Upendra Namburi, the author of popular novels “31” and “60 minutes”, joins us for an interesting
conversation about his books’ premises, heroism, his upcoming works and a lot more…
CB: So, thanks for agreeing to the session of virtual cuppa coffee…
Upendra: A pleasure… Looking forward to a scintillating and stimulating brew
CB: Risking sounding very cliche, your edu/prof background is straight out of the life of many contemporary regional fiction heroes…? An engineer, with an MBA, ending up in a bank… although you give a disclaimer that it’s accidental and coincidental, was your writing escapade a respite from this stereotyping?
Upendra: Guilty as charged. Though the term heroic didn’t occur earlier!
CB: Ahh, heroism gets sadly cage-boxed these days…
Upendra: I’ve refrained from stereotyping and hypocrisy in life and values. Just following my passion for self discovery and expression and writing is my medium of choice. It gets caged in our mindsets and thoughts perhaps. We are all heroes.
CB: I can’t help agreeing with you that writing is a fabulous medium of expression… no better vent to exasperation…
Upendra: Exasperation can only take you so far in writing. Not in the long run for sure. One needs to be true to oneself and the readers. Crocodile tears don’t cut ice for too long
CB: Crocodile tears of the author or the readers? 🙂
Upendra: Tears of the author! 🙂
CB: Ha ha – it has never struck me till now that some works could be authors’ cries of plea to earn some sympath – and thus some readerhood… will look out for that from now on…
Upendra: You’d be surprised!
CB: hmmm… so what do you think can actually help sustain one’s writing for long?
Upendra.: Humility and a never ending quest for learning and exploration? One needs to constantly break away from the shackles and question self constantly. Hence the commonly asked question if my works are autobiographical in nature. It irks me quite often.
CB: well… do you think breaking away from shackles might need quite a bit of self-assurance, and thus, a supression of humility?
Upendra: To the contrary. Humility and self assurance are symbiotic. The intent has to be true to the story and characters. That’s pure writing in my view
CB: Why does it annoy you when asked if your works are autobiograpical? Do you think it insults your prowess as an author and a creator?
Upended: Had written a manuscript which was autobiographical and never published it. I’m very young and hope to remain an infant in the writing journey for a long time to come. That’s the only way to remain fresh in ones writing.
CB: i see… but would you be tolerant of a work that is not to be autobiographical, but has a couple of characters inspired from the author’s real life?
Upendra: Absolutely. As long as the story stays on course and the readers are captivated, it’s all good. I make a deliberate and overt attempt at extricating myself away and yet emoting with the characters.
CB: Well your definition strikes in me another question – you have been writing for a pretty long time even before your debut novel, 31, got released… You’ve had your “Redefined” series of blogs and your blog column in The Times of India… if you critiqued your work objectively, how would you rate the columnist in you versus the novelist?
Upendra: Long way to go on both. I thoroughly enjoyed the columns and even sensed poetry and fluidity in subjects such as payments and loyalty. I thoroughly enjoy writing in all forms.
CB: That’s interesting – I presumed you enjoyed writing the novel much more, because your columns haven’t come out after March this year… There’s the Loyalty Redefined blog, which I guess you posted in, by May… but otherwise would you say that writing the novel ate up too much of your time? Do you find the two writing pursuits a tad cannibalistic?
Upendra: Need to balance my writing. I do tend to get consumed and engrossed and yes it does perhaps tends to impact the other formats. Also need to show up at work to make the mortgage payments! 🙂 I am currently exploring other writing formats including a play, a screenplay for a movie and a satirical novel format as well
CB: 🙂 How has your rapport with people at work changed after your novels got released? I believe it would be easy for people to assume some character in the book referred to someone they know at work – and it wouldn’t be humanly possible for you to add disclaimers to every conversation!
Upendra: My rapport hasn’t changed. But their views may have. Havent dwelled much on the subject. I enjoy the conversations of speculation and conspiracy theories. It’s rather amusing. Only gives me material for future writing perhaps! 🙂 But it’s quite natural and hence don’t bear any grudges on that account
CB: The speculation and conspiracy theories leading to future writing – may make me ask again if that’s not based on your life story, then 🙂
Upendra: always open to inspiration. Not necessarily ‘life plagiarism’ …if such a term exists. 🙂
CB: Well, life plagiarism doesn’t honestly sound so bad to me, as long as it’s based on oneself’s… or if it’s based on someone else’s, as long as due credits are given…
Upendra: A slightly different view and I may not be popular with this thought. There is a difference between journalism and fiction writing. I believe the two should be distinguishable and transparent to the reader. But that’s my view. Am a purist in some sense…. But am all for credits. You will see that in my acknowledgements.
CB: …to which I do agree… I didn’t mean to say I am okay with passing on observations and incidents as inventive writing… it’s mind-boggling when some authors lift plots and themes straight out, and then expect to be hailed as the next best thing to happen to readerdom since richard bach
… and honestly, I know I’ve not pleased everyone with this critiquing stance either – but the consequence and potential acceptance of one’s beliefs should never shape the viewpoints I’d say… 🙂
Upendra: Yes. We are on the same plane!
CB: Moving on to your books, the premise for 31 was a bank – was that easier to write than 60 minutes, which was set in an FMCG? Which would you say took more effort from you to steer out of conventionality and pre-set conditions?
Upendra: I’ve worked in both industries. Banking and FMCG offered a Canvas but it could have been set in any industry. The industries are incidental. But with familiarity comes the need to simplify and present the context in a manner which is simple and engaging for the readers. Sometimes excessive familiarity can become a hurdle in the writing process. They have both been unique and challenging in their own right. But 60 minutes was a more intense and demanding in the writing process.
CB: Why do you say it was more demanding? Was it because your characters in 60 minutes had shades of both black and white, and it was hard to draw a line between good and bad?
Upendra: Absolutely. One is often used to holding onto definitions and categorizations of right and wrong. Good and bad are transient in their very nature.
CB: So can we expect more of this greyness in 8 hours? 🙂
Upendra: Absolutely. Perhaps even deeper shades of grey
CB: I see… and it’s nice that your site offers readers the chance to empathise with your characters from 60 minutes and put themselves in the shoes of the characters…
Upendra: That’s a unique concept which was developed. Possibly the first time in the world basis the research we had undertaken. The perspective is to refresh and redefine the method of consuming a thriller.
CB: Are you going to let us in on the setting and theme for 8 hours yet?
Upendra: Would love to! But there’s a time for everything. Let’s have this: A different industry – Explores friendship and family with a very different perspective – With a lady as the primary protagonist – Starts at midnight – Lots of money, power games, politics and of course passion…
CB: I look forward to reading it…
Upendra: Look forward to your views! 🙂
CB: Well, thanks lots, Upendra, for sparing some time for this interview… Hope you enjoyed answering the questions as much as I did, asking them!
Upendra: A true pleasure. And a sincere thanks. It was a stimulating brew for sure. Follow your passions. Never let go.