Manju Kapur’s 2011 novel Custody was adapted into Indian shows across languages, including Ekta Kapoor’s Ye Hai Mohabbatein in Hindi. Almost a decade later, Kapur and Kapoor have collaborated once again for The Married Woman, based on Kapur’s 2002 novel A Married Woman.
The series, directed by Sahir Raza, will be launched on March 8 on AltBalaji and Zee5. Ridhi Dogra and Monica Dogra are Astha and Piplika respectively, who find fulfillment in one other. The cast includes Suhaas Ahuja, Imaad Shah, Divya Seth Shah, Ayesha Raza, Rahul Vohra and Nadira Babbar.
Kapur won the 1999 Commonwealth Book Prize for her debut Difficult Daughters, which centred on the Partition. A Married Woman is set in 1992, the year the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was destroyed by Hindutva mobs. Communal tensions form the backdrop for a taboo same-sex relationship.
“These things are always festering in the country and ready to flare up when stoked by vested interests,” Kapur told Scroll.in. “I wanted to show how these attitudes can just come about so casually, prejudices can be stoked so easily. I hope I’ve done that.”
With A Married Woman, Kapur wanted to capture the male-centric approach that’s endemic to Indian society. Though the relationship between her protagonists turns sexual, the author initially wanted to highlight traditional family structure dynamics.
“In many ways, women are certainly denigrated all the time, perhaps men are not even aware of how they’re doing it,” Kapur said. “I tried to showcase how hard it is to find emotional fulfillment within structures that seem to give you everything could think of.”
Kapur is unwavering on the prospect of a backlash to the book or the show. A writer cannot function with any kind of censorship, she asserted. The Married Woman will be released shortly after the central government released a set of guidelines for digital publishers of news and streaming platforms. Under the new mandate, streamers will have self-categorise content as U (Universal), U/A (7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+) and A (Adult).
If there’s anything that Kapur has learned over three-something decades of writing, it’s that the job just doesn’t get easier. By her fourth novel, Home (2006), any notions of shortcuts flew out of the window.
“That’s where the craft comes from,” said the 73-year-old author, who taught literature at Delhi University’s Miranda House for 30 years. “Year in and year out, you’re just polishing it and making it the best you can possibly make it.”
In the beginning, Kapur started each project with anxiety. Would the effort and hard work ever see the light of day? “My first had eight rejections, and each one meant returning to the book again,” Kapur said. “I was under the mistaken impression that having taught literature and having really picked apart books, would make writing easier.”
She has been writing since she was in her early forties, and she is now on her seventh novel. Kapur still cannot identify the impetus to change professions. “I wanted to leave something behind, and this desire started me,” she said.
A typical day for her constitutes reading, whether it’s for entertainment or guidance. Anything that takes away from writing is discarded, and only what feeds it remains.
Her next novel focuses once again on class politics in Delhi. “It starts out in Delhi about a woman, her domestic help and their daughters,” she said. “I think I can safely say that without thinking I am going to change the whole thing.”