Dilemma of an artist; Why Mayank Austen Soofi does not want ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ a huge hit

February 4, 2017, 3:14 pm
Dilemma of an artist; Why Mayank Austen Soofi does not want ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ a huge hit
Dilemma of an artist; Why Mayank Austen Soofi does not want ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ a huge hit

Dilemma of an artist; Why Mayank Austen Soofi does not want ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ a huge hit

How much is a cover picture or its design important for a creative work. Opposing views are sure to be presented vociferously. As it relates with the sensibilities of the reader, one can’t expect to get a black and white answer to this. But one thing is sure, cover pictures and designs of works have been discussed, debated and appreciated many times.

When the redoubtable Arundhati Roy came up with her debutant novel ‘God of Small Things’, one thing apart from the lyrical craft, that was appreciated was the poignant cover it featured. Mayank Austen Soofi, the blogger and photographer was no different. He fell in love with the cover first then the novel and finally with the author herself. He thought he had found his ultimate novel. All these years like any other Arundhati fan, Soofi has been waiting for another literary marvel from the author even when he immersed himself into ‘God of Small of Things to find out new vistas to his trance. To get a call from his author, that too asking him to take pictures for her second novel, is sure to catapult one to a cloud nine situation. This was exactly what he experienced when he was assigned for the same.

Soofi was more nervous than being excited to take up the project of doing the cover picture of ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ because it was the work of his favourite living author. He just had to follow what Arundhathi had briefed to him about the design, “She contacted me to do the cover picture. She was very clear about what she wanted. I was nervous, but I tried to follow the brief as closely as I could,” Mayank told SouthLive.

“I think she is aware of my blog, ‘The Delhi Walla’, my photos and I was always present at her public functions at Jantar Mantar, Delhi or for some book launch and once she contacted me to do the cover of her novel, I could not believe myself.”

“If at all my photo comes on the cover of my favourite author’s novel, I would be happy and that very thought made me nervous,” said an excited Soofi.

It took him months to get to the perfections of the ‘stone’ that was carved in the mind of Arundhati Roy. From a set of 100 clicked photographs, Arundhati and her designer, David Eldridge sat together to select the present cover of the book.

The contents of the novel will remain unknown to everyone till the novel hits the market by June, 2017. “From the idea she told me while doing the cover, I guess the novel has something to do with graveyard,” Soofi recalling the conversation he had with the author about the cover picture.

Soofi when asked about his favourite novel becomes talkative to spill out about Arundhati Roy and his favourite work ‘ God of Small Things’.

I am a great fan of ‘God of Small Things’ but apart from the novel, I am a fan of the cover because it is a beautiful artwork. Even if you keep looking at it for hours, you never get tired of it though usually most of the book covers would be ‘wow’ but might soon lose to interest the readers. Looking at the river, the flowers, the clouds, the many characters involved in the novel flows in
Mayank Austen Soofi 

The cover art and the characters, especially Sophie mol inspired Soofi to travel to Kerala, to Aymanam in Kottayam to visit the river where Sophie mol drowned to death.

It was the cover that was moving round in the head while I made the visit. The entire cover is magical. I wanted the new book to have the something magical like the cover of ‘God of Small Things’, irrespective of the photographer who clicked the cover image
Mayank Austen Soofi 

Arundhati Roy was so much a part of moulding Soofi’s life that he even started a blog in 2007, ‘The Delhi Walla’ — ‘Your gateway to alternate Delhi, the city of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Arundhati Roy’.

He confesses to have fallen in love with the author because of her debutant novel.

“I fell in love with Arundhati Roy because of ‘God of Small Things. Whatever she wrote, helped me to learn how to think differently. Another aspect is that she looks very beautiful, she dresses very stylishly, her voice is very fragile and everything about her is perfect, but I think, at the end of the day, it is of course the ‘God of Small Things. Because the novel is so superb!!!,” says a beaming Soofi.

Soofi admits that he is in a dilemma. Being the photographer he wants the second novel of Arundhati a hit. But he is worried that this success might take sheen out of God of Small things !

If the novel is better than ‘God of Small Things’ I will be be happy because I was a part of this novel but I will be slightly heart broken because it is better than ‘God of Small Things’ because to me nothing is better than ‘God of Small Things’.

Meanwhile, his passion towards photography seems to be his golden ticket towards becoming a part of Arundhati Roy’s next novel. For Soofi, photography is an extension of his writings. “Like how I see the world, how I explore the world. When I click a photo, I think words, I just translate the images I see”.

Getting back to his childhood memories, Soofi remembers how reading influenced him a lot when he was growing up in the 80s and 90s, an era where camera was not that widely available. “What I remember of my childhood is that I was reading, reading and reading all the time. When I am photographing it is an extension of my reading life. I came to Delhi with a job and have been living in the capital for the past 10 years.”

Though I am from a middle class family, I walk and do not own a car, because I love walking. and love to travel by bus and auto.”

Asked if he would be seen in the literary world or the world of photography, Mayank says, “I prefer to stay in my world. I haven’t divided myself into writing and photography, the blend of it is me.”

Asking if he prefers to try his hand in Bollywood or photography as a serious career he said he prefers to “Stay in my world, made up of writers, poems, friends, novels and cities because I love living in cities.”