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Horror, Suspense And Crime: Vivaan Shah On His Favourite Books Actor Vivaan Shah's first film was 7 Khoon Maaf (2011). Son to actors Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah, he has been acting in plays and participating in theatre since he was a child.

By Kabir Singh Bhandari

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Vivaan Shah

Actor Vivaan Shah's first film was 7 Khoon Maaf (2011). Son to actors Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah, he has been acting in plays and participating in theatre since he was a child. His first novel 'Living Hell' was published by Penguin in 2019 and he has also directed a play titled 'Comedy of Horrors' which features the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Vivaan's new book is an adventure cosmic horror novel rolled into one, titled The Forsaken Wilderness, published by Simon & Schuster India. The novel is a study of the tyranny of ingrained superstition that reigns deep in the collective Indian psyche.

Here are his three favourite books:

1. My favourite book of all time is Moby Dick by Herman Melville, as it is a book which is essentially, in John Huston's words, 'a blasphemy!'. In his interpretation, which has subsequently become mine as well, it is a book about what happens when a single individual decides to shake his fist at the almighty, and challenge the very powers of wind and earth, and also the divine force whose laws govern reality. He is challenging God to vanquish him and defeat his purpose. It is about what happens when a deranged Captain/leader decides to lug along a boatload of blue-collar workers in pursuit of his goal, and not theirs, or even a collective one. As Huston said, the purpose of a whaling voyage is to furnish the oil lamps of the world, and hence to serve a practical and beneficial function to society. But Captain Ahab, disregarding his duty towards society, decides to chase his duty towards his own madness. It is about the quintessential descent into madness!

2. My second favourite book is Joseph Conrad's Outcast of the Islands, and also Conrad's Nostromo. Outcast of the Islands is one of the most uncompromising portraits of a thoroughly unscrupulous protagonist. It is about a dishonest man, and his falling to pieces. There are moments of poetry, and tranquility in Conrad's prose that are quite unparalleled. It is also one of the earliest critiques of imperialism, and the business interests of colonialism. And is a very mature and profound study of the relationship between the white man and the indigenous people his country has colonized. Nostromo on the other hand is a rousing story of adventure, governance, armed conflict, martial ways, treasure-hunting, and above all courage and character. It is a densely textured book, and is not an easy read but an ultimately rewarding one. It is a vivid work of the imagination with a firm grounding in real world events and politics. In it, Conrad creates his own Republic, Costaguana, and the architecture of his book is almost like a work of town-planning.

3. One of my favourite books of all time, a close tie with Moby Dick, is Jim Thompson's hardboiled crime novel 'The Getaway'. It is just everything I love about the genre. It is a heist novel, a lovers-on-the-lam book, a road noir, a brutal work of bleak poetry and nihilism, a study of the underworld of squalor and criminality, and a psychological hellscape of torment. But it is, above all, a tender love story. Carter Doc McCoy and his wife Carol are the most fascinating married couple in literature. Thompson's way with suspense, action, and idiosyncratic characterization is something that had a huge influence on my second novel 'Midnight Freeway'. His crime novels can also be abstract, somewhat esoteric, and all the more disturbing for their essentially enigmatic quality. The ending of the book in the hellish retreat of El Ray is a work of surrealism and social commentary that haunts and never leaves the reader.

The author can be reached at bkabir@entrepreneurindia.com and Instagram.com/kabirsinghbhandari

Kabir Singh Bhandari

Former Senior Assistant Editor

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