Rochelle Potkar is an emerging Indian writer known for her classic style of short stories and poetry. Three years and three books old, this writer is all ready to launch her very first novel. Right now, Rochelle is living up her life juggling between the writing couch and shooting sets. A stint in the upcoming Tamil movie ‘Taramani’ will mark Rochelle’s debut in another art form – cinema.
At 27, Rochelle was an MBA graduate from La Trobe University, Australia and was working as a content writer in a reputed firm. While her weekdays were crowded with back-to-back meetings and deadlines, weekends were reserved for her love of spilling ink on paper with poetry and stories. Deemed a hobby for a long time, Rochelle finally took up writing as a full-time profession.
In a candid chat with Topyaps, Rochelle spilled the beans on her journey from being a business graduate to a writer and an actor.
Here are the excerpts from the same:
On coming from a non-literature background.
I don’t regret that at all! For some time, I used to be a little intimidated by people around me who would come from literature backgrounds. But then, once I was in Sikkim University and this literature professor told me it’s great that I don’t have a literature background. Why? Because then I’d be intimidated by these literary giants and I might not find my own voice. We don’t know where are the boundaries, what is the edge. It’s like going into the dark and being bold because you don’t know where are the landmines. You don’t have an X-Y axis of literary giants to compare your work to. You just do your own thing.
Poems from her book ‘Four Degrees of Separation’ have appeared in ‘The Brown Boat’, ‘The Finger Magazine’, ‘Haibun Today’, ‘The Bamboo Hut’, ‘A Hundred Gourds’, ‘Poems for the Road’ podcast (UK), Zo 2014, Poetry exposé, Bigbridge, ‘Poetry India’ and many more. Her poem, ‘Knotted Inside Me’ was shortlisted for the RL Poetry Award 2013.
In a society which still shies away from talking about a woman’s sexuality, Rochelle introduced her first book ‘The Arithmetic Of Breasts and Other Stories’ as an erotica.
On debuting with an erotica, touching upon a taboo topic like women’s sexuality.
When we don’t talk about sexuality, it’s presumed we don’t have any. We need to talk about it personally, universally so that it’s not skewed up negatively. When we are not saying what we want, we encourage men to take on the whole romeogiri concept which is again their own perception. But that is because we are not talking about it. It’s not like if I am writing about it I have a greater sexual desire than women who aren’t.
I have observed instances around me which was what the short stories in my book was about. But mostly to do with a woman’s sexuality because of the double standards our society has in terms of that. How she’s treated when she’s molested or raped, how she’s treated doing an item song… We have the whole spectrum from Goddess to whores. On one hand she is worshiped, on another she is raped with no justice given. Everything has to do with our bodies. So yes, my future work will include a lot of these issues.
‘The Arithmetic of Breasts and Other Stories’ had been shortlisted for The Digital Book of the Year Award 2014, by Publishing Next. Some of the short stories have also appeared in several journals including ‘Far Enough East’, ‘Sein und Werden’, ‘The Medulla Review’, ‘The Nassau Review’, ‘Women Writers’, ‘Writer’s Hub’, and ‘Rollick Magazine’ among others.
On her decision to write a novel not coming from a market perspective.
The marketeers, publishers and agents mostly want you to write a novel over a collection of short stories – because that’s what sells. But, because I am a poet, that already makes me a rebel because I am not conforming to the market. Sometimes a character or a story just needs a short timeline, other times it needs to go deeper and deeper. I don’t want forms to dictate market. I want the idea to dictate the form. Short stories will always be my forte even if I write poetry or novels.
On her acting debut in Taramani.
I just answered to my recklessness when I chose writing. I like story-telling and to explore different forms of it, I met few scriptwriters and short film makers which is when I came across someone who asked me if I’d like to act. I obviously thought she’s joking and I said “Why not! I embody so many characters in my writing!” But they turned out to be serious and I was kind of shocked because films are definitely not an easy place for someone to get into. But she had a connection with Ram who was looking for someone from a non-filmi background. I auditioned and it just happened!
On how the filming experience impacted her writing.
The experience has definitely got some poetry out, one of which I have also read at Planet Radio City. That 10-day shoot has given me insights I wouldn’t have got otherwise. They go to crazy levels of work to get that one perfect shot or a frame. As a writer, I could relate to it in ways like how I work like that for each sentence of my poem or prose. I rewrite it until I get that perfect one to emote the right feeling. So my sentence is a filmmaker’s frame.
Rochelle’s blog speaks volume about the flawless poet that she is. In today’s time, when we are restricted by our 4×4 cubicles minting money, Rochelle Potkar is an inspiration for many to put out art in the world not for the world to read but for our own sanity.
Here’s an excerpt from one of her works :
“Malaika came for our wedding with a new man wrapped around her arm, Derek – tall, dark with attractive eyes.
But she dodged the question on marriage when I asked.
Malaika had many lovers while I just one. But I dreamed of her lovers – Derek, Vishal, Bobby, Prem, Sylvester, Dilip and Anil – each time I made love to Glen. It was my way of equaling the scores, besides having a secret harem of male lovers at my disposal.
This was until I met Satyawati, our maid and a runaway prostitute from the village who told me of how she dreamt of her beloved, Jagmohan, each time she was forced upon by various men.”