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Prabhu, Manjiri 1964-

Prabhu, Manjiri 1964-

PERSONAL:

Born September 30, 1964; daughter of Shobha Prabhu (an astrologer). Education: University of Pune, B.A., 1985, M.A., 1987, Ph.D., 1998; Sophia Polytechnic, postgraduate diploma, 1986. Hobbies and other interests: Watching films, reading, travel, learning different cultures (literature, languages, music), caring for the environment and animals, especially dogs and cats.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Shivajinagar, Pune, India. Agent—Frances Collin, P.O. Box 33, Wayne, PA 19087-0333. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER:

Shobha Arts, India, production controller, 1980-87; writer and television producer, 1987—. Producer of more than 200 children's television programs; producer of the children's short educational animation videotape Chal Chala Chal.

WRITINGS:

Kuchh dil ne kaha (feature film), National Films Development Corporation of India, 1999.

The Cosmic Clues (mystery novel), Bantam Dell (New York, NY), 2004.

The Astral Alibi (sequel to The Cosmic Clues), Bantam Dell (New York, NY), 2006.

English-language novels published by Rupa (New Delhi, India) include A Symphony of Hearts and Silver in the Mist; author of Roles—Reel and Real, Ajanta Publications (New Delhi, India). Television script writer. Author of a weekly column on writing novels, Times of India; film critic, Indian Express. Contributor of short stories to the children's newspaper Super Junior Times.

SIDELIGHTS:

Manjiri Prabhu told CA: "I have been an avid reader since childhood, devouring Enid Blyton books. I was so much in tune with her writing that I believed that I was Enid Blyton reborn! Unfortunately, she passed away long after I was born, so my complete belief that I was a writer reborn was shattered. Nevertheless I wrote, beginning at age seven, and knew that I wanted to be a writer, published or unpublished. My eldest sister Leena was my first source of inspiration. She could tell and write wonderful stories, and she encouraged me and read all my work, however childish.

"I wrote several children's books as a child that were never published because they were all based on Enid Blyton-land and had nothing to do with India. Many writers influenced my writing at that point. In fact, every book I read inspired me, and I wanted to try writing all kinds of books. These writers included Louisa M. Alcott, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Victoria Holt, Wilkie Collins, Daphne Du Maurier—the line became bigger as I grew up. Even now, I get inspired by so many authors who have written captivating books. I never deliberately sat down to study any of these novels, but their craft slowly got under my skin, and new doors of knowledge opened subconsciously.

"At that point, I did not really think of getting published, because the process of writing and getting completely lost in the creative process was so fascinating and meditative that I never craved the printed word. I would cut out my own books and staple the pages together, write out the stories in flowing handwriting, and add my own colorful illustrations. I was content with my own creations. (Perhaps that was unknowingly the need to get published, which I didn't realize until much later.)

"Gradually as I grew up I realized that I had to outgrow the fantasy of Enid Blyton-land and get closer to my roots. I began experimenting, trying cautiously to associate my imagination, fueled by western stories, with Indian landscapes. It wasn't as difficult as I imagined. I realized that, although culture governs behavioral patterns, the interactions of people and their relationships are universal. Emotions are universal. The feelings of joy, love, hate, grief are all products of common elements, even though their expression may vary. That is what I realized I had to write about: relationships embedded in an exciting background which had to have a happy ending; a little bit of the fairy tale in the contemporary lifestyle; romance, certainly, but projected against a thrilling, mysterious landscape. That is what I feel comfortable writing: romance intertwined with mystery.

"Being a television producer by profession, I usually have to write when I feel like writing. This means that I have to take leave from my job when I'm in the mood to write. I do not follow a particular schedule, but I write best at night. And I work well under pressure and when I have deadlines to meet.

"Regarding the background for the book The Cosmic Clues: I come from a very close-knit family with my mother as the central pillar. My mother, Shobha Prabhu—a noted astrologer—taught us all the basics of astrology. Since childhood, my family has been using astrology to solve domestic problems like locating lost articles, missing animals, or even guessing exam results and later solving professional problems. Astrology has always been advocated in our house. I saw some of my mother's startling predictions come true—like disclosing illegitimate children or predicting political elections and, on an international scene, even predicting royal divorces. It made me realize that the horoscope, if studied well, is a base and provides an x-ray of a person. The potential of this magnificent science has also been untapped, for whatever reason.

"It was only a few years ago, when I was writing a script for a Hindi feature film, that the idea for The Cosmic Clues really struck. I realized that I could combine astrology with crime. Being a voracious reader, I had never come across such a literary combination and realized that perhaps no one had handled crime with astrology before. The added advantage was the ready-made research I got from my mother.

"I must admit that writing this book was one of the most difficult things I ever did. I started by thinking 'Oh, well, they are short stories!' But before I knew it, the characters and stories had taken over, so that each short story became, in terms of plot and length, a mini-novel. The stories gathered together, like a television serial. There were plots within plots, and everything grew into something so much more huge and exciting that I had anticipated. That's why I like to refer to my books as a serialized novel. Indeed, The Astral Alibi was published in June, 2006. It is a sequel to The Cosmic Clues and we once more find Sonia Samarth solving cases with astrology. I hope that my books will be appreciated worldwide, not only for their plots and style, but also as a window to the real India.

"I absolutely love animals. My major concern is animal welfare for stray animals. India is a densely populated country and famous for the variety of animals on the streets—mostly dogs, cats, cows, and buffaloes. There is a continuous mixed reaction to the dogs on the street. More often than not, people tend to frown upon stray animals. While most advocate the killing of stray animals on the streets, animal lovers promote sterilization. This, according to them, is a more humane manner of handling the problem.

"God created earth with its mountains, plants, insects, animals, and human beings. Humans are merely a tiny part of the whole world, but they are mistakenly trying to capture the entire existence with their right to survive and overriding the survival rights of others. It is of utmost importance to inculcate the proper attitude in people and try our level best to remove fear and hate. I firmly believe that, for a peaceful and healthy world, an affectionate relationship between animals and man is extremely important. A healthy, harmonious coexistence is the base of any kind of development, whether personal, rural, or urban: for peace, knowledge, justice, and moral values; for the spiritual growth of a human being; and for the development of the country.

"My family and I have been working for the welfare of street dogs and cats for over a decade. We try to get them sterilized, then we feed and look after them. We have formed children's clubs to spread the right attitude of adopting the dogs (without actually always having to take them into the house) and turning them into community pets. One day, I hope to create a dog welfare farm, for all the homeless dogs of the city."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

ONLINE

Curled Up with a Good Book Web site,http://www.curledup.com/ (May 9, 2006), Rashmi Srinivas, review of The Cosmic Clues.

Dr. Manjiri Prabhu Home Page,http://www.manjiriprabhu.com (June 28, 2006).

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