Meet Mumbai stand-up comedian Sorabh Pant's new hero
Funnyman Sorabh Pant's hero in his new book, Pawan: The Flying Accountant, is a six-foot humanoid who doesn't believe in using his powers to fight wars
How did the opening account by Lord Mountbatten take shape?
The prologue where Lord Mountbatten talks about an invincible humanoid that rescues India's future freedom fighters is not something you'd find in a history book, because it's fictional. Nothing in the novel is actual history. It is set in an India (and China) that is an alternative reality. All relations to characters living or dead are purely ridiculous.
So, tell us a bit about the plot.
The story of Pawan is that of a reluctant hero who doesn't believe in war or even countries. He thinks that borders are a man-made conspiracy to make him pay for visas. He doesn't want to fight or use his powers but be left alone to read his books, brood about life, and drink rum. Despite that, he's dragged into a war that is not entirely his. He is invincible but doesn't want to be. So, he keeps trying to kill himself - and failing, which frustrates him. The story and the climax are about him coming to terms with his truth.
What about the research?
The novel is a sci-fi fantasy. It also features a life-like Chinese robot dragon warring with an Indian superhero. A large part is set in Arunachal Pradesh amidst Indo-China strife. It borrows from mythology, history and today's world. So, I needed to know a lot to get the story right, like the origins of Pawan, the powers of the Chinese dragon, Indo-China relations, Tibet, POVs on both sides, and current affairs. Because, no matter what we believe, wars are fought when both sides think they are right.
It took five years to get the tone right; this was interspersed with me getting distracted with stand-up and earning money to raise two kids. My hero is an accountant, and I needed some world-class puns on accountants. It took 11 tries - the number of attempts an average CA takes to clear the examinations.
How did you go from being a stand-up comic to writer?
Writing novels involves emotional input. You have to know what your characters feel. Writing stand-up involves mental input. You have to be funny. Both are feeding off each other now. My stand-up is getting more emotional and my novels are finding jokes in unlikely places. The story in Pawan has a lot of darkness. But being a comic, I ensured that every page has something to make you laugh, or smile. As a comedian whose work ends at 11 pm and starts at 10 am, it took a lot of readjusting of the alarm clock to work!
Pawan: The Flying Accountant releases in Mumbai on November 30
A line to introduce your book at your show would be... Hey guys - if you aren't sick of my stand-up for two hours, please pick up my novel and get sick of me for another nine.
If made into a movie, who should play the hero? Ayushmann Khurrana and Vir Das gave wonderful feedback for the novel - so they have dibs. Though, they may need special FX to play a six-foot-five humanoid!
Fiction or non-fiction?
Fiction is my novel. Non-fiction is my stand-up. Fantasy is my love life.
If you came face to face with your hero, you would...
I'd offer him food and rum, and ask him about how humans are the worst species. Or, for insight into GST. Either topic would get him going for a few hours.
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