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Book launch brings 'old rivals' Vinod Pande, Mahesh Bhatt together

Saanvri: The Story of a Concubine, the second book of the Ek Bar Phir (1979) director, was unveiled in Mumbai on 25 November.

Joy Sengupta, Vinod Pande, Mahesh Bhatt and publish Bikash Niyogi launch Pande’s book Saanvri. (Photo: Shutterbugs Images)

Sonal Pandya

Writer-director Vinod Pande burst on the scene almost four decades ago with his film Ek Baar Phir (1979) starring Suresh Oberoi and Deepti Naval. He continued making films in the 1980s and moved to television with shows like Air Hostess and Reporter. The former BBC broadcaster returned to films in the new millennium with Sins (2005).

Vinod Pande. Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Pande now focuses his energies on fictional writing and launched his second book, Saanvri: The Story of a Concubine, published by Niyogi Books. The event was held at the Title Waves bookstore in Mumbai and filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt was the chief guest at the event.

Pande’s book is inspired by the real-life story of midwife Bhanwari Devi from Rajasthan that shocked the nation in 2011. He thought then to write a fictional version where the woman turns around her situation from becoming a victim to a manipulator herself.

Niyogi Books managing director Bikash Niyogi introduced the two filmmakers after the unveiling of Pande’s book. Pande spoke honestly about venturing into writing. “In the moment when you are trying to search your entire being what the devil to do, you suddenly find that there are no calls. Then you have to do something. You try to reinvent yourself. What is it that you can do?”

He tried to write his first novel, Beyond Frontiers, which he also thought he would make into a film or a television series on Doordarshan. But he abandoned that idea. “Along that journey of writing, it occurred to me that there is an achievement to it, so I started writing Don’s Wife. I gained my courage through it. Saanvri: The Story of a Concubine was born after. The nicest thing that happened was you get a sense of fulfilment that whatever you want to say, you say.”

Pande marvelled at the freedom writing brought him, saying, “There is no restriction on writing. This became the refuge. I’ll be honest with you. It became a therapeutic exercise. When you succeeded in writing one page, the high that one got was wonderful. That’s what happened to me.”

Pande is already halfway through writing his third novel, called Destiny. He did not rule out films entirely, though. “I would like to make films if I can. There is a very unemployed director. So everybody, I am here,” he stated.

Vinod Pande, Mahesh Bhatt and Bikash Niyogi at the book launch. Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Mahesh Bhatt spoke warmly about Pande’s new venture, calling him a friend and “once my rival”. He said, “We began our journey almost at the same time. He had made Ek Baar Phir (1979), then he was making Yeh Nazdeekiyan (1982) and I was making Arth (1982). He was the whizz-kid from BBC. Somehow, I managed to survive the pyre that [the industry] had already arranged for me. The industry is too keen to write people’s obituaries.”

Bhatt also spoke about another individual who tied the two filmmakers together. “There is an extraordinary human being called Jai Dixit who was my professor at St Xavier’s and Vinodji’s writer. We, in a way, have been strangely stitched together.”

He lauded Pande’s truthful confession calling writing “a refuge”.

Pande also recalled how he was moved after watching Bhatt’s Arth and how he barged into his home and shouted, “I’m angry with you, I’m jealous of you, how dare you make such a beautiful film!”

Joy Sengupta reads from Pande's book.
Photo: Shutterbugs Images

After the filmmakers had had their say, film, theatre and television actor Joy Sengupta read several sections of the book to the audience. The paperback, Saanvri: The Story of a Concubine, published by Niyogi Books, is now available online and in bookstores.