The play goes on in the blood, and the stage feeds the soul. His accomplishments are many, but he is known as an artist in films like most Saat Khoon Maaf, Happy New Year, Bombay Velvet and A Suitable Boy Netflix web series. Yes, we are talking about the multi-talented Vivaan Shah.
Originally from Mumbai, the writer-actor was born in 1990 and has been making and performing theater since its inception. A graduate of Doon School, Dehradun, she has worked in a variety of artistic fields, from being a comic writer in her childhood to a literary character in the lives of film and theater actors and adults.
Vivaan’s first novel, Living Hell 2019, was published by Penguin India. In the same year, HT Brunch published the story The Reptile Kind, and another – Entombed, a short horror fiction, was published by The Hindu Businessline.
Influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, his directorial play was adapted from the works of Horror Comedy Poe and Ambrose Bierce.
Her latest book, Midnight Freeway, published in 2021, tells the story of a slightly uncomfortable lawyer and a brave, honest and spectacular maverick. The book is a “Sindhi noir” that reveals the darkness beneath the Mumbai mafia and sheds light on the ugly connection between real estate moguls, builders, mafia, car dealers and politicians.
After working on 5 films and three web series, and with many projects underway, the writer-actor is also working on publishing his third novel, which he says will still be his most ambitious project.
We at BookGeeks were lucky enough to have a tete-e-tete with the young and talented Vivaan Shah, and we took a look at her unbridled creative world. Here’s what he means by his passion for literature, his love of theater, his writing, and his latest book.
|Tell us about yourself. Who is Vivaan as a person? What are their likes and dislikes?
|I am a person who managed to establish himself on a fairly early basis in life and decided to dedicate himself to it. Literature came into my life in a very significant way in my early thirties, and I have been a prose practitioner ever since.
Previously, I was mostly a playwright. Prior to his childhood, he was a comic book writer. The most liberating of the prose medium seems to me to be the only art form other than drawing, other than a pen and paper. It is not a form that depends on physical resources.
My aesthetic also came up pretty early on and I realized pretty clearly what I was doing and what I didn’t like, when it came to artwork. One thing I don’t like about literature is minimalism, short cut sentences, and staccato rhythms. I prefer the flowery and ornate phrase of Poe and Conrad. I like works that are thick, not necessarily dense but thick in material and meaning.
|Take us from your experience as an actor? What has been the most exciting role of your life?
|My experience has been diverse as an actor. There have been projects that I have enjoyed playing the character a lot, and I have learned a lot from them, and others that have given a touch of fatigue to all the effort.
I have been working in the business for 12 years. They have made 5 movies, 3 web shows and other films waiting to be released inside the can. I am grateful for my opportunity to be an actor, and I am happy to be in this profession. I find greater joy in acting on stage.
My favorite part of the performance so far was one of the narrators of Edgar Allan Poe when I performed the story ‘A Tale of the Ragged Mountains’ on stage. I was really able to absorb the oratory and Shakespeare’s diction that never enters the screen.
|Bring us your latest book Midnight Freeway. What can readers expect from this?
|The book is basically a monologue of a madman. It is an examination of the first person of a criminally crooked mind.
Inspired by Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me and Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, our unstable narrator continues his journey through the eyes of the reader through the course of some truly incomprehensible events that illuminate his psyche.
Not for the faint of heart. It’s a disturbing book, as well as a humorous one, with satirical elements, but most of all, a hard and nasty paper fiction book.
|When did you conceptualize the idea for Midnight Freeway?
|In 2017. The first chapters were created almost from a kind of automatic writing, as the Surrealists would call it. The rhythms and cadences came fully formed and came out of the tradition of slang used in hard fiction over the ages. In moments of joy, the novelist feels like he is truly a stenographer and is noticing everything that the imagination throws at him.
|How long did it take for the whole process to be published?
|I started writing the book in April or early May 2017, and completed my first draft in September 2019. Then I sent the manuscript for the first time. There was a long wait, and Covid continued, which extended the process even further. The waiting process for this book was endless.
|Are you a disciplined or spontaneous writer?
|I can be both. Clifford Odets once said that the writer must also know how to be a skilled technician. One should not only see oneself as an artist. I hope to think of myself as someone who is proficient in technique and capable of putting it into artistic and pragmatic goals. When I write a novel, or a short story, or a play that is a complete artistic endeavor, I can allow it to be treated as a true art form.
Anyway, at least I didn’t go down without explaining myself first. in fact, I’m often writing about topics I’m not interested in, and writing stories that I don’t feel like writing. This is basic. Ability to do that. As an actor and writer. Bread and butter and milk and honey. Both are key events in life.
|What is a normal day like for you?
|If a play is up and running, I’m in rehearsals and I’m involved in other aspects of the production as well. If I’m filming something, then a daily order and routine is created and that’s always welcome.
However, if nothing else by vocation happens, I am only able to write, edit, compile, organize, organize, cannibalize, draw from old records, pick up old hard drives, pick them up. pen and paper or otherwise something is being done in the word document of a laptop.
|How different was the experience of writing Midnight Freeway and the experience of writing Living Hell, your first book?
|Both are similar in gender and environment. Both deal in part with the belly and subculture of the streets of Bombay. The Living Hell was Mian Bhai’s novel. If you want a Bumbaiya novel about Bhaigiri and the Muslim underworld in Bombay.
Midnight Freeway, on the other hand, is what I would call a Sindhi Noir. Here the villains and criminals are businessmen, and they wear suits and ride in elegant cars. Bandra-Khar is located in a tough business environment for car dealers, lawyers, builders and politicians.
|Has your experience as an actor helped you in your writing?
|Definitely. They are both about communication. Acting and writing are similar disciplines and complement each other. While I was performing Edgar Allan Poe’s work as a stage actor, I first noticed syntax and rhythm and compositional styles.
|What else do you like to do when you’re not writing or acting?
|The stage has always been a dream arena for me. I’ve been dreaming of doing one of my plays since I was a kid. I hope this dream comes true. Otherwise, I’m constantly engaged in theater. It’s my life and it’s one of the most important aspects of my life.
|Any new projects you are currently working on?
|My third novel is due out soon, in the middle of this year. Waiting for that. It’s an outlet for me. My most ambitious book so far.
Buy a copy of Midnight Freeway using the link below.