A few days ago, the book cover of ‘I Am M-M-Mumbai’ caught my eye. The catchy part about the book title was the way the word ‘M-M-Mumbai’ was written.
Curious to find more about why the word was spelt so, urged me to read the book. I began reading and in no time fell in love with Rudra, the hero of the heart warming story. A beautifully written plot and engaging as it gets, I was immersed in the book.
It’s been a week since I read the book now, but still the story keeps replaying in my head. ‘Rudra, an intelligent, good-looking young man who has been in a long love affair with Bombay, risks it all to have a love story with Bollywood. But, he feels stifled and embittered as his stammering crushes his dreams. He then meets a girl and falls in love with her. This girl gives him a ray of hope; but the ensuing heartbreak devastates him. Life throws him a curve ball, throwing him into a downward spiral. Now, with nothing left to lose, will he conquer all that he has lost?’ I wonder how much effort the writer has put into this fine work to bring to life the entire storyline!
I was still under strong influence of the story when I got the offer of interviewing the author of this very impressive book. I was thrilled with the thought that I will have an in-person conversation with Mr. Rishi Vohra, who by now, had become one of my favourite authors.
Let’s hear about the book from its author.
- Please tell us the story of your book in short.
“The book revolves around a good-hearted young man, Rudra, who faces ridicule and humiliation because he stammers, which is the reason he buries his long-cherished dream of becoming an actor in the Hindi Film Industry. Heartbreak and circumstances push him to rock bottom after which he realizes that the only way up is to conquer his fear and speak. Like my previous two books, I am M-M-Mumbai also is the story of the underdog and has humor, love, heartbreak, dreams, obstacles and drama but the context is very different.”
“Malini Agarwal’s (Founder, MissMalini Entertainment) words give a true insight into the book as she says, ‘I am M-M-Mumbai is an endearing and inspiring story that will resonate with everyone who has ever dared to dream. For those of us who have had a long love affair with Bombay, it’s the perfect bitter sweet love story that Bollywood has told for lifetimes.”
- What is the theme of your story?
“With every dream, there is an obstacle that prevents us from reaching out to it. It’s only when we conquer our fear and work hard towards what we want, does the Universe (in this book, the city of Mumbai) meet us halfway. But we have to give it everything we got.
The unique factor about this book is that it is written from the point of view of a person who stammers. Every person has known a stammerer but not ever person has understood one. After reading this book, hopefully they will”.
- We would like to know more about you. Your family, educational background, profession, etc.
“I have grown up in Mumbai and have done my schooling from Bombay Scottish School followed by two years of Junior College at Jai Hind College. After my HSC in Commerce, a scholarship took me to the U.S. where I completed a Bachelors Degree in Corporate Finance/Multi-Ethnic Theatre & Film at Arizona State University along with core courses in Film Production at Scottsdale Community College. My passion for filmmaking brought me back to Mumbai where I worked with ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakar as a Production Assistant, Sohail Khan and Shimit Amin in their Direction Teams followed by a two-year stint at Sony Television as an On-Air Producer. During my time in the film industry, I also directed music videos, a TV show, stage shows, promos, the ‘Behind the Scenes’ capsules for Sohail Khan’s films and briefly wrote columns for several newspapers.
I proceeded back to the U.S. and completed an MBA at San Francisco State University, a Masters Diploma in Environment Law at World Wildlife Fund and certified as a Wine Specialist from the Society of Wine Educators, USA. I feel the need to keep learning and am currently studying Italian.
I live with my family in Mumbai and am associated with delWine, India’s premium Wine newsletter”.
- Is Rudra’s story your own story? Is this a work of fiction? How did the idea come to you?
“Rudra’s story is not my own story but several incidents are inspired from real life. It’s a work of fiction but some of the characters are based on real people I have met both in and out of the film industry. The woman who Rudra falls in love with, the woman who falls in love with him, his parents, his best friend, people on the film sets etc. are all people I have known but the situations and dynamics are different in the book.
The idea came to me from my own experiences, which led me to do further research on stammering. Sadly, it’s not looked upon as a disability and people don’t really empathise with a person who stammers. In fact, they find it humorous. Even in movies, a stammering character is brought in for comedy relief.
Many people don’t understand how this issue can adversely affect a person’s life to the point that many stammerers choose professions that require minimal verbal communication. There was a pressing urge to tell a story from a stammerer’s point of view”.
- Was it difficult for you to connect with Rudra? Did this story leave any impact on you?
“Like my past two books, I am the protagonist. The story left such a strong impact that I felt compelled to write it”.
- Do you have any contact with Bollywood?
“Now, I have just a few close friends in the Film Industry. The people I used to work with or met through work, I bump into here and there. Since I don’t work in the industry anymore (it’s been more than a decade), it’s difficult to stay in touch. They have tough schedules and are always working”.
- How has your journey with Vishwakarma Publications been?
“CEO Vishal Soni has a solid understanding of the Publishing Industry and nurtures his authors well. In addition, he is very approachable, encouraging and helpful. I do appreciate that he agreed to retain the stammer in the title, which I looked upon as an essential starting point to create some awareness about this issue.
The Vishwakarma Team has been warm, kind and gracious. They have put a lot into the book and the response from readers has been encouraging. It’s been wonderful journey so far. Literary Agent Suhail Mathur couldn’t have found a better home for I am M-M-Mumbai”.