11 February, 2015

#Interview with Rishi Vohra, #Author of Hi-Fi in Bollywood

About the Author:
Rishi Vohra relocated back to Mumbai after completing a Green MBA from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law, prior to which he had an extensive career in the Indian Entertainment Industry. His debut novel Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai was a bestseller and awarded a special mention at the Hollywood Book Festival. He writes for delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW). 
Visit him at www.rishivohra.com

Interview with the Author:

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
I was working in the film industry aspiring to be a filmmaker, while independently directing live shows and for the small screen.  I took a break to pursue an MBA in the U.S.  It was during that time I sat down to write a screenplay but at the spur of the moment, I decided to write a novel instead.  It was then that I realized that I enjoyed this medium of storytelling much more.  When Indian publishing houses expressed their interest to publish my debut novel, ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai,’ I was further encouraged to explore my journey as a writer/author.

What inspires you to write?
Writing brings me joy. Stories keep bombarding me but when one particular story stays in my head for days on end, I know that it’s the one that must be told.  These stories come from my own life so I guess it is my own experiences, both past and ongoing, that inspires me to write.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
‘HiFi in Bollywood’ is somewhat based on my own journey in the film industry.  And I thought it would be interesting to write a different take on the film industry that highlights all the hard work, frustration, and madness that happens behind the scenes.  Almost all the books set in the film industry spotlight the glamour that is associated with Bollywood.

Is there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Books – no.  Screenplays – yes.

Tell us about your writing process.
The writing process is different for everyone.  For me, I have to get the story down first.  After that, the words flow.  But then, time is a luxury so I carry my laptop everywhere and write whenever I can, even if it’s just ten minutes in the waiting room before a meeting.

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
My favourite scene in the book is the one with the protagonist and film star Salman Khan. This is a scene that actually happened between an assistant director and another star.  I had Salman read the scene, before the book was published, and he was kind enough to consent to his special appearance in the book.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
There’s a little of me in every character.  But I guess, the protagonist does imbibe some of my own qualities, mainly the passion with which he wants to pursue his dream despite all the odds being against him.

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
I sometimes forget what I’ve named my characters and have to keep going back to recall them. That’s a quirk that translates from real life as I’m not good with names.

What is your usual writing routine?
I try to write a chapter at a time or at least an hour at length.  But there are times I’m not able to write for days on end.

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
I’m a sporadic reader.  I can’t pinpoint any favourite author as such but I like the books of S. Hassan Zaidi as his books unravel the mysteries of the underbelly of Mumbai.  I’m always drawn towards books set in Mumbai.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
Advice – I can’t remember as no one has really offered me any advice.  Apart from my own publisher, I have not interacted much with people in the publishing industries, be it authors or critics. But one compliment that stuck is “Your books are honest, inspiring, and entertaining.  You should keep writing.”

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Your story should mean something to you if you want it to mean something to readers.

What would be the Dream Cast for you book if it was to be turned into a movie?
Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra would fit well into the film, along with Boman Irani, Vinay Pathak, Gautham K. Sharma, Preity Zinta, and others.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
I spend my free time reading these days.  I like beach destinations and Goa is on the top of my list since it’s so close to Mumbai.

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
I want to be able to visit all the countries in the world and taste wines from each place!

What do you have in store next for your readers?
A book set in Mumbai that explores the complex levels of humanity of the people in it.  I have yet to place it for publication.  This book is based on true stories so I’m very excited about it!

About the Book:
An aspiring filmmaker. The dizzying heights of Bollywood. And a strained father-son relationship.
Rayhan Arora’s long cherished dream is to be a filmmaker in the Hindi Film Industry but his formidable father has other plans… a successful financial career in Corporate America, and a marriage of convenience with Vanita, a medical student in the US.
In a final act of desperation, Rayhan abandons his promising life in California and secretly returns to Mumbai to work as an Assistant Director in Bollywood. The characters he encounters along the way become part of his journey of self-discovery - a self-proclaimed local goon with a penchant for acting; a powerful local politician who wants to marry Rayhan's part-time domestic help, who in turn covets stardom; an angst-ridden, homosexual film director; ego-ridden film stars with twisted agendas; and the mysterious Viola who captures his heart.
HiFi in Bollywood takes the reader from the streets of Berkeley to the film studios of Mumbai; from red-light areas to police stations, and from reality to dreams and back to reality again! 

Goodreads I Amazon

1 Paperback Copy of the Book is up for grabs at my 3 year Blogiversary Celebration Giveaway!


Author's Note:
I grew up in Bombay on a steady diet of Bollywood ‘masala’ movies that sustained my growing passion for filmmaking. Like Rayhan, I too was on the verge of a corporate career in America when a proposal for marriage to an American-born Indian girl (yes, she was a medical student!) rang alarm bells in my head and spurred me to move to India to try and pursue my dream. And I’m glad I did. Otherwise, I would have never truly experienced what it’s like to do something you really love. By the way, I never ended up meeting my prospective bride and I still get a taunt here and there about it.

My own experiences while working in the film industry helped to create the characters and situations that appear in the book. I lived in a one-room rental in Chuim Village as Rayhan does. There, I met many interesting and unique people who have inspired the characters that Rayhan meets while living in the area.

A special mention here - the spot boys on any film set are always working tirelessly. They have no time off, be it while shooting, during a break, or even after pack up. They are the oil that keeps the production machinery going – the unsung heroes. I have tried to highlight this fact very subtly in this book through ‘Superspot’ who is the only character that replicates a real person.

Rayhan’s journey into the film industry mirrors my own in some ways and the message is a simple one – what we want is ours for the taking, provided we are bold enough and desperate enough to reach for it. 

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