'I write about what I know best'
Kareena Gianani speaks to author-filmmaker Fahad Samar, whose second book, Flash Point, zeroes in on Mumbai’s underbelly as seen by its paparazzi who capture the rich and glamourous
Filmmaker-turned-author and columnist Fahad Samar’s first book, Scandal Point released last year. The Bollywood social satire tried to hold up the mirror to the film industry's sensationalism. His new book, Flash Point, turns the lens to the lives of the rich and famous through the eyes of the paparazzi in the city. Excerpts from an interview:
Fahad Samar's second book, Flash Point, turns its lens on the lives of the rich and famous as seen by Mumbai's paparazzi. Pic Courtesy/Fahad Samar
Q. Is Flash Point born out of your observations of the paparazzi in Mumbai?
A. Over the years, I have observed the paparazzi shooting celebrities on the red carpet and I’ve often wondered what it must be like for them, interacting with the rich and famous with nothing but a thin velvet rope separating them
from their glamorous subjects. Apart from delving into the lives of those that chronicle the lives of Mumbai’s beautiful people, I also wanted to portray the metropolis through the lens of ambitious young migrants who come to
make it big in this maya nagri. Flash Point’s tenor, I feel, is edgy, more of a thriller set in the glitzy, often hedonistic world of fashion photography. I have sought to give my readers an insider’s perspective on Mumbai highsociety and the glamour world. But I also write about the dreams and aspirations and, indeed, the heartbreak and despair of the poor and dispossessed.
Q. What are you trying to tell through your characters?
A. For this novel, I was keen to tell the story of strugglers, underdogs, as it were, who come to Mumbai not only with stars in their eyes but also out of economic desperation. My protagonist, Zeeshan Haq, is an outsider in every sense of the term. A Kashmiri Muslim, he arrives in the city after his father is killed in a mysterious fire that
burns down the family’s photo studio in Srinagar. Working as a paparazzo, Zeeshan is dazzled by the allure of Mumbai and smitten by the beautiful NRI model and aspiring actress, Hazel Haroon. Mumbai is a city where everyone is either on the make or take. I have sought to weave a tapestry of characters that exemplify that ethos. As one jaded paparazzo in my novel says, “One day you can be treading the red carpet in Mumbai and the next day the road carpet.”
Q. Your book is not without its share of satire on high society, its hypocrisy on matters of sexual orientation et al — what helped you essay it accurately?
A. Like most thinking people, I am appalled by the staggering hypocrisy, bigotry and corruption that surround us. I often meet “fat cats” who gleefully ask who my book is based on and I reply with a straight face, “It’s about you!”
We have all become vampires that feed on the depravity of others.In Flash Point, my protagonists are underdogs trying to make their way up in life. Along the way, they encounter all kinds of beasts. Zeeshan Haq is inspired from several paparazzi photographers that I have met over the years. Often celebrities befriend these shutterbugs to ensure that their pictures are featured in the glossy pages. Some send them Diwali gifts or palm them cash at glitzy events. But the paparazzi doesn’t suffer from any delusions and are aware that these publicity fiends are using them. I remember a press photographer telling me how one garrulous socialite, who otherwise makes it a point to air-kiss him whenever he takes her picture, simply refuses to recognise the poor fellow when he doesn’t have a camera slung around his neck. In Flash Point, I have tried to portray this milieu and the symbiotic relationship that exists between the paparazzi and their subjects.
Q. How is Flash Point a significant book amidst all the other pacy Indian writing in English that publishers are so keen to publish?
A. As my publisher and agent keep telling me, I am a strange specimen who has elected to write literary commercial fiction. I am grateful that they neither ask me to dumb down my writing nor do they demand that I intellectualise
it to the point of alienating the mass-market reader. I am blessed to be able to write the novels that I want to write. Both my books, though different in tenor, make strong statements about matters that concern me. Flash Point represents a progression in my journey as a writer and social commentator and I hope that those who found my voice intriguing and fresh will enjoy this novel as well.
Q. What do you plan to write next? Will it be in a similar genre, or would you now like to try your hand at a radically different style?
A. I believe that authors should stick to writing about what they know best. While Scandal Point is a rollicking social satire, Flash Point is a thriller, a dark tale of lust, greed and naked ambition. I am committed to completing my trilogy and have started work on the final installment, tentatively titled Break Point. This book is again different in genre but the perplexing, paradoxical city of Bombay/Mumbai remains the chief protagonist and antagonist
of my work.