April 04, 2020
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William Dalrymple

On the launch of his history thriller, White Moghuls

William Dalrymple
William Dalrymple
Isn't your view of 18th century Indo-British relations romantic?
Absolutely not. These are facts culled after four years of researching the documents of that time.

Research takes money, did you receive a fat advance for your book?
The largest advances go to Indian novelists! I was broke by the end.

Is this a new trend—a best-selling history book?
Yes, I was lucky that it came at a time when history books became popular.

So popular that there is bidding for film rights?
I am very excited—Shekhar Kapur is bidding, and we both want Sabrina Dhawan to do the script. I think her script for Monsoon Wedding is one of the finest pieces of Indian writing in recent times.

Why hasn't popular history caught on in India?
Luckily for me, Indians haven't yet woken up to it. It's now inconceivable for a gora to write an Indian novel, or even make an Indian film, but the same is not true of non-fiction—as yet.

You have Indian blood?
I was surprised when I discovered that my great-grandmother (five times removed) was a Bengali from Chandannagore.

How did that make you feel?
Thrilled. It also explained why India rang so many bells when I first came.

You are planning to return?
I plan to live here for the next few years, researching for my new book.

A travel book or history?
History—I want to work on the last days of the Mughals. In those days when chaos reigned, bureaucrats were still working everyday and making copious notes which I will research.

No more travel books?
The travel books have evolved into history books.

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