What a year it’s been for literature in 2016. By which I mean showbiz, of course. (These days, when I say politics, medicine, technology or astrology, I really just mean showbiz.) Look at it: Bob Dylan got a Nobel, Mrs Funnybones is apparently in the running for a Jnanpith and Aishwarya Rajinikanth Dhanush, if my publisher is to be believed, is the next Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Or is it Neil Nitin Mukesh? Same difference.
So, go ahead, call up your favourite bookie, place your bets for 2017. This is pretty much how it’s going to go.
Big publishing houses will open branches at YRF and Dharma
In the first half of 2017, to save time, two biggie publishing houses will set up branch offices in the outhouses of Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions. Who gets which will be decided by K Jo in a rapid-fire round. Forthwith, as Alia Bhatt, Sonam Kapoor, Johnny Lever and Baby Aaradhya walk in or out of the doors of these production houses, commissioning editors, posted behind bushes and in the watchman’s cabin, will dive on them, hold them in a headlock, and sign them up for lucrative publishing deals. Old-fashioned writers, meanwhile, will gather dust in the abandoned offices in Delhi and volunteer to be pulped along with their unsold copies.
Shera will open his own publishing house
C’mon. This is Bollywood we are talking about. Their nostrils were made for business. Seeing bread that rightfully belongs to them being skimmed off by diabolical Delhiwallahs, it won’t be long before, say, Shera (don’t tell me I have to tell you who that is? Salman Khan’s trusted bodyguard, for god’s sake), floats his own publishing house, Booked by Bhaijaan or Dabangg Prakashan. Now, if he does that, where do you think the filmwallahs will take their books? Unless they want to go to the same bone re-setter as Vivek Oberoi, that is.
Writers will begin developing six-packs
As a counterblast, the erstwhile darlings of the publishing world, the large group of morbidly obese former bestselling writers, will hit the gym with a vengeance. Which will result in the gym begging for mercy and running away in the dead of the night. But, undaunted, writers will use their unsold copies as free weights and become lean, mean, six-pack machines. But only for a minute. The canny Bollywood brigade will undo their work by inviting the carb-deprived bunch to a series of parties with great booze and free snacks. The writers will regain their lost weight and become their former unphotogenic selves, back to needing the glamour of actors at their book dos. Voilà.
Litfests will introduce new exciting features
In 2016, apparently, we had 863 literature festivals. Many of these had twice as many writers as audience members. (All of whom were there in the first place because the organisers had said Sunny Leone was going to participate.) So a jazzing up of the format is definitely on the cards. This year, I see:
~ Introduction of New Categories in Literary Awards – like Best Supporting Writer on Social Media, Best Editor in a Villainous Role, Best Stunt Performed by a Lit Agent, Maximum Number of ‘Hottieee’s for a Writer on FB, Most Tragic Scene of Loss & Redemption By A Writer, etc.
~ Oscar-style music to deter speakers from babbling.
~ K-Jo-style sessions with, say, Amitav Ghosh, Shilpa Shetty and TM Krishna on the same sofa – answering questions like “Who is handsomer? Quick. Raghuram Rajan or Arvind Adiga?” and battling it out for a gift hamper.
If my sales rep buddy is to be trusted, apparently, their warehouse is being used by corporates as an adventure sports venue. The mounds of unsold stock are great for rock-climbing parties, obstacle courses, hide-and-seek, passing-the-parcel, etc. Publishers will now rip the binding off these books and repackage the individual pages in such a manner that pages 2 and 3 of the book you’ll be reading could be a cookbook, 4 and 5, a murder mystery, 6 and 7, Bejan Daruwalla’s predictions for the year 2012. Imagine the possibilities.
Publishers will introduce writerless books
My editor once said to me over drinks, by which I mean literally over drinks, because we had both passed out over a crate of whisky, “If it wasn’t for these freakin’ writers, what a job I have...” Well, that day is here. When you have driverless cars, pilotless planes and cashless economies, why not writerless books? A major publishing house has developed an app where books will write themselves. And not just that, they will also edit, print, sell, market, read and pulp them, too. It will be launched in mid-2017 and is expected to get rave reviews in journo-less papers.
Writers will explore fusion genres
Historical fiction, narrative non-fiction, chick Lit, self-Improvement – meh. How long are we supposed to read the same bloody stuff? 2017 will see a daring breed of young writers, on a daring regimen of experimental hallucinogens, come up with titles in fantastic new genres like futuristic cookbooks, Carnatic fiction, erotic self-improvement, chick lit for men pretending to be women, literally fiction, old baby fiction… You get the drift.
For the first time a writer with hair on his head will win an award
Breaking an unwritten rule in publishing, a male writer with a healthy head of hair will win a major literary award disproving that only bald men are literary. But, thanks to the tension-filled wait between the shortlist and the announcement, the writer will lose his hair and receive the award bald.
Patanjali will open its own publishing house
Like this needs an explanation!
The gods will retaliate
Sickened by the terrible retellings that totally misrepresent their lives – that have shown no sign of abating in spite of the warnings issued via demonetisation, a couple of floods and the Kapil Sharma Show – Draupadi, Indra, Yama, Abhimanyu, etc, will form a committee to put together a super-weapon that will render us all illiterate, stop for a minute, realise we are doing a great job of it with no help from them whatsoever, lie back, take a sip of heavenly soma, and read their favourite humorist, Devdutt Pattanaik.
Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is the author of three books and a play. His new novella, The Sentimental Spy (Juggernaut) is available as a phone download. He has refused all awards that have come in his way because he’d rather keep his hair.