Author Interview of Arun George for A Blind Man’s Bluff.

1. Introduce yourself for your readers.

My self image is a mess so I will give you a functional response to his one. I am Arun George, 24 Years old, born and brought up in Thrissur, Kerala. I pursued my B.A. in Communication, English and Psychology from Christ University, Bangalore, following which I pursued my M.B.A. in Finance Management from CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bangalore. I have finished 3 novels, published 2 and I have written, shot, edited and directed 11 short films to date. Now that you know what my matrimony profile will look like, I can be a little more open to the discerning viewer. First and foremost, I am a cineaste. I always identify as a filmmaker before I identify as an author. I view my writing as functional to serve the purpose of telling a cinematic story. That being said, I love writing! It is the foundational process to storytelling. Of all the processes that goes into making a film, I enjoy the writing work the most! Christopher Moore is the author who has come close to capturing my voice. J K Rowling, Dan Brown and Rick Riordan where my idols in school! A book I always love to revisit is, unsurprisingly, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. All of its great literary achievements aside, I love it for the fact that it is the only case where the book and the film are as great as each other. A great book becoming a great screenplay becoming great cinema! For someone like me, what more can you ask for!

2. When did you find your calling in writing and filmmaking?

I have always been attracted to the art of storytelling and the impact it has on an audience. The first film I can recall watching was Predator (1987), in 1998, when I was 3 years old. The film had such an effect on me that it took me nearly a decade to process my fear of being surveilled and being alone in a forest. I started writing when I was 12, in 2007 and it mostly comprised of stories that would be crude imitations of better works, mainly cinema. I like to think of my trajectory as natural progression. In School, I had no access to cameras and therefore, I relied on writing to tell stories. In college, when I was able to get my hands on a DSLR that could shoot video in 1080p, I tried my hand at filmmaking. I have always wanted to be a storyteller. Its just that I keep changing my media back and forth!

3. If not writing books and creating movies, how would you express your creativity ?

Creativity, at least for the people who grew up with me, was defined narrowly to drawing or music or dance. I believed that I was not a terrible dancer but thanks to Dance reality shows, that misconception has been dealt with! My fine motor skills are terrible to the point that I cannot draw to save my life and my handwriting is a crime against calligraphy. The reason why I choose these two forms for expressing my creativity is because technology has enabled people like me to explore them. However, If not for these two media, I would have to say I would express my creativity via quizzes. I am reasonably knowledgeable and I do have an interest in public speaking.

4. From our earlier conversations, I remember you saying that you wrote this book for a competition and within 14 days only. Who/What inspired you to do that ? How was the experience of plotting the whole story, characters, scenes and their sequence and write a book of 261 pages ?

I am a VERY lazy individual. However I am blessed with the foolish ability to throw myself completely into something and forget about everything around me for short spans of time. This kind of drive is what has helped me pursue my interests. I began writing for NaNoWriMo, a US based writing competition where you are to write a 50,000 word novel within the span of November, at age 14. There are prizes to incentivize participants but no monetary reward at the end of it. It seemed like the ideal fools pursuit for me at the time and I failed miserably, managing to write only 15,000 words in a month. I tried the following year with a smaller concept but failed again, managing only 10,000 odd words. I gave up on it till after my schooling was done and revisited it in 2013, when I was 18 years old. I succeeded for the first time and finished my first novel in 30 days. It was absolute garbage but it was my first novel and that sense of achievement gave me a confidence boost.
My latest attempt at writing for NaNoWriMo was bogged down by my time at home and various commitments. I could only get back to college by November 15 and I constantly kept getting updates about how people were doing SO well in the competition. There was no inspiration. It was just this annoying itch of sorts to do something stupidly impossible to cap off my final year in college. So I set out to write 50,000 words in 14 days. Of course, I could only pursue such an unrealistic goal with constant support from someone and that was my partner, Brigitta Marietta Philip. It was her singular support that got me through the writing process and that’s why the book is rightfully dedicated to her.
The experience of plotting the book was rather easy. I consume a lot of cinema and I almost always have an interesting plotline bumbling about in my head. So when it came time to write this book, I wanted it to be something that was laugh out loud funny without being too serious, was an effective pageturner and would let me write some interesting action sequences. I decided on a protagonist and began writing and the scenes just seemed to have a natural progression to them, at least to me. Each chapter would be titled a pun based on what happens in it and the storyline would be set within a short period of time, around Christmas, which was my hat tip to Shane Black films. I love buddy comedies and I decided to have a darkly comedic buddy comedy. And that’s how the book was born!

5. What did you learn while writing this book ?

Even if you are broke and don’t have rent money, always try and hire a proofreader. By the time I finished designing the cover of the book and sent it to print, I had already been through the book countless times. The letters were practically swimming before my eyes and that meant that there was no chance in hell I would spot any of the grammatical errors. I wrote a majority of this book using Google Drive on my Android phone, during class hours, in college. This meant that a lot of the times, I could not look at the screen and see what I was typing, to spot the errors and I had no time at all to reread for errors after each chapter. Really gives you a newfound respect for stenographers and people who use typewriters!

