His second outing as an author, the book is set in Bengaluru and tells the tale of one of the city’s most powerful doctors and the demons hiding in his closet. Rao admits that he did need a push to begin working on it.
“Every writer needs a certain push — I was clear I didn’t want to be a one-book wonder but it was Kamal Haasan who greatly inspired me. When he launched my debut novel in Chennai, he told me that since I’d started writing I should continue. ‘Don’t rest on your laurels because if you do, tomorrow I may write a book and everything you’ve achieved will be lost in a jiffy,’ he said.”
The Missed Beat is also a fictional tale like his first book; it paints the dark reality of just how much the wealthy and influential have to lose or be afraid of. “I consciously wanted to stick to fiction because most of my characters or settings are close to reality. I have actually met such people and interacted with them — something about them must’ve touched me emotionally and prompted me to tell their story,” says the author, which makes us wonder if we’ll ever realise what’s real and what’s not.
Creativity is, after all, a figment of imagination but The Missed Beat has so many instances that are tangible and it’s evident that reality has influenced Rao in ways unimaginable. He concurs, “I don’t believe in La la land so one can notice that both my novels are very realistic. I’m particular that readers associate with my characters.”
While both his works might seem like an expose of what goes on in the underbelly of metro city, he has fun with this style of writing because in negativity lies versatility. “Characters with grey shades are interesting because there are multiple sides to them. Take Khumail (a character in the book) for example, he is imaginary but I’ve seen people like him. I modelled him based on my research about criminals from Pakistan,” he explains.
As for why the book is based in Karnataka, Rao reveals, “After Chennai, I launched my first book in Bengaluru when a member of the audience asked me to base my next book in there… so I did! I spent three years writing, rewriting and editing it and nearly camped in Victoria Hospital, Shimoga, and Dubai to nail the details to the T.”
The writer’s cinema background has helped in keeping the plot racy, crisp and visual, which was something he learnt to do at a creative writing course in London. “You’re right, I wrote the book like a screenplay because I wanted my readers to see the book like a film. I knew the narrative would be fast-paced because my tutor in London told me to grab the attention of reader and not let him/her slide out of grip; ‘If you do, you’re a failure as a writer,’ she said.”
So can we expect book number three? “As Sudhir Mishra said, stories look for good authors to be expressed so I hope something else will find me,” smiles Subba Rao.