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Personality: Arundhati Roy

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 8, 2012


Arundhati Roy (born 24 November 1961) is an Indian novelist. She won the Booker Prizein 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things, and has also written two screenplays and several collections of essays. Her writings on various social, environmental and political issues have been a subject of major controversy in India.

She spent her childhood in Aymanam in Kerala, and went to school at Corpus ChristiKottayam, followed by the Lawrence School, Lovedale, in Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu. She then studied architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, where she met her first husband, architect Gerard da Cunha.

Roy met her second husband, filmmaker Pradip Krishen, in 1984, and played a village girl in his award-winning movie Massey Sahib. Until made financially stable by the success of her novel The God of Small Things, she worked various jobs, including running aerobics classes at five-star hotels in New Delhi. Roy is a cousin of prominent media personality Prannoy Roy, the head of the leading Indian TV media group NDTV,. She lives in New Delhi.

Early in her career, Roy worked for television and movies. She wrote the screenplays for In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones (1989), a movie based on her experiences as a student of architecture, directed by her current husband, and Electric Moon (1992); she also appeared as a performer in the first. Roy attracted attention in 1994, when she criticised Shekhar Kapur‘s film Bandit Queen, based on the life of Phoolan Devi. In her film review titled, ‘The Great Indian Rape Trick’, she questioned the right to “restage the rape of a living woman without her permission,” and charged Kapur with exploiting Devi and misrepresenting both her life and its meaning.

Roy began writing her first novel, The God of Small Things, in 1992, completing it in 1996. The book is semi-autobiographical and a major part captures her childhood experiences in Aymanam.

The publication of The God of Small Things catapulted Roy to instant international fame. It received the 1997 Booker Prize for Fiction and was listed as one of the New York TimesNotable Books of the Year for 1997. It reached fourth position on the New York Times Bestsellers list for Independent Fiction. From the beginning, the book was also a commercial success: Roy received half a million pounds as an advance; It was published in May, and the book had been sold to eighteen countries by the end of June.

The God of Small Things received stellar reviews in major American newspapers such as The New York Times (a “dazzling first novel,” “extraordinary,” “at once so morally strenuous and so imaginatively supple”) and the Los Angeles Times (“a novel of poignancy and considerable sweep”), and in Canadian publications such as the Toronto Star (“a lush, magical novel”). By the end of the year, it had become one of the five best books of 1997 by TIME. Critical response in the United Kingdom was less positive, and that the novel was awarded the Booker Prize caused controversy; Carmen Callil, a 1996 Booker Prize judge, called the novel “execrable,” and The Guardian called the contest “profoundly depressing.” In India, the book was criticized especially for its unrestrained description of sexuality by E. K. Nayanar, then Chief Minister of Roy’s homestate Kerala, where she had to answer charges of obscenity.

Since the success of her novel, Roy has been working as a screenplay writer again, writing a television serial, The Banyan Tree,[citation needed] and the documentary DAM/AGE: A Film with Arundhati Roy (2002).

Arundhati Roy was one of the contributors on the book We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples, released in October 2009. The book explores the culture of peoples around the world, portraying their diversity and the threats to their existence. The royalties from the sale of this book go to the indigenous rights organization Survival International.

Advocacy and controversy

Since The God of Small Things Roy has devoted herself mainly to nonfiction and politics, publishing two more collections of essays, as well as working for social causes. She is a spokesperson of the anti-globalization/alter-globalization movement and a vehement critic of neo-imperialism and of the global policies of the United States. She also criticizes India‘s nuclear weapons policies and the approach to industrialization and rapid development as currently being practiced in India, including the Narmada Dam project and the power companyEnron‘s activities in India.

Support for Kashmiri separatism

In an interview with Times of India published in August 2008, Arundhati Roy expressed her support for the independence of Kashmir from India after massive demonstrations in favor of independence took place—some 500,000 separatists rallied in Srinagar in the Kashmir part of Jammu and Kashmir state of India for independence on 18 August 2008, following the Amarnath land transfer controversy. According to her, the rallies were a sign that Kashmiris desire secession from India, and not union with India. She was criticized by Indian National Congress (INC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for her remarks.

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