Superstar India: From Incredible to Unstoppable

Shobhaa De
in conversation with Rosie Goldsmith

Rosie - "I first met Shobhaa when I visited India in 1997 and she introduced me to the wide diversity of India. Recently she was conferred upon the Most Trusted Person of India Award."

In the western world, you are being called the Jackie Collins of India. Do you feel angry about it?

Angry: No. Initially I used to. I think this comparison is as fake as botox. Its lazy reporting and I do resent it. The person who profiled me and tagged me is actually a good friend now. But it doesn't mattter any more.

Is Mumbai or Bombay still your home?

Bombay is a part of what I am, its a part of me. "I hated Slumdog Millionaire." Mumbai doesn't need films to validate it. Its a part of my organic growth.

You are a serious Journalist and you also have a celebrity status in Bollywood. Are these your two parts?

Its just very much a part of my existence. Though it doesn't define me. I am on the top of image not that the image is on top of me. I am very much a product of South Mumbai

Bollywood is not a physical place, its a state of mind. Movie stars live in North Mumbai, celebrity game is upon you how to play.

You were the pioneer of celebrity gossip in India. Do you regret it now?

Not at all. What is showbiz without masala? It was a social commentary. To be able to comment was important. Things changed after I started writing in Stardust. It gave birth to a new language called hinglish. It's not gossip journalism, its social commentary. It's just holding up a mirror and saying what it is. It is journalism.

You are very outspoken. Was it difficult in early days?

Being opinionated is natural. I was lucky I was given the opportunity and the platform. No one tells me what to say. I get a lot of hate mail and threats but I am not complaining, I have chosen this turf, I am not afraid.

Why would you start writing sexually explicit novels?

How much would the man who wrote Kamasutra know about female orgasm? I write to break taboos. Men are writing erotic books about female sexual experiences without being asked to explain, but when I wrote, I was asked to! I have all the right to write a book.

It's about freedom. Very rarely is the story told by a woman in our country. I took a passionate look at my country. I am glad I did write a book. We all have our ways to express.

The publishing industry in India is expanding whereas in west its shrinking. Your thoughts?

I see around 5-6 manuscripts in a week. Its just gets me amazed. The creativity of young people in just amazing.

When Penguin Books launched in India in 1990, a survey carried out by them showed there is no market for women books. But with the commercial success of my book, things changed. I would always go out of my way to make woman's voice being heard.

Was your last book a departure from your writing style?

If a book is within you, it must be written, you can't hold it in your head. Change is me, I have lived the change. I took chances as a writer. Writing is exubarance. I could have stuck to commercially succeessful writing but I like to do what I wanted to do.

How about championing India?

I felt being on the back-foot always defending India. It needed to be said very strongly. It's very critical to many aspects of the country. The book is very 'Yes darling, but.'

I grew impatient with the ignorance by western world. it's about arrogance. I resent cliches and stereotypes.

Your views on the corrupt politicians in India?

Politicians are our elected representative not masters. Young Indians need to be more proactive and demand accountability. Politics is a lucrative profession and when youngsters join it, the become a part of same corrupt system. The voices are not being heard strongly.

Economy- Who's the beneficiary?

Middle class. Issue is not addressed. Poverty generates vote-banks. Some tribals in India don't know they are part of a country.

IT or  Information Technology, do you think its good for India?

Well, we have to admit it brought India on the world map, but it's about harnessing talent.

About the author:

Bestselling novelist, jet-setting commentator and cultural critic, Shobhaa De, is an Indian superstar. A former model and Bollywood journalist, she exposed Bollywood the way Jackie Collins exposed Hollywood.