Deus ex machina is all very well

Jan 22, 2012, 08:23 IST | Dhamini Ratnam

But nothing, says author Kiran Nagarkar, whose sequel to Ravan and Eddie released recently, will come out of it

But nothing, says author Kiran Nagarkar, whose sequel to Ravan and Eddie released recently, will come out of it

It couldn't have been any other way. Our first meeting with Kiran Nagarkar took place at the airport on a crisp Sunday morning -- and till about an hour before it occurred, we weren't sure it would. But occur it did, and like Ravan and Eddie, we too, were subjected to bit of Nagarkar's narratorial happenstance.

Author Kiran Nagarkar at the launch of The Extras at Max Mueller Bhavan
on January 14. Actor Naseeruddin Shah read extracts from the book.
Pic/Atul Kamble

As things finally fell into place (disrupted the previous night by the sudden realisation that 10,000 Mumbaiites running en mass may, rightly so, put the best-laid plans to rest, especially if they involve taxi rides to the author's Breach Candy home at 7 am to meet him before he leaves the city for a tour), we were struck by how often our life too had its share of dramatic realisations and unforeseen luck that permeate the world that Ravan and Eddie, Nagarkar's most famous characters, inhabit.   
Of course, he wouldn't quite agree with this reading of events, but that's Nagarkar for you. The city is  merely a backdrop to the most unimaginable and unlikely events in his books Ravan and Eddie, and its recently released sequel, The Extras, but, as Nagarkar would say, "Nothing  comes out of it." Well, we disagree, Mr Nagarkar.

Excerpts of the conversation:
Why return to Ravan and Eddie after 17 years?
The two books [Ravan and Eddie and The Extras] started out as a screenplay, a long time ago -- I'm talking about pre-historic times. The first part of the screenplay, before the titles, became The Extras. In those days, Hindi movies had a format -- father, mother, three children (back then it was preferable to have three, because then one could be a Muslim, one could be Christian, and one could be Hindu), a perfectly happy family, in short, who then get separated. There were two ways of separating a family, either a train derailment, or a mafia guy who takes out the father. That is the moment when the children are separated, everyone is in tears, and the titles come on. And in the next scene, the children have grown up. So, in much the same way, The Extras was the prequel before the titles in my screenplay. But, I returned to it and wrote the novel in its current form much later on.

What is the significance of the title?
At no point does anyone consider becoming an extra. One's entire focus is always to be an actor. To Ravan and Eddie's great credit, they knew what they wanted of life. How many of us know what we want out of life? The majority of us just stumble into things. If I was following their lives so closely, then I would have to take cognisance of the fact that although they had no desire to get into anything else but acting, they know fully well that they have no option but to work. The book in fact begins with Ravan's mother Parvatibai's ultimatum, 'No more free meals. You don't work, you don't eat.' Eddie thinks that the only way to get to his acting career is to use even his failures as a stepping stone. Both are very focused and put in whatever efforts are needed.

It's interesting how despite the book's emphasis on single-minded purpose, Ravan and Eddie's lives are decided by fateful encounters. That's very filmy, isn't it?
It is partly, but at the same time, I don't know to what extent that determines they way Ravan and Eddie look at life. I believe in happenstance, but nothing will come out of that. It would look to critics as if, I've taken recourse to deus ex machina, but I'd say bugger off, nothing comes out of it.
The Extras by Kiran Nagarkar published by HarperCollins India. Available in bookstores for Rs 599

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