6. How do you select your characters and build them ? Are they entirely fictional or do you draw inspiration from real life characters ?

My protagonists and antagonists are always varying degrees of my own self. In fact, it’s a running joke among my friends that I am incapable of writing a character that is not me. All my protagonists in all three of my novels are named Aaron George. So I decided to do something a little different in this book and that shows in the character arcs. Julia is the true protagonist of this story. Her arc is what completes everything. However, when writing that character, I wanted to ensure that I wouldn’t color her perspective with my notions. That’s why I wanted the audience to view Julia’s story through Aaron’s eyes. As for the antagonist, I wanted someone with a weakness or disability that would force people to underestimate them. I didn’t model these characters on anyone per se, but yes they are composites of a variety of traits that I keep picking up from friends and people I meet or observe.

7. Do you think a writer should have a signature writing style or should he keep experimenting with it ? And why do you think so ?

I would say to each his own. Whatever works for you, works for you and whatever doesn’t, doesn’t. Martin Scorsese is a filmmaker I admire. His body of work is so diverse that had it been made under pseudonyms, no one would be able to say that these the works of a single man. Sure there are tropes and favourite directorial techniques he goes back to but he is so accomplished in literally everything he has made that its impossible to say that the experimentation has hurt him. Using Christopher Nolan as an example borders on cliché due to the millions of “disciples” his films have garnered, but his directorial vision and style, his writing interests are more or less universal throughout his body of work. Personally, I believe that you should be consistent enough to be identifiable and unique enough to be entertaining. However, my signature style is my reliance of verbal humour, especially sarcasm and puns to cap serious situation.

8. The title of your book “A Blind Man’s Bluff” is extremely intriguing. How did you choose this title ?

The title is a mashup of a few concepts and ideas that are explored in the book. I have already declared my love for puns and the title is wordplay based on the plot, something you will understand once you read the book. The blind man, is also a key character in the book and the word ‘bluff’ has a lot of connotations, all of which work for the book’s intrigue. The other reasoning for the title is more cultural. I was born and raised in Kerala and I went to college in Bangalore. I always did feel like an outsider looking in, something that was aggravated by my reliance and preference on English to communicate with over my mother tongue, Malayalam. On the flipside, it gave me a more nuanced take on everything that happens in Kerala. During Onam, the regional festival of Kerala, there is an old tradition of blindfolding someone, then surrounding them and shoving and hitting them. I thought of how our protagonists too are blind to the forces that chase them and are forced or rather shoved to go one from spot to another. So overall, the tile checked a lot of boxes for me and I had a very clear design in mind for the cover. So the more I got into that work, the more apt this title became!

9. What is your go to genre ?

When it comes to cinema, I can very rarely pick out a singular genre that I follow. I have a strong preference for thrillers, dramas, action films and dark comedies. However, I am not a purist. I love genre-bending and most of my favourite films are either innovative with genre tropes or completely shred them to provide a new experience. I have an aversion to romance work and I try to view horror as academically as possible. With books, the genres remain the same, more or less, but again, its all about the presentation to me. If the writing is cinematic, I will read anything. I hold cinema to a much higher standard but I consume everything I can. The guilty pleasure however, is watching trashing movies. I love watching terribly made movies and having a laugh about how they would have shot it because most of my friends are the crew on my films!

10. What is that thing about yourself that surprises you the most ?

There was a point in time where I was surprised by the nature of my Self. The more I studied psychology and the more experiences I had in life, I have come to terms with the fact that I am anything I want to be or I don’t want to be. I know that’s a very vague answer, but at a deeper level, that’s what hold true for me. There is literally nothing I do, no matter how bad, that I surprises me anymore.

11. Are you planning or already working on anything new ?

I am considering a few projects at the moment, none of which are books however, Since I write shoot, edit and direct my films, it is an all encompassing, time consuming process. I try to do at least one creative stunt like this each year and hopefully, this year will not be different. Depending on how well the scenarios play out, my next project will either be a dark comedy short film or an action “entertainer” to be done with my childhood friends!

12. How has been your journey so far as an Author and Filmmaker ? Is there anything about it that you’d like to change or relive ?

I love my journey so far and I wish to change nothing. I would love to relive the first time I saw my film screened in a theatre. It was in Hyderabad in Annapurna studios for a short film competition. Another moment I would love to relive was the first time I held the first published copy of my own book in my hands. Its seared into my mind and I love to revisit those memories when I am feeling down. I have made shit films and I still cringe every time I read my first book. He reason I don’t take them down is because it’s a constant reminder of how far I have come and how much I have learned. Cringing is growth, apparently!

13. Any message for your readers ?

Feedback is the greatest thing any creator can expect from the audience. Even if you think that my book is a hate crime committed on humanity, tell me so that I know! And if you have the time, reach out to me after going through my work. I love discussions about what I create and I am always game for lengthy debates or discussions or arguments about it. So if you do happen to follow my work, reach out to me on social media or offline and I would love to hear what you think about it!

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