The bold and the brazen
Madhuri Banerjee on how a woman’s sexuality is inextricably linked to her identity
Her amber eyes sparkle, her curly hair bounces, there is a charming lilt in her voice as she speaks. She certainly is one of the most effervescent people I’ve ever met so I’m rather bemused when she lowers her voice and confesses, “I’m actually a recluse, you know. I don’t party at all — in fact I get intimidated by large gatherings of people.”
Yet the shyness doesn’t stop Madhuri Banerjee from writing books that explore female sexuality and offer descriptions of the act, in no uncertain terms. “In a society in which sex is taboo, I want to emphasize that every woman has needs and desires and enjoys making love and there is nothing wrong with it,” says Madhuri who was recently in Bangalore to promote her second book. And both Losing My Virginity and Mistakes like Love and Sex, the first two books of her trilogy offer vivid glimpses into the protagonist Kaveri’s sex life — “I take the reader into her bedroom, the bathroom of a coffee shop, even a hot air balloon,” she remarks.
A bachelor in literature from the Lady Shri Ram college and a Master’s in Mass Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia, Madhuri has worked in the visual media industry since the age of 21. She has worked as a senior producer with Zoom TV, with White Light Motion Pictures, in her own production house, as a freelance documentary film-maker and even in commercial Bollywood films. “I wanted to write about the things I couldn’t show on television,” she laughs.
She began writing her first book, soon after the birth of her child. “I wrote while my baby slept,” she says. Though not strictly autobiographical, her characters are often based on people she knows. Kaveri is loosely based on the author herself and she admits as much, saying, “I was pretty intimidated by sex when I first started and went through a phase where I was uncertain about myself. I think everyone goes through it.” Likewise, the men that Kaveri goes out with are an amalgamation of the men in her own life. “Siddharth is the guy I would have wanted, Ray was based on a guy a friend of mine dated. And every woman has an Arjun,” she says, a trifle wistfully.
Her books do all the elements of what we call a typical chick-lit. Set mainly in big cities, it traces the life of a single working girl, Kaveri as she tries to find love, deals with her body-image issues, grapples with her career and most importantly, attempts to discover herself and figure out where she fits in the world. Madhuri however doesn’t quite like the term chick-lit. “It is very easy to label a book as chick-lit because it has a female protagonist. I really wish there was a better classification of books. I’m just telling a story,” she says.
But aren’t her books, with their rather daring narrative and risqué descriptions, a little ahead of the times? “Yes it is,” she says. “But does that mean that I need to wait till society can deal with it? I write what I want and hope that people will be able to accept my situations, characters, and me as an author,” she adds. “I am not writing to be different, I write books because I am different.”