‘Delhi is more fashionable and image conscious than New York’

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Tulika Mehrotra 27, Writer
Tulika Mehrotra 27, Writer

You have been a writer and a journalist in the US; why set your novels in India?
I grew up in Chicago, but visited India often. My parents left India in the 1980s and they talked of a different India. When I visited the metropolitan cities here, I was stunned at the acceleration of growth and the amount of money injected into the Indian market by global entities. No one was talking about it in the US. Rather, Indians are still identified through stereotypes in the West, which is oblivious to the fact that Delhi is more fashionable and image conscious than New York. I wanted to project this to a larger audience.
Could you draw a parallel between the Indian and the Western film and fashion industries?
Both are world-class industries, where revenue is the bottom line. The major difference in fashion lies in how the Western industry is mature while the Indian scene is rapidly growing. As for cinema, Bollywood just celebrated its centenary and is way ahead of Hollywood, even in terms of fan base.
How did you research these industries for your novels?
My objective was not to write solely about film and fashion but reflect this generation; how it deals with ambition, drugs, homosexuality and a million other issues. I interacted with a lot of young people, attended fashion shows and closely saw backstage goings-on. I talked to the likes of Prakash Jha and Tarun Tahiliani.
How true are the stereotypes associated with glamour?
Where there’s smoke there’s fire. Clichés do amount to some truth. But I’m not making a blanket statement. Although the casting couch does happen, it’s not as if the entire industry is into orgies. People choose to behave in a certain manner. You might find some who live up to the stereotypes that are associated with the industry but you will also find the ones who don’t.
Who or what inspired your protagonist Lila?
I made a mistake that every first time writer makes — I wrote my book as a very autobiographical account. But I realised that I wasn’t touching the very relevant subjects of anorexia, drug abuse and racism by writing about my life. I had to dig deeper. All these elements cumulated to give shape to Lila.