Stardust Memories

Talk
It's sort of difficult not to reach out for a pair of rose-tinted glasses in your mind, while looking back at the birth of KJo, the significance of Size Malaika, or how Tulsi Virani drove out Dekh Bhai Dekh from our drawing rooms. The Nineties, like most decades past, remain like middle school group photos —oiled hair, pimples, braces et al. Arnab Ray, now a research scientist in the US, was probably pouring over 'K2H2' pop-up cards with SRK starting to shows signs of post-30ishness, watching Superhit Muqabla, and humming Churake Dil Mera like several of us in the Nineties. "I revel in the 90s, its incongruities and its innocence. Objectivity is for historians. My debut book May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss is intensely personal," says Ray, a popular blogger who can be found at http://greatbong.net.

"My book is a highly irreverent, politically incorrect, humorous look at Indian popular culture of the 90s, a look that encompasses music, movies, politics, television, education, moral policing, weddings, expats and several other random things," says Ray about his compilation of write-ups in May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss (HarperCollins, Rs 190).

Of the several aspects of the decade that Ray touches upon is how what we call 'B-grade flicks', captures the consciousness and reflects the recreational choices of a greater part of the country and how NRIs invaded the Indian subconscious. Bloggers, who have been avid followers of Greatbong, would know that his blog too has more than once dwelt on similar topics. Ray clarifies that while there are some obvious overlaps, the book contains mostly new articles on topics he didn't talk about in the blog or had touched upon just perfunctorily.

Also, a formal transition from a 'blogger' to a 'writer' wasn't a cakewalk. "A blog-post is very immediate in its appeal with a shelf-life of about a week. A book, for obvious reasons, has to have a much longer "period of relevance" and this necessitates a very different kind of writing style, one that requires you to move away from commenting on specific "topical" incidents in favor of more general themes of continual relevance," explains Ray, who grew up in Kolkata. While the book intends to take a humorous look at everything from 'Mithunda flicks' and Bhojpuri songs, Ray has tried to criticize the urban, educated Indian's inclination towards judging markers of popular culture with the same 'aesthetic parameters' as that of world cinema or fine arts. "One of the themes of my book has been that we should celebrate the so-called down-market aspects of our popular culture as they provide a kind of highly original, ears-to-the-ground nourishment that the hype-driven, urbane Bollywood struggles to bring to the table," says Ray.

His repute as a blogger has already ensured a reader-base which most debutant writers struggle for, but Ray says that the same also leaves him to deal with a set of expectations which at times feels like "an Albatross round the neck".

But Ray is leaving nothing to chance. He recently organized a live online interaction with fellow bloggers and prospective readers. "It helped people put a moving face and a voice behind the words they read every few days," says Ray.

He calls his debut book "Kind of like Aesop but with no morals anywhere in the picture" but his next will probably be a full-fledged fiction. "Well almost," he adds, and gets us thinking – the Greatbong way.

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