Vikram Chandra, an accomplished Indian-American novelist, has crafted a literary legacy that transcends boundaries, both geographical and artistic. Known for his poignant storytelling and captivating narratives, Chandra's journey from New Delhi to the United States and back to Mumbai has been one filled with creativity and profound literary exploration.
Vikram Chandra was born on July 23, 1961, in New Delhi, India. His family was deeply rooted in the world of art and creativity. His father, Navin Chandra, worked as a business executive, while his mother, Kamna Chandra, made significant contributions to Hindi cinema with her film scripts and plays. Chandra's sisters, Tanuja Chandra and Anupama Chopra, also found their calling in the world of film, with Tanuja becoming a filmmaker and screenwriter and Anupama becoming a renowned film critic.
Chandra's educational journey was marked by a quest for excellence. He attended Mayo College in Ajmer, Rajasthan, for his high school education. For his undergraduate studies, he started at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai before transferring to Kenyon College in the United States. However, he found himself feeling isolated at Kenyon, which led to his transfer to Pomona College in Claremont, California. Here, he graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in English.
Chandra's academic pursuits didn't stop there. He attended film school at Columbia University but left halfway through his program to embark on his first novel. In 1987, he earned his M.A. from The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. His passion for literature and storytelling was evident from the start.
Vikram Chandra's literary career took flight with his debut novel, "Red Earth and Pouring Rain," published in 1995. The novel was inspired by the autobiography of James Skinner, known as the Irish Raja of Hansi in Haryana. Skinner was a legendary nineteenth-century Anglo-Indian soldier with a compelling life story. "Red Earth and Pouring Rain" was a remarkable literary achievement and received critical acclaim. It earned the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book and the David Higham Prize for Fiction.
Chandra's next literary endeavour, "Love and Longing in Bombay" (1997), was a collection of short stories that garnered further recognition. It won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (Eurasia region) and was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize.
Apart from his literary pursuits, Vikram Chandra delved into screenwriting and co-wrote the script for "Mission Kashmir" (2000), a Bollywood movie directed by his brother-in-law, Vidhu Vinod Chopra. The film featured Hrithik Roshan and was a notable production in the Indian film industry.
In 2006, Chandra released his most celebrated novel, "Sacred Games." Set in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, the novel introduced readers to Sartaj Singh, a character who had first appeared in "Love and Longing in Bombay." "Sacred Games" was a literary sensation, drawing immense anticipation and a bidding war among leading publishers in India, the UK, and the US. Its massive 900-page narrative complexity captivated readers and critics alike. In 2018, "Sacred Games" was adapted into a web television series by Netflix, further expanding Chandra's influence on different media platforms.
Vikram Chandra's exploration of diverse topics is evident in "Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty" (2014), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award (Criticism). This work delves into the intersection of technology, art, and aesthetics, revealing his penchant for blending seemingly disparate worlds.
Vikram Chandra's personal life is closely intertwined with the world of literature. He is married to writer Melanie Abrams, and both of them teach creative writing at the University of California, Berkeley. Chandra divides his time between Mumbai, India, and Oakland, California, in the United States. The couple has two daughters, Leela and Darshana.
In his prolific literary career, Chandra has produced a body of work that continues to captivate and inspire readers across the globe. His ability to craft compelling narratives and explore a wide array of themes showcases his literary prowess. Vikram Chandra's journey serves as a testament to the power of storytelling to transcend borders and connect with people on a profound level. With each new work, he reinforces his status as an exceptional writer who has left an indelible mark on the world of contemporary literature.