Vinod Raman Nair is a notable filmmaker, researcher, writer, producer, thinker, and now a proud author of 3 and The Emerald Stone of Irene. His writing style is quite different from others as he travels around for his muse.
Since he was young, documentaries have been an interest for Vinod Raman Nair, triggering his fascination to be the first person to shoot across the war-torn Gaza Strip. He has worked with various notable personalities around the world. Born in Bombay in 1973, he tries to approach history differently in his book 3 and The Emerald Stone of Irene. This book, written for an audience of 13 and older, takes a thrilling and fictional perspective on Islamic history.
As for advice to aspiring writers, Vinod Raman Nair mentioned that great writers have two things in common. First, they do not want to be praised but want to be understood. And secondly, they do not write for the upper-elite class. Upon asking for his way of overcoming writer’s block, he said he calls it a writer’s clutter and usually stops to watch a movie or play with his son, getting into the process of unlearning till the story calls him back to it. It seems like another fantastic piece of advice for budding writers out there.
In conversation with Vinod Raman Nair about his life and book
What motivated you to become an author and inspired you with the idea of this book?
Well, to start with, I would say it was instinctive. And especially if this was not the story, my journey as an author would have been delayed further, who knows? It practically means the idea came first, and it chose the medium by itself. And to say, what inspired me with the idea of the book is the current day India. Sadly history has turned people into foes. History for some is abusing a few personalities who have stood the test of time. History for others is demonising a section of society. A large percentage of youth is so oblivious of their own history that they can be fed with any misinformation via a mere WhatsApp message. And the responses are robotic. Some brilliant writers and academicians did try to diffuse the demons with their various books. But the issue here is most of these books are highly academic and can resonate only with the elite. The real vulnerability lay at the bottom of the pyramid. I wanted to do something which could try and upturn the idea of history. My argument is that history is not about timelines or personalities. History is about great civilisations that walked this planet, their rise and fall. It’s about their contributions that took the world from where it was to where we stand today. And I wanted to tell it like a story so that even a 13-year-old can enjoy it. And when the story started taking shape, I was in a dilemma. Lot of details I was bringing in faced the danger of getting lost in transit. And it was my dear friend Kashyap Chandhock, who motivated me to turn it into a book. He made me realise that a film could only be an extension of this story.
How was your experience working with several notable personalities around the world?
I should say it was a highly enriching experience. The Koreans are honest to their tooth. The white men are receptive to ideas though they start off looking at a dark-skinned man differently. The Chinese are so much like us. And the Arabs are very friendly people. Mustafa Altioklar was a man with great passion and childlike energy. He would always encourage meaningful arguments. Alex Goldwin and Jac Prinz were intimidating guys, but it was fun working with them. They had some wrong notions about Indian culture. Thankfully I didn’t have to depend on WhatsApp to defend the land I was born in. We ended up going on treks, cooking and farming as we built our scripts. Irkali opened me up to East Europe. Despite being a great star in Ukraine, his humility was unmatched. Kwon Taek was exemplary in his craft. We spent days together talking about the Indo-Korean relationship from the days of the Japanese invasion. Koreans detest spicy food and Kwon often had a nightmare with an Indian like me. I have never seen a more organized producer than Stanely Huntsman. An honourable man he is, a man who understands what the project demands. The best part was that they were all well-read guys, articulate and had the heart to listen to opinions.
As a self-confessed history buff, at what age did you get intrigued by History?
Right from my high school days, when I was introduced to Leo Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, RK Narayan, Sarthchandra, Manto, or that matter Premchand, I was in complete awe of them. Their works were compelling, an intricate dissection of an era, laced with a deep understanding of the socio-economic challenges and most importantly, standing up to the spirit of man. What else is history but the testimony of an era, events that happened around it and the effects it had on ordinary lives? I loved every bit of it.
What was the journey like towards the release of your book?
Oh my god! I was nervous at first. But, luckily I had got on with a seasoned Publisher at Notion Press, who believed my work in testing times. I always wondered if my book would pass the test of controversies with the publisher. Islamophobia is the new norm. Further, I had not tested the book with a reader. So I tried it with my 13yr old son. I did not brief him anything about the book and just told him it was an adventure. Those were two nervous nights by the time my son read it. He told me the action sequences and thrilling moments were great. He also told me he was learning about the Abbasids in the school. He was excited to know that Algebra was originally Al Jabr, a contribution of the Arabs to the world. I felt happy that he could understand the tool I had used to tell history. The next was the formal launch, and I should tell you I had a wonderful young team handling this for me. Connecting Dots and Talentela absorbed most of the pressure for me.
Having garnered interest from Bollywood film studios, which artists would you like to see on-screen, bringing your book alive?
This is like asking me for a wish list. Well, if the movie had been made in 1970-80, my wish list would have been Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor as ‘3’. The girls would have been Zeenat Aman, Mumtaz and Neetu Singh. If it is made today, Hritik Roshan / Shahrukh Khan, Rajkumar Rao, Ranveer Singh as ‘3’, and as for the girls, I am all confused.
Are there any upcoming new projects we should be excited about in the coming new year?
I am almost ready with another manuscript. This time it’s a bio fiction named ‘THE GHANEKAR DIARY’ timed to the Agra Summit when Mushraff visited India to meet PM Vajpayee. This should be out in March. My research trip to Iran got delayed due to Covid as I am working on the 2nd instalment ‘3 AND THE BEADS OF ZORASTER’. This is slated for an August launch.
All Images Courtesy: Vinod Raman Nair Instagram.