Sorabh Pant needs no introduction. An uber-successful stand-up comedian, television writer, and author, Sorabh knows how to capture the imagination of the viewership and readership that tunes in to his thoughts. While we know how his words give wings to our imagination, we had the opportunity of finding out what inspiration lies behind those words.
In a candid interview with Writers Melon, of which this is the first part of, Sorabh Pant talks about comedy, writing, and his last book, Pawan: The Flying Accountant.
Pawan: The Flying Accountant:
Sorabh Pant’s last book is about a demigod called Arjun Singh, who is happy to die. But life has other plans and he survives. Politics comes into the fray and forces Arjun to do things that almost reveals his identity. But will he be able to conceal himself? Sorabh talks to us about why he decided to write a fun combination of mythology and Indian politics.
“I don’t think Arjun gets involved in politics as much as he gets involved in war. And he does that very reluctantly. To be honest, one of the initial drafts of the novel had him getting quite involved in the political aspect of things. I changed it because it was heading off in a different zone. But who better to deal with politics and war than a cynical, invincible superhero? Politicians don’t have a reply to that because most of their power resides in the fact that they can deal with you. The implication in a lot of cases, especially for lower level political strongmen as they are called in U.P., is that they will deal with you physically. And Arjun is a guy who can’t be dealt with like that. I guess every character is a little bit the author. Maybe this is me if I was that guy.”
Pawan – The Inception:
While many authors come up with bestselling ideas in the snap of a finger, the development of such ideas is not an easy task. They could be around for years before something huge actually happens to them. That was the case with Sorabh Pant and his book, Pawan: The Flying Accountant.
“The initial idea to write this came to me in around 2010. It’s been around for 7 years, in a different avatar, obviously. I knew I wanted to write a story about an invincible superhero who deals with pressing issues but he also doesn’t want to deal with them. I think superheroes dealing with issues is not really interesting anymore. Not sure if it’s a millennial thing but we don’t want to deal with stuff, as such. Maybe it’s just me. I’m not going to put it on a generation. I’m just one of those guys who doesn’t want to deal with things but is just forced to because he can.
I know I wanted to write a story about him being involved in a small battle, if not a war, with the Chinese. And I wanted to write it from the POV that understands both sides. I didn’t want it to come off as one of those warmongering rhetoric where there’s only one side’s POV in it. So it took a lot of time to try and understand the Chinese side and how this could be conceivable.”
Pawan – The Research That Went In:
Every author does a fair bit of research for the novels they write. Sorabh Pant talks to us about the research that he did for Pawan: The Flying Accountant and the various versions of the draft that he has seen over the years.
“Pawan: The Flying Accountant is set in Tawang, the tip of Arunachal Pradesh, which is towards China. I wanted to showcase an apathetic Indian government and a misguided Chinese government. So to get into the whole aspect, showing both governments as erroneous in different ways was interesting to me. I also had to research what his superpowers were, how he could fly if he could, where he came from. He also suffers from depression and is a little suicidal. I needed to explain why that was. Just couldn’t be that he is because of no reason at all.
There’s a dragon from the Chinese side which is a giant robot. And I wanted to make that seem as realistic as possible. So I had to do research about lethally automated weapons systems. Over and above all this, the first draft of my novel was not funny at all. It was too dry. So I had to find a crazy amount of humor, characters who would find the humor in it, which I’ve attempted to do with most of my novels. Even in Under Delhi which is the story of a girl fighting rapists in Delhi, it is funny and the humor comes from anger.”
Sorabh Pant – The Entry into Comedy and Writing:
“I got into writing before I got into stand-up. Writing was the thing that I wanted to do, and still do. I’m always very excited about the writing aspect of it. The way I see it, for me, I think of stand-up as me being able to show people my writing. And obviously, me being the person that I am, making juvenile jokes and behaving like an idiot on stage, I’m just trying to spread the love.
Even when I talk about politics in my stand-up, I try and take all aspects of it because I want to be fair to everyone. I don’t believe that only one side is right and one side is wrong. And I believe that my stand-up is me expressing my writing to people. I wrote my first novel when I was 22, which was 14 years ago. And back then, it got rejected by Penguin, I remember. I was so distraught by that one rejection that I didn’t write again for a while. I still think that the idea that I had back then was good.
Stand-up was something that happened because I was a writer. I was writing for TV and the transition to stand-up happened very coincidentally.”
Talking About Issues:
“I do talk about issues in general in my standup. If you follow my YouTube channel Pant on Fire there is a playlist of “Rant of Pant” where I talk about lot of things directly related to issues. Like, religious noise pollution and how you are allowed as much noise you want as long as it tied into a religion. I talk about Ravindra Gaikwad slapping the Air India person and about how violence is perpetuated by political parties in India. And I spoke about racism in fairness creams and how taxation on sanitary pads is a bad thing and recently the government did repeal this decision. I am not accepting any credit for it, but I am just saying that these are things I do speak about.”
Author(s): Sorabh Pant
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Release: November 2017
Genre: Fiction/Short stories
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Stay tuned for the second part of this awesomely fun interview.