The Storyteller


Soma Basu meets Kunal Basu, the man who gave Aparna Sen the story for her film The Japanese Wife

Kunal Basu, author of three acclaimed novels ~ The Opium Clerk (2001), The Miniaturist (2003), and Racists (2006) ~ and a collection of short stories, The Japanese Wife (2008), would any day be caught sitting idle imagining than found rummaging through social theories, anthropology, area studies and even memoirs.
His graduation in Mechanical Engineering from Jadavpur University was followed by an MS at the Florida Institute of Engineering and PhD at the University of Florida. He worked for an advertising agency, been a freelance journalist, dabbled in filmmaking, and taught at the Jadavpur University for a brief period. He was a professor at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. After a brief stint at IIM, Kolkata, he has been teaching at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. Kunal has strictly stayed away from writing about the Indian diaspora and has wielded the pen, paintbrush and red book with equal fervour.
Son of Chabi Basu, who wrote fiction and had penned Banglar Nari Aandolan, an account in Bengali of women’s movement in colonial India, and Sunil Kumar Basu, a publisher and one of the early members of the Communist Part of India, has politics, theatre and ink in his blood. The Emergency in 1975 saw Kunal joining active politics which led to a period of underground activism. Born in his father’s library of their North Kolkata house when his mother was hurrying to finish a manuscript for her publisher, it was perhaps preordained that Kunal would live a life off the beaten track.
Here are the results of a rapid-fire game that I had with the author.

The Japanese Wife… which one do you like more, the book or the movie?
Both.

Left alone on a boat in the Sunderbans you would be caught doing…
Imagining and writing.

Paintbrush or pen?
Pen for now, paintbrush for a longer period.

Better adda spot in Kolkata: Coffee House or CCD/Barista?
Coffee House.

Increasing Naxal violence?
(Sighs) Unfortunate…

Writing in Bangla or English?
Both.

Street theatre or movie in a multiplex?
Theatre (emphatically).

Charm of north or south Kolkata?
Divided loyalties to both the places.

Most fulfilling exercise for you?
Writing.

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