Book review

Two Young Adult queer novels: a rare blend of sensitivity and humour

An LGBT perspective on two Young Adult novels about teenagers coming out of the closet: Himanjali Shankar’s ‘Talking of Muskaan’, and Payal Dhar’s ‘Slightly Burnt’.

The self is an emerging proposition.  To discern and explore the self through the looking glass of sexuality, desire, class and personal identity based on powerful experiences and influences at a young age is a prodigious feat in contemporary times.

Adolescence, especially, needs such references when everything around seems idiosyncratic and painful. There are many young people who struggle with alternate sexual and gender orientation, and do not know what to do about it. I hope that more authors write about such things with the same sensitivity and humour that are evident in the two novels for young adults, Talking of Muskaan, and Slightly Burnt.

Himanjali Sankar’s Talking Of Muskaan explores what happens when a young woman is trying to break free of heteronormative structures and is seeking acceptance. It is a delicate, intimate narrative of three teenagers – Aaliya, Prateek and Shubhojay. Each of them narrates his or her own story, the style involving the use of anecdotes that offer their perspective on Muskaan and their attempts to make sense of the situation.

Through these voices, the author channels thoughts about isolation, class-political issues, biases, and all manners of prejudice. It is interesting to see the presentation of the power of intimate relationships to bring about change in a person. It is possible to perceive this as the process of either becoming one’s own self or of losing oneself in the resultant whirlwind.

Shifting narratives

The book shifts narratives and steers clear of a linear timeline, which is precisely what keeps the reader enamoured. The themes of adolescence and the angst it carries are touched upon consummately. In our everyday life, we often come across conversations about class and privilege, bemoaning the fact that people belonging to a particular class tend to get away with anything. However, this novel reflects the cruelty of the world, which doesn’t leave anyone uninjured.

Talking of Muskaan is as much about the casual cruelties we inflict on people who are not like us - whose sexuality, or class, or background is different from our own ‒ as it is about the desire to feel rooted and understood by those close to us. The novel unfolds the delicate confessions of young minds in a sensitive yet mannered way. Nevertheless, I wish the author had unraveled the character of Muskaan a little more.

The witty, snarky Slightly Burnt by Payal Dhar is something of a contrast. Dhar gets into the skin of what it is to be an adolescent and to have to deal with all things adult. The story tracks two close friends, Komal and Sahil, with Komal being the narrator. Both of them go to a new-age, progressive school where there are no exams and students are encouraged to talk about their feelings and their secrets. Everything is hunky dory until Sahil comes out to his friend, and that’s when all hell breaks loose.

Unlike in many novels that deal with homosexuality either through anguish or wisdom, Komal is seen taking a very organic route to understand and accept the facts about her friend. This story is not told in linear fashion either, and that is one of the things I loved about it. Refreshingly, it neither sentimentalises nor romanticises teenage or adulthood.

Undercurrents of desire

Indeed, Dhar has this uncanny ability to show things for what they are. If the characters are hurt, then the reader feel it. If they are happy, the readers rejoice in their moments. Slightly Burnt is an enjoyable novel that does a fascinating job of describing the notions of normal and abnormal, and the undercurrents of desire, with details and grace that are nowhere close to being ordinary.

Growing-up and adulthood are both dealt with delicately, without over-handling either. The characters shine through the entire book. There is not a single line or situation which should not have been a part of the story.

What I love most about both these novels is the honesty with which they have been written. They are all about being you and carrying on regardless of how life works out in the end. I firmly believe that everyone who has a teenager around must read and gift them these books.

Talking of Muskaan, Himanjali Shankar, Duckbill Books.
Slightly Burnt, Payal Dhar, Bloomsbury.

Priya Gangwani is the editor of The Gaysi Zine and a core member of Gaysi Family, a blog for queer desis.



We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.