EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW | Jugal Hansraj: From being a child actor to becoming a children’s author

Did you know that Indian actor, writer and national award-winning director Jugal Hansraj is also an author? He started working in films first as a child actor, “Masoom” being the most notable. He then became a lead actor in films like “Papa Kehte Hai” and “Mohabbatein”, among others. In 2006, he became a writer-director and directed the animated film ‘Roadside Romeo’ and in 2010 he directed the feature film ‘Pyaar Impossible’. In 2017, the actor-screenwriter-director added another feather to his prize list by becoming an author with his first book “Cross Connection: The great adventure of the circus”. Most recently, her new children’s novel titled “The Coward and the Sword” was published by HarperCollins India in late 2021.

In an exclusive interview with us, Jugal Hansraj talked about his new book, his writing journey, Bollywood, fatherhood, his favorite authors, and more. Excerpts:

1. What was the inspiration behind writing your second book, a children’s fantasy fiction titled “Cowards and the Sword”?
The inspiration was twofold: I had already published a book in 2017 for young readers in the 6-10 age group, and I started working on it around the birth of my son, Sidak, a few months after the publication of the first book. published. I had taken a break; I stayed home to take care of my wife and our newborn son and had plenty of free time. In addition, I study Buddhist philosophy, read about Buddhism and have practiced it for a long time. There’s this particular quote that I found very profound and when I re-read it it kind of struck a different chord in me probably because of authorship… The quote read: A sword is useless between the hands of a coward. I thought that was very deep because it’s about the bravery that’s actually in itself. Also being a fan of all the fantasy fiction genre like ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Narnia’ that I grew up watching, I still enjoy this genre very much. So all of these things together sparked a thought in me and this little quote led to an entire book!

It happened over a long period of time, it was a slow process. It wasn’t a commissioned book, so it was something straight from the heart. I would like to see it as a labor of love. Because in addition to telling a good story, I was also trying to convey a good message, not only to my son when he grows up and reads it, but to all young readers.

2. Do you also plan to adapt it to the screen?
Definitively! Coming from a film background and being someone who loves films… I’m not a writer by training and so when I write, I write it like a film. I close my eyes, I see the opening shot, the big 70mm screen, a big castle on top of the mountain and a blue ocean – thoughts come to me visually first, then I put them into words. I don’t know how and when, but I would like to adapt it into a film. It’s got scale, underdog, bravery, great plot, great adventure – so visually too, it should be a treat.

I am already writing the second volume of the series and I hope that it will come out by the end of this year or the beginning of next year… The second volume is about the same characters who have aged a bit and who are moving forward with their lives. Obviously, there would be new characters arriving. There’s growth in the characters and I guess there’s also growth in my writing.

jugal hansraj

3. Do you plan to write a memoir soon?

I am not sure. I have a few anecdotes because I’ve been in the film industry since I was a kid. I don’t like to talk too much about myself. If I did, I have some interesting incidents and anecdotes to share as it was an interesting ride. I actually started modeling when I was a kid at the age of two and that was even before ‘Masoom’.

4. What prompted you to become an author?
My first book “Cross Connection: The Great Circus Adventure” was actually supposed to be my second animated film. I was supposed to write it and direct it; I had written the first draft of the screenplay. There was this joint venture between the Big Indian studio and Walt Disney and they all liked the story but for some reason the joint venture dissolved and the movie never got made. This first draft was in my USB key and I found it several years later. I was sad that it didn’t make it into a movie. I thought if I depended on producers and studios it would never come out so I started writing it in book form. When I wrote it, I felt free that there wasn’t a producer or filmmaker sitting on my head telling me what to do. It was very liberating and later I got it published… Once you’ve published a book, you have that confidence that you can do it again and that helped me write another book.

jugal hansraj on his favorite books

5. Who are your favorite authors of all time?
In the genre of fantasy fiction, certainly, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, CS Lewis. As a child, I was very fond of PG Wodehouse, especially the language and the way he created the visuals. I still read his books. I read a lot of non-fiction like Bill Bryson and Anthony Bourdain. I also read a lot of biographies and books about people traveling around the world and other cultures, which fascinates me.

6. A book that touched you?
Books that stuck with me – I definitely learned “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” is the best science book I’ve read in my life. I wish they taught more in school. I know more about science from this book than I learned in school! William Dalrymple is another author whose work I really appreciate.

The writer who influenced me the most and who influenced my book “The Coward and the Sword” is Daisaku Ikeda. He writes in Japanese and I have read many of his translated books. I learned a lot about Buddhism, life and peace, and even this idea of ​​being against war.

7. Would you like to share a parenting tip?

I’m still learning, to be honest. I can’t say I’m the best father but I try my best with all my heart. My life is transformed (after becoming a father) in the best possible way. I cannot imagine my life without my son, Sidak. I don’t know how I managed all those adult years without him. My son is my life, everything revolves around him. Even the books I write are with this thought that when he grows up, I hope he’ll be proud of me. I want to leave him something nice. So every action now goes in that direction.

jugal hansraj on writing

8. Your writing advice?

A trap that people usually fall into is writing what other people might like because you will never be able to find out. Then you are not true to yourself. It’s best to write what touches you and what you like to read. Write it to the best of your ability and hope people enjoy it.

9. I write because…

I like to escape into another world.

10. Any advice you would like to give to your young person?
There’s an old Frank Sinatra song that has a single lyric, and I quote, “I wish I had a few, but again too few to mention.” So I won’t say anything to my younger self. I think it’s fine – I am what I am because of what I was. There may have been a lot of things that didn’t work for me. But I have a lot to be grateful for…I have a wonderful family, my parents who are no more, my brother, my wife, my child. Nothing else matters.

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