A Handful of Sunshine
Author - Vikram Bhatt
Publisher - Penguin Random House, Rs 299
Vikram Bhatt is always making our hearts beat faster — from giving us horror and thriller films to writing a heart-warming romantic novel. In an interview, he tells AVANTIKA BOSE more about his thoughts on love in the contemporary times
Can you tell us about your first novel A Handful of SunshineIJ
This book is about a second chance at first love. We think that love will come again and again so we let it go. The arrogance of youth is such that we feel that love is a recurring thing but what we don’t understand is that true love comes sometimes just once and sometimes never. This novel highlights how we let go of love foolishly and is also about a couple that is caught up in that vortex.
From directing thrillers and horror movies, what made you write a novel and that too a love storyIJ
A lot of people ask me this question, but I am not what I make. It’s like saying, how can a cobbler talk intelligent things, as he’s a cobbler but that’s his profession. You cant judge a man’s intellect by what he chooses to sell. That’s like saying that you’re as intelligent as the trade you choose. I feel that's unfair; it’s a generalisation. The reason perhaps why I decided to make horrors and thrillers is that I don’t have the patience for stars to give me dates and all the other genres requires stars and I am someone who wants to make a film and wants to make it fast. And I like to scare people on screen as well but that doesn’t mean that I cant write a heart wrenching love story.
Which filmmaker has had the biggest influence on youIJ
Mahesh Bhatt is definitely my mentor, he’s my guide, I’ve learnt life lessons from him. He has taught me less of filmmaking and more of life — and how you look at life according to me is filmmaking or storytelling. I remember once the both of us were sitting and watching this documentary on a grave-keeper in Pakistan and how he used to rape dead women in the graveyard. I was so appalled. However, Mahesh Bhatt Sahib or ‘Boss’ as I prefer calling him, looked at me and said, “Can you imagine the loneliness of this man”.
I just looked at him and told him that only he could’ve thought of an insight like that. So that’s a life lesson you see, to have the ability to look at the sad part of a criminal’s life. And that’s what stories are about; they are about insights of a unique nature to very normal emotions.
Who is your dream artiste, with whom you would love to collaborateIJ
I wish I had the fortune of working with great writers like Shonda Rhimes, Aaron Hawkins, Jeffrey Archer, Stephen King — all these great gurus
of writing. I just want to sit quietly in
a corner and watch them work and learn from their genius.
You have written web-series as well; in what ways did making these help youIJ
Web is a very different platform of story-telling. It gives you the power of exposition and you can slowly build it up. You have enough time and of course, you don’t have the pressure of censorship and theatre, and single screen and multiplex and the world is your oyster — it has a world audience. It’s great actually, just like a kid in a candy store for a storyteller.
What do you love about directingIJ
The thing I love about directing is that it helps me take my stories on screen. If there was a way by which I could do it without understanding this, I would love to do it.
What do you feel is missing in entertainment todayIJ
I don’t know what is missing in entertainment today, really. If I knew, I would be making one hit film after the other. But I definitely know what is not appealing to the audience. I don’t know what will appeal to them but what is not appealing to the audience is packaging. They’re not just happy with a glossy look and a star or a multi-million dollar film. They want more. They want stories, they want to feel stories and they want to taste the content much more.
Did you in any way relate with the character Veer, the protagonist in your bookIJ
Veer is me, but so are Akhil and Maya. There’s a line in the book which says ‘Everybody is somebody’s fool’ and I think we’ve all been on both sides. I have seen my love being rejected, I
have seen tremendous passion which has gone unrequited and at the same time I have been the one who has rejected and I have been the one who has been difficult to get for someone else. I’ve been in the giving as well as the receiving end. So Veer, Akhil, Maya, Kavita — they’re all in me, they’re all me and they’re all parts of me.
Do you believe in writer’s blockIJ
I don’t think writers block exists.
It is an excuse for people who don’t have or know a story.
Who’s your favourite authorIJ And what kind of books generally grab your attentionIJ
My favourite short story author is Roald Dahl and my all time favourite author has to be a choice between Stephen King and Robert Sutton.
I read two books at one time — one non-fiction book and a fiction one.
Is there any advice you would like to give to aspiring writersIJ
My advice to aspiring writer is what Stephen King had said in the past, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticise it”.
Basically, it means that when you write your first draft, don’t think that the world exists outside, there’s no one there but you and the paper. Write whatever you feel. Don’t try to impress anyone. Don’t think who’ll read it, just imagine that you’re telling this story to yourself. Write whatever you want and then rewrite it as if everyone will read it.
While writing this novel, did you try to be original or did you deliver to the readers what you felt they wantedIJ
As far as A Handful of Sunshine is concerned, it’s me bleeding on the pages. I just put my heart out there and the fact is that people — the movie going audiences, the readers etc — are very fair. They’ll pick up a book to like it. I mean, nobody picks up a book to dislike it. The public, you see, is generous; what I mean is, they give you a long rope to entertain them. But even after that, if you fail to deliver constantly, they come out sad or rather angry for that matter. Fortunately for me, whoever has read the book has received my heart with equal amount of compassion and affection.
Do you think that the love that Mira and Veer shared is something that’s only limited to romantic fictions or movies and doesn’t exist in the real worldIJ
Of course it exists. I think love exists and I also think that deep love exists. It’s just that we as a society have become too uncompromising and we want it our way or the high-way. But to say that passionate love doesn’t exist isn’t facing the problem. The problem isn’t that love doesn’t exist. The issue is that it’s very rare that two people love each other the same way — more or less it’s one sided.
What is your philosophy in life that influences your creative workIJ
My philosophy in life is, “Whatever you do, you’ll be forgotten”. So even if you make a pyramid you will be forgotten because everyone will know about the pyramid but they will not necessarily know the pharaoh who made it. So the sands of time will ultimately erase everything.
Tell your stories, have a blast, don’t look for the hall of fame, basically don’t live a tortured life to be remembered after you’re gone.