Daily Archives: December 14, 2010

Book launch: Red – Full Blooded Romances

Are you in the mood for romance? Some lusty, red-blooded desi romance? Then Chennai-based Pageturn Publishers have just the thing for you. Two things, actually — the first two titles of their Indian romance imprint “Red — Full Blooded Romance”.

The two books “Dewdrops at Dawn” (by Sahana Sankaran) and “Together 24 X 7” (by Sunita Suresh) were launched at Full Circle bookstore at Chamiers recently, with heart-shaped brownies and chocolates and a panel discussion on romance and relationships that featured actor Abbas and his designer wife Erum Ali, VJ Paloma Rao, and designer husband-wife duo Vivek Karunakaran and Shreya Kamalia.

The panel discussion tended to veer off course a little, dealing not so much with heady romance and passion as with the trials and tribulations of marriage and relationships in the urban Indian milieu. But the books, luckily, stay right on course, reproducing those escapist romantic formulas so familiar to Indian readers raised on a steady diet of Mills & Boons and Harlequin Romances. Only, these fantasies have a decidedly desi twist.

“Sunita (Suresh) and I both love reading romances, and a couple of years ago, we met over coffee at Sangeetha and got talking about how there were no romances for Indians, and how we were always reading romances set in another ethos,” said Sandhya Sridhar, who started Pageturn along with Sunita and R. Venkatesan last year. “So we started thinking, why not do it ourselves? And, idea took root.”

The first two titles — slim pastel-coloured volumes priced at Rs. 89 — hit the shelves in mid-November, with two more to come this month and every month after that. “We’ve received e-mails from people asking about where the books are available and such, but overwhelmingly, the query has been — ‘Can I write for you?’ ” said Sandhya with a smile. “And, not just from women either; we’ve had quite a few men asking!”

Over the next couple of years, Pageturn hopes to branch into different genres of romantic fiction, such as teen romances (“we already have a couple of teen writers working on books”), historical romances (“we’re always reading Victorian romances — think about how much potential there is with our history!”) and graphic romance novels. Later, the plan is to diversify into graphic novels in general and mass-market travelogues.

For now, though, the focus is finding quality writers for their desi romance imprint. “Our aim to get as many new writers as possible on board from across India, so our books are reflective of our country today,” she said. “We want our readers to be able to identify with these stories, and feel like, ‘Hey, this could happen to me!’. That’s what romance fiction is all about — pure escapist fantasy.”

 

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Interview with… R.P. Jain of Motilal Banarsidass Publishers

Photo: R. Ravindran

 

In 1903, Motilal Banarsidass (MLBD) began as a tiny store of spiritual books, built on a capital of Rs. 27. Over the next century, it developed into one of the world’s foremost publishers of scholarly works on Indology, with a formidable catalogue of priceless works – 100 volumes of the Mahapuranas, 50 volumes of the ‘Sacred Books of the East’ edited by Max Mueller…

Today, the 107-year-old Delhi-based publishing company, still run by the descendants of Motilal Jain, its founder, retains its focus on Indian culture and spiritual heritage, but is evolving to meet the changing needs of the 21st century. Speaking to Rajendra Prakash Jain, one of the five brothers who currently run MLBD, what emerges is the picture of a company that straddles the old world and the new, combining tradition with modernity.

“Our thrust is to bring ancient wisdom to modern times, in a way that makes it accessible to the younger generation,” says Jain, who was in the city recently, visiting the MLBD store here which is in the process of being renovated.

Their efforts have taken a number of forms, from a sister publishing house, ‘New Age Books’ they began for lighter, easier-to-understand works, to their music label ‘New Age Music’, which brings out CDs for relaxation, meditation and yoga, produced primarily abroad. Now, they’re going all out for events across the country to promote various aspects of Indian culture.

“We’re talking to various organisations to do workshops, seminars and lectures featuring our authors, to spread awareness,” he says. “We’ve already done about 250 free workshops on Vedic maths (one of our most popular areas) all over India.”

Jain is himself a Gandhian scholar, and has been invited to give lectures at universities, seminars and conferences across the world to talk on Gandhi’s philosophy. “I’ve also been trying to promote young scholars and speakers in the area of Indology and Indian arts, but none of this is easy – it takes time and a lot of funding,” he says.

Naturally, their other big focus is the Internet, the digital frontier. “Our full catalogue is already available on our portal mlbd.com; now we’re planning to get into e-books,” he says.

They’re also looking into ‘Print-On-Demand’ (POD), a new form of publishing that’s gaining popularity worldwide. “This allows you to print only the number of copies that have been ordered as opposed to having to print a minimum of, say, 1000 copies, bringing down storage costs considerably,” he says. “It’s only just entering India now.”

It’s all quite cutting-edge, but that’s what it takes to survive in the current economic climate. “The publishing industry is undergoing a lot of changes the world over and has been hard-hit by the recession,” he says, adding that nearly 60 to 70 per cent of their sales comes from exports.

And this is a family that knows a thing or two about survival – after all, they lost everything during partition riots when the store was burnt down, and began again from scratch. With the fifth generation – Jain’s son and nephew – having entered the business as well, the MLBD brand is all set to keep growing and evolving.

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