'I’m a fully reformed book lover’: Bard of Blood actor Shamaun Ahmed says he developed his love for literature early in life

A reformed book lover

During my childhood, my mother always encouraged me to read. In fact, as a special treat, she used to take me to the National Library in Kolkata to borrow books. So my reading habits had nothing to do with school or college! If anything, I read less in my teens and early 20s. Though I’m happy to say I’m a fully reformed book lover now.

Relatable read

It’s hard to pick an all time favourite, but I recently read Trevor Noah’s autobiography Born a Crime, and that’s definitely high on my list. So many of his experiences resonated with me...though he grew up in a rough neighbourhood in Johannesburg and I grew up in Kidderpore (also a rough neighbourhood) in Kolkata. There were so many similarities... minus the apartheid. And being thrown out of a moving bus! It’s a riveting read and essentially an ode to his mother — another thing I can relate to very strongly. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Varied tastes

I don’t really have any favourites — be it an author, actor, singer, musician, etc. I have varied tastes. Currently, I’m into biographies and autobiographies. I find other people’s lives really fascinating. I think, as an actor as well, this genre in particular nurtures empathy and gives an insider’s perspective into all kinds of personalities. Most recently, I read Karan Thapar’s Devil’s Advocate, Elon Musk’s biography, Trevor Noah of course, and I’ve just started Anupam Kher’s autobiography. That’s quite a mixed bag...

Unwinding ritual

Everyone needs a little down time everyday. For me it’s the end of the day, when everyone is asleep and the world is quiet. That’s when I usually get to read. I also make it a point to carry a book while I’m travelling and to every set. Mostly after pack-up and a long hot shower — especially when I'm away from home — I tuck myself into bed with a book.

Monthly quota

It varies according to my schedule. If I really get into a book, I can finish it in a day or two — provided I get the time.

Book recommendations

From my wife, mostly. And sometimes I read about a book somewhere and if it intrigues me, I go for it.

Print vs digital

I prefer physical books. Half the joy of a good book is the smell of the paper. But yeah, I should really make the switch.

Currently reading

I just started Anupam Kher’s autobiography Lessons Life Taught Me, Unknowingly. Next up, I’m itching to start A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. And then Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl — which I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read yet.

Special bookish memory

There is this famous street behind Newmarket in Calcutta called Free School Street where my mum and I would go shopping for old cassettes, second hand books, design magazines and all sorts. We always had a great time and would usually end up having lunch at a nearby restaurant. Must do it soon again.

From book to screen

I loved Bard of Blood. Usually book adaptations are a disappointment unless you haven't read the book that is. When you read something and imagine it a certain way, it's very difficult to see it the way somebody else imagined it...and most probably adapted the story. I want to see Born a Crime being made into a film. And I hear that I won’t have to wait too long! It has enormous scope not only for powerful performances and humour, but also gives great insight into life post-apartheid.

No false claims

I haven’t lied about reading a classic which I haven’t. But, I keep promising myself I will read more classics, and then I get really engrossed in yet another biography/autobiography.

Saving every penny

As a child the only things I spent my pocket money on were rum balls (not actual rum) and Hardy Boys. From the same second hand book shop (the rum balls obviously didn't sell at the book shop!). And I’d save money every time there was a new Hardy Boys book. My cousins and I would compete!

Fight of the best

If I were asked to choose three books from my shelf, I would choose Karan Thapar’s Devil’s Advocate. The insight it gives you on some famous political personalities is entertaining and enlightening. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins — because I just acted in the Hindi remake of the film (shameless promotion alert!), and because I love a good thriller and, of course, my current favourite Elon Musk’s biography by Ashlee Vance.