• Monday, July 15, 2024

Interview with Bina Nayak, Author of “Goagram”

Interview with Bina Nayak, author of "Goagram". Discover insights into her writing journey, inspirations, and the story behind her latest book.
on Jun 17, 2024
Interview with Bina Nayak, Author of “Goagram” | Frontlist

Bina Nayak is an author and graphic designer based out of Goa. She was head of Walt Disney's design team in India. Her first novel, Starfish Pickle: A Goan Adventure, has been adapted into a major motion picture. After graduating from Sir JJ School of Art she worked in FCB Speer, DDB Mudra, Leo Burnett and Ogilvy.

Frontlist: After spending nearly two decades with the "Starfish Pickle" manuscript, what does it mean to you to finally see your story in print? How has the journey of writing and publishing this book impacted you personally and professionally?

Bina: Actually, I wrote this book in just three months. However, it took nearly two decades to find a publisher. It was published by Srishti Publishers in September 2021. But it was worth the wait, as it was adapted into a movie called "Starfish" by T-Series. It had a theatrical release in November 2023 and is now streaming on Netflix. It was also shown on Sony TV.

Moreover, "Goagram" is my second novel. It was published by HarperCollins in February 2024 and was written in two months flat. 

Frontlist: Throughout "Goagram," Maddie grapples with the tension between her desire for fame and the consequences of seeking validation through social media. What message or reflection do you hope readers take away from Maddie's story?

Bina: Fame that comes from a social media presence is illusory and fleeting, whereas fame achieved through work, talent, and deeds is real and long-lasting. Seeking validation from anybody is detrimental, and seeking it from a fickle social media audience is the worst. However, wanting validation is a very basic, flawed human need. You should much rather seek it offline from friends and family, people who know you and whom you know as well.

Frontlist: In "Goagram," Maddie forms a significant bond with the landlady of Casa Coutinho. How does this relationship contribute to Maddie's personal growth and resilience throughout the narrative, and what inspired you to explore the dynamics between these two characters?

Bina: The relationship between Maddie and Mrs. Coutinho is that of a mother and daughter. Mrs. Coutinho is not as close to her own daughter, but she shares some commonalities with Maddie—they both love fashion, clothes, designing, and creating them. Maddie is a trained fashion designer, while Mrs. Coutinho, an older lady in her 70s, comes from a time when there were no fashion schools. Maddie is not close to her own mother, as her mother doesn’t understand her work.

Mrs. Coutinho teaches Maddie how to appreciate the finer things in life. For example, she teaches her how to appreciate wine and how to use cutlery and fine china. Mrs. Coutinho represents the solidity of an older generation, values, and resilience that helped them weather the vicissitudes of life. I have shown the difference between old-world values and new-age values through these two characters and how they can meet and enrich each other.

Frontlist: As a graphic designer with extensive experience in advertising and media, how did your professional background influence the depiction of Maddie's digital journey in "Goagram"? Were there any real-life anecdotes or observations that inspired key moments in the story?

Bina: I belong to a generation that saw the birth of the internet and social media, as well as design programs for desktop publishing. As creative professionals in advertising in the early 90s, we were the first people to work on Photoshop, Illustrator, and Freehand, which inspired the filters on mobile apps, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Having seen how social media has evolved since its earlier avatars, we are aware of its pitfalls and advantages compared to a younger generation that jumps into it in its version 10.0 or higher. Real-life experiences of friends and my own experiences have crept into my story.

Frontlist: In today's digital era, the pursuit of online fame through social media has become increasingly prevalent. Drawing from the lessons learned in "Goagram," what cautionary advice or insights would you offer to individuals who are captivated by the allure of emulating the lifestyle of social media influencers?

Bina: Contrary to what it may appear, social media influencers’ lives are not all glitz and glamour. Social media makes them accessible 24/7 and invites strangers into their homes via their mobiles or laptops. Earlier, celebrities had an aura about them in the pre-internet, pre-social media age. They could only be accessed via magazines, newspapers, and TV news. Today, every person who follows a celebrity, an actor, an influencer, or even a neighbor thinks they own that person by merely subscribing to their channel or social media accounts. Followers sometimes behave like they are stakeholders in that celebrity’s life and that the celebrities are answerable to them. Comments are passed on everything—from weight gain to dress sense. There is trolling, bullying, shaming, and canceling.

I would advise youngsters to be judicious in their social media use. Use social media; don’t get used to it. Don’t overshare personal stuff, and don’t seek therapy or validation on it. A ‘like’ really means nothing; it is the easiest thing to execute with the flick of your finger. But will those people who ‘like’ your stories get their heads out of their mobiles, physically travel in real time, in the real world, to be by your side in your time of distress or joy? That is the question you should ask yourself.

Frontlist: Maddie's rise to fame in "Goagram" is accompanied by a constant struggle to keep her audience engaged and interested. Can you discuss the pressures Maddie faces as she tries to sustain her online presence and how these challenges mirror the realities of navigating social media platforms in real life?

Bina: Without giving away too many spoilers, I will say that her quest for likes makes her throw caution to the wind, and she ends up in many sticky—and sometimes downright dangerous—situations.

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