Vijay Singh is an Indian novelist, screenplay-writer and film-maker living in Paris.
A graduate in History from St Stephen's College, Delhi, with a postgraduate degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, he moved to Paris for doctoral work at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. This move-over was precipitated principally by his passion for French literature and surrealism, particularly after a chance encounter with André Breton’s Manifestoes of Surrealism. While still a student in Paris, he started contributing articles to the French press in the early eighties. This was the beginning of his career as a journalist. He has written extensively for several leading French and international newspapers such as Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatique, Libération and The Guardian, covering some of the most turbulent events of that epoch – Operation Blue Star, the Bhopal Gas tragedy, Indira Gandhi’s assassination and its gruesome aftermath…
In 1984, a leading French publisher asked him to write a book on India. Vijay Singh decided to undertake a long and hazardous journey down the holy river Ganges, from its source in the snow-bound Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. With this “pilgrimage” as the central thread, and a surrealist Franco-Indian love-story as his inspiration, he wrote his first novel, Jaya Ganga, In Search of the River Goddess (Ramsay 1985, Penguin 1989, Rupa 2005). The book received stupendous response from the entire French press.
Since then, Vijay Singh has written several books that have won wide critical acclaim internationally: La Nuit Poignardée (Flammarion, 1987), Whirlpool of Shadows (Jonathan Cape, 1992, Rupa 1992, 2005) and a dreamy tale for children, The River Goddess (Gallimard Jeunesse/Moonlight, 1994). Whirlpool of Shadows was listed by the 1992 Booker Prize Winner, Barry Unsworth, as one his three Best Books of the Year in The Sunday Times, UK.
Vijay Singh’s entry into the world of images and cinema was pure accident. In 1989, a young French producer knocked at his door. He didn’t have any specific project or film in mind, but he nevertheless insisted on doing a documentary with Vijay Singh. Singh’s idea to make a documentary on the theme of man and animal led to the making of Man and Elephant (Chami and Ana), a 30’ film, part fiction part documentary, on the relationship between an elephant keeper and his elephant in Kerala. To date, this film has been shown on over 100 televisions worldwide.
Jaya Ganga was Vijay Singh’s first feature film, an adaptation of his earlier novel. It premiered in competition at the World Film Festival, Montreal, and then travelled to over 50 international festivals. It ran for 49 weeks in the Paris cinemas before playing on 80 screens in the UK. The film received tremendous press response internationally. The Guardian called it “a mesmerising film...One of the most authentic depictions of everyday Indian magic ever screened.”
His second feature film, One Dollar Curry, was shot entirely in Paris and released in France and the UK. It ran to full houses for several weeks in North India and was highly acclaimed by the press.
He was awarded the Leonardo da Vinci Award for the screenplay of Jaya Ganga, La Titine Best Film Award for his documentary Man and Elephant, and the Prix Villa Médicis hors les murs Award for foreign literature.