Penning stories while changing cityscapes

Seoul residency honour for writer Pankaj Dubey with Chaibasa roots

By Antara Bose
  • Published 3.05.16
Pankaj Dubey (second from left) at his book launch in Jamshedpur last year

He's written a bona fide best-seller, worked on Bollywood film scripts and is planning his first directorial venture later this year.

And, amid the hurly-burly of a "million things", the Ranchi boy who grew up in Chaibasa, the 37-year-old Pankaj Dubey, now best known as the author of What a Loser (2014), will go to Seoul to represent India at a two-month writers' residency to recharge his creative batteries with the likes of Purevkhuu Bathuyag, one of Mongolia's best known authors and poets, and Sinta Yudisia from Indonesia.

From May 6 to July 5, Dubey will be at the residency organised by Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture in association with literary magazine Asia. The two-month programme, to be held at Seoul Art Space, is a part of Asian Literature Creative Workshop.

"The residency's theme happens to be City and Literature in 21st century," Dubey told The Telegraph over phone from Mumbai, where he currently resides. "I will have to write fiction and non-fiction pieces making city an important character in the narratives. Frankly, it is something I am looking forward to," he added.

The changing geographies of towns and cities have played an important part in Dubey's own creative landscape.

"I grew up in sleepy Chaibasa and Jhinkpani," he said, but his life took a different turn since then.

Dubey went on to his bachelors in history and law from Delhi and masters in applied communications from West Midlands in England, had journalistic stints with BBC World Service London and TV Today Group in New Delhi and finally settled in Mumbai, where he works as a writer and scriptwriter-film-maker, contributing to scripts for films like Ghanchakkar and Chouranga and making two short films.

But, despite the city-hopping, Dubey, who is a rare bilingual writer comfortable in English and Hindi, feels he knows small-town India like second skin.

What a Loser and its Hindi version Loser Kahin Ka tells the story of a naïve boy from Bihar who gets sucked in the whirlpool of Delhi college campus politics.

What critics noted about the story was the way Dubey fleshed out the nuances of the small town as well as the big city. And, he will don the director's cap for his first film, a cinematic adaptation of What a Loser, which goes on floors this September.

It's evident that Bihar excites him. "Yes, I grew up in Undivided Bihar, so my stories have that influence," he laughed.

After Ishqiyapa: To Hell with Love, a well received book published by Penguin in 2015, and which also has its Hindi version, Dubey's also working on his new book, Love Curry, which takes What a Loser's story in London. And, Dubey can't wait to go to Seoul to start writing at the residency.

That's a lot, but Dubey believes in travelling light, metaphorically.

"I like to work on my ideas for my inner growth," he said. "The trick is to keep growing."