Even before The God of Small Things hit the world of fame, this female Rushdie of India attracted lot of media attention when she criticised Shekhar Kapur’s film Bandit Queen, based on the life of Phoolan Devi, charging Kapur with exploiting Devi and misrepresenting both her life and its meaning. For sometime Roy was involved as film script writer as well. She even tried her hands at acting in films. Not many remember but Arundhati Roy played a village girl in the award-winning movie Massey Sahib.
(Click on the Image for a Video of an Interview with Arundhati Roy on The Shape of the Beast).
The Shape of the Beast finds Roy fulminating against the 2002 Godhra genocide, empathising with the adivasis of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh and venting against the military operations in Nagaland, Kashmir and Manipur.Through this book Roy has revealed both a personal and social journey.
“In India, people who are politically radical are socially conservative and those who are socially radical are politically conservative – and I’m torn between the two. It is about the same dilemma that I face as a writer. The book is somewhere between the spoken and the written word and answers fundamental questions”, says Arundhati, the architect turned writer.
In these conversations, Roy talks about the necessity of taking a stand, as also the dilemma of guarding the private space necessary for writing in a world that demands urgent, unequivocal intervention.
Five of the fourteen conversations are with David Barsamian, an American radio producer, who has also interviewed the likes of Noam Chomsky, Edward Said and Tariq Ali. Couple of years ago, Barsamian and Roy had co-authored a similar book
Says Barsamian, “She is a strong, courageous woman and has strong thoughts, as do many of the others I have interviewed. She is also mischievous and has spoken candidly on a range of issues that have mattered to her, around her,” said David Barsamian, founder of Alternative Radio.”
In these writings Roy describes her participation in a Narmada Bachao Andolan as, “absolutely fantastic.” She jokes that her Supreme Court charge for “corrupting public morality”-in the case of her novel The God of Small Things-should have been changed to “further corrupting public morality.” She calls on her training as an architect to explain what she means by the “physics of power.” Like a house of cards, she argues that “unfettered power . . . cannot go berserk like this and expect to hold it all together.”
Roy is a spokesperson of the anti-globalization/alter-globalization movement and a vehement critic of neo-imperialism and of the global policies of the United States. She is very critical of India’s nuclear weapons policies and the approach to industrialization and rapid development as currently being practiced in India.
Arundhati Roy who is also vying with Salman Rushdie for The Best of Booker, is popular for her searching and fierce prose. People do await another work of fiction from this celebrated author. Since The God of Small Things (which is now published in 32 languages), she has published two volumes of her non-fiction writing, The Algebra of Infinite Justice (2001) and An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire (2005).
(The Shape of the Beast published by Penguin in hardback cover is priced Rs 499)