Rajiv Balasubramanyam - ten interlinked narratives, each ‘starring’ a celebrity to dark, surreal, and often hilarious effect. Fanatical fan boys attempt to digitally lynch a woman for daring to criticise Steve Jobs; David Beckham becomes rabidly politicised...


Rajiv Balasubramanyam, Starstruck, Fiktion, 2015.
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STARSTRUCK is a collection of ten interlinked narratives, each ‘starring’ a celebrity to dark, surreal, and often hilarious effect. Fanatical fan boys attempt to digitally lynch a woman for daring to criticise Steve Jobs; David Beckham becomes rabidly politicised; and Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson make appearances from beyond the grave. STARSTRUCK is a wildly original exploration of the bizarre phenomenon of celebrity. Rajeev Balasubramanyam writes with wit, inventiveness, and compassion to reveal at once the frailty and beauty of the human condition.

Rajiv Balasubramanyam, In Beautiful Disguises, Bloomsbury USA, 2001.

IN BEAUTIFUL DISGUISES tells the story of a sixteen-year-old girl living in a small town in South India. Life is not easy, especially when she’s been blessed with a family that includes a brother who watches TV as an occupation; a father who drinks and regularly bullies his family in alcoholic rage; and a silent, all-suffering mother. Insulated by her dreams of becoming Audrey Hepburn (and daily trips to the local cinema), she observes her family with critical detachment. But her inner world begins to crumble when the inevitable marriage is arranged for her and she runs away to Delhi to work as a maid. There, she falls in with the misfit members of her new household; Raju, the servant with the heart of a revolutionary, Maneka the maid who mysteriously disappears every night, and the seductive but arrogant Armand. But even as she embraces this brave new world she realizes that she can’t run forever. Balasubramanyam writes with an effortless air and a strong sense of mischief, but this lightness is shot through with intelligence and a compassion for human frailty. He has created an unforgettable heroine–childlike but determined, naïve yet shrewd–whose delightful voice resonates through the book.

The unnamed narrator of this promising debut is in many respects a typical teenager--self-obsessed and critical of her elders, projecting a mixture of disdain, irreverence and na‹vet‚. She's a romantic dreamer, convinced that fate will miraculously make her a movie star, although she has never acted and lives in a small village in India. Meanwhile, she views her own life as through a movie lens, comparing herself to Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. But when her father, an alcoholic bully, insists she enter into an arranged marriage with a man she finds repulsive, the narrator takes action. She has the help of her sister's husband's grandfather, a wise old man who is dismissed as senile. With his connivance, she runs away to New Delhi and takes a job as a maid to the troubled Aziz family. This gives Balasubramanyam the chance to portray the lives of exploited servants and the rich, supercilious expatriate colony, a task he performs with humor and dexterity. It's unfortunate, however, that he makes Mr. Aziz and his wife, Ms. Marceau, so eccentric that they're virtually caricatures: the narrator's life in their home fails to seem credible. Yet Balasubramanyam is agile in depicting the narrator's gradual realization that she is not alone in her self-deception about her role in life, and that all people wear masks to disguise their real selves. (Feb.)Forecast: This novel won the 1999 Betty Trask Prize in England, and Balasubramanyam will assuredly take his place among the talented Indian writers of the decade. Though it lacks the power of The Death of Vishnu and The Obedient Father, it could be swept up in the groundswell of current novels whose characters have roots in India. - Publishers Weekly

This perceptive debut novel, winner of the 1999 Betty Trask Prize (awarded by Britain's Society of Authors), is perched skillfully between the real and fantasy lives of a young South Indian girl. With her long-suffering mother and brother, the unnamed girl endures the tyranny of a raging alcoholic father. Inspired by romantic Hollywood matinees, she determines that film stardom is her way out. When she is confronted with an arranged marriage to a rascal, she decides to pursue her dream by running away to The City, where employment as a maid throws her into a reality as harsh as the one she left. Balasubramanyam tells his coming-of-age story with compassion and humanity, showing a thorough understanding of his characters and a disturbing view of the narrator's oppressive world. The prose is light and quite humorous, masking the astonishing depth and subtlety of this work. Essential for those who enjoy contemporary Indian fiction and highly recommended for larger public libraries. - Zaheera Jiwaji

Rajiv Balasubramanyam, The Dreamer, HarperCollins India, 2010.

Shashi: an actor, wealthy, famous, and letting go of his career, his marriage, his mind, and now reality himself.
Lisha: creator of Stoneman, her own private fantasy world within a comic book. Fragile and alone, except for her mother.
In 1986, in Stonewall, Lancashire, Lisha doesn’t know she’s about to die. She doesn’t know that in the darkness outside three boys are circling her house with minds full of hate. And she doesn’t know that, seventeen years into the future, a drunken actor lies unconscious in London bed-sit fighting to save her life.
A mind-bending portrait of post-traumatic breakdown, and a timely critique of Britain’s celebrity and success-based culture, The
Dreamer is most of all a love story that unites Shashi and Lisha not only across time and space, but across death itself.


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