a billionaire coke head from London and a Nigerian drug dealer who finds himself a victim of racism in India. There is no point taking a year off from work to write a novel if all one is doing is dabbling in cliches.