Actor, poet, artist… Arunoday Singh has earned all three crowns with his versatility. Unsung (Penguin Random House India) is Singh’s latest book of poetry. My Kolkata caught up with him for a chat at The Glenburn Penthouse while he was in Kolkata to attend the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival.
Excerpts from the chat…
My Kolkata: Do you recall your first tryst with poetry?
Arunoday Singh: Not vividly. I don’t really remember the first poem I read. I think I started liking poetry when I was in the fifth grade. We had a lovely teacher and he read a lot. He read Roald Dahl a lot to us. I used to love Roald Dahl. So, that’s where it started.
Why did you think of making poetry your medium of conversation for Unsung?
It’s just what I write… I write poetry. This was all about the poetry because this just was organically already there. I didn’t have to decide.
Each of your poems is numbered, but none have a name. Was that deliberate and why?
That’s deliberate because I’m terrible at naming things. Also, I like the poem to be just by itself. There’s a gift in naming that I don’t have. The name is something more than just a name… you know it helps you think what the poem is about. I have never been good at that. So, I just like the poem to exist for you and then you can call it whatever you want.
‘I’m terrible at naming things. I just like the poem to exist for you and then you can call it whatever you want,’ says Arunoday
Do you think poetry as a genre is misunderstood, neglected, or underrated?
I have very little understanding of what people think about things. I think more people should read poetry, but only if they like it. It’s not necessary. It’s just good for the soul sometimes.
Do you find any similarity between poems and films?
The best art always has similarities, but only the best art. So, there can be things that correlate. It’s like any literature, it’s like any painting. The feelings that they evoke, if they are good enough. That’s it!
What do you find more challenging — acting or writing?
I’m trying to be decent at both, so they are both difficult.
‘You can only act or write or think from experience. Travel increases experience exponentially. It’s a direct correlation’
You have lived and travelled far and wide. Have your travels influenced you as an actor and a writer?
Oh, very much — because your perspective gets expanded. The more your perspective is expanded, the more lifestyles, the more kinds of people, the more kinds of places you see. It all helps. You can only act or write or think from experience. Travel increases experience exponentially. It’s a direct correlation.
You share several writings and verses on social media. How has the response to them from there helped you grow?
Ah! The response helped me publish my book! The response is tremendous. I owe a lot to the people who read my work on social media. Before I was published, they made me feel published, which was nice.
Do you think writings and conversations on social media will one day overshadow pages?
I hope not, because you cannot make anything on social media that can compare to something longform. It’s just impossible. People need to read and read for a while. Instagram and all these things make everything bite-sized. The world isn’t bite-sized. We are not bite-sized. It’s a bad habit. Half the problem I see with attention spans and people is this is all they can take. That’s not good.
You started the new year with a beautiful artwork on your page. Tell us about your love for art.
It’s also something I have always just done. I have never trained or anything. It’s just something I like doing. So, I’m trying to take it more seriously now as something other than just a hobby. I’m just trying to make more art. I sketch a lot, but only charcoal. I have never learnt, so charcoal is just the thing I do.
When do we get to see you on screen next?
Who knows! I’m still looking for a worthy gig. Everything that I have been offered so far has been sub-par. I’m waiting for something exciting. I don’t want to keep doing the same kind of things and the same kind of wave. We’ll see. Hopefully soon.
Actor, writer or artist… will it be politics next?
Oh, not at all! I do not understand people. I think that would be fundamental to being a good politician. So, no not me.
How has coming from a political background shaped you?
It’s given me access. It’s a great gift if not misused — if taken responsibly. I have had excellent parents. So, I am not a spoilt terror. It obviously helps you. You know, you instantly have more things available, your experience is better. Sad, but that’s how it works. So, it’s a good happy childhood and that only helped a little. In other ways, it becomes a burden, it’s a different thing. I went to boarding school when I was very young because my parents were very smart. I actually don’t know much about that world.
‘[Coming from a political background] has given me access. It’s a great gift if not misused — if taken responsibly’
Your message for Kolkata and Kolkatans…
Good luck with the traffic. I see it, it breaks my heart because it’s such a lovely city. That’s it. I love you all very much and I hope things get cleaner and better. That’s my wish for all.
And that they read your book…
They don’t have to. I mean if you want to, great. I don’t like to force myself (on people). I’m amazed it is out there. If you feel like it, pick it up. If you like some of it, keep reading. If you did like it, let me know. That’s about it.