Chirdeep Malhotra . Updated: 6/6/2022 12:40:33 PM Books and Authors

Author Interview: Dr. Mahul Brahma

Prof (Dr) Mahul Brahma is an author of six award-winning books. He is a Professor and Dean at Adamas University. Prof Brahma is also an actor and an avid golfer. He holds a PhD in Economics, a D.Litt in luxury and Communications and is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, St Xavier’s College, SSSUTMS, MICA, and University of Cambridge Judge Business School. He has recently come out with the book “The Mythic Value of Luxury”. He has received ‘Sahityakosh Samman’ for this book, and has been appreciated by Mr. Ratan Tata and Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. In a candid chat with Chirdeep Malhotra, he talks about his book, his writing journey, his favourite books and authors, and much more. Read on!

Has writing always been a part of your life? Or did you chance upon it later on and then instantly fell in love with it?

If among the multiple hats that I wear – academician, author, actor, chief editor, CSR and communications leader, golfer – I am asked to choose one, it will be an author or rather a writer. Writing has been an integral part of my life. It got intensified once I started my career with The Economic Times as a journalist during the first year of my Masters in Calcutta University. It is only when you write professionally that you understand the need to be disciplined, as you have to deliver on quality as well as quantity within deadline, every single day. A decade later, when I was editing a luxury magazine with the India partner of New York Times as a Senior Editor, I fell in love with luxury. After a lot of research and a lot of interviews with the brand custodians of the luxury labels, I realised that there is no literature on luxury. Also, I realised that luxury is represented in a very myopic way – through price tags. This made me go deeper and look at luxury in a more inclusive way and through an academic lens, and finally gave birth to The Luxe Trilogy – “Decoding Luxe”, “Dark Luxe” and “Luxe Inferno”. I have looked at luxury from a philosophical, sociological, anthropological, and historic perspective. Even if I do not have the means to purchase a certain luxury product, I can always appreciate the beauty, the craftsmanship, and the story. Luxury is inclusive.

Please tell us more about your book “The Mythic Value of Luxury”. This book’s objective is to find the true meaning of luxury that is defined by its mythic value, which makes it timeless. Can you tell us more about this?

In my quest of finding the secret behind luxury brands surviving centuries, I started researching on myths. So I looked at luxury from various lenses of sociology, philosophy and anthropology. This book is my research on the same which unveils the power of embodying contradictions that create a mythic value in a luxury brand. The greater the contradictions it can house, the greater the mythic value. For example, if you deeply study the bronze sculpture The Thinker (Le Penseur), you will see its mythic value, embodying the two biggest contradictions of all times – mind and body.
The word luxury comes from the word “luxe”, which means “dazzle”. The dazzle is the brightest when the mythic value of luxury is highest. Therefore, the degree of the mythic value will determine the Luxe Quotient and Luxe Factor. The greater the degree of contradictions that a brand embodies, the greater is the mythic value; and the greater the Luxe Quotient, the greater the Luxe Factor. This is where perception plays a critical role.
For example, the Patiala crown necklace made by Cartier in 1928 that was overall adorned by 2,930 diamonds, and had the “De Beers” diamond, the seventh largest diamond of 234.69 carats. The black and white photograph of the Maharaja of Patiala wearing the necklace is widely showcased by Cartier in every strategic boutique of Cartier even today. The photograph is an example of the mythic value of luxury which embodies the biggest contradiction – diamonds are a man’s best friend, and not a woman’s.
The realm of the unconventional is the space where mythic value is created for luxury brands.

What inspired you to write this book? When did you start writing this book and how long did it take you to finish it?

Luxury has always been my inspiration. My TEDx Talk on the ‘Mythic Value of Luxury’ is based on my research towards answering a fundamental question “How do some luxury brands survive the test of time while others perish?”
It was my research paper on this fundamental question that led to the TEDx Talk and then the book. It took almost a year writing this book, if you include the time for the research. However, the thinking for the same did come almost a decade back when I started editing the luxury magazine.

What type of research did writing this book entail?

I am an academician, so the research has been extensive, trying to answer the fundamental question on the survival of luxury brands that I stated above. At my alma mater IIM Calcutta, I was studying myths and then it struck me to look at luxury from a sociological and anthropological perspective. And thus after an extensive study, the research was completed and the book happened.

What were some of the challenges while writing this book?

While writing books on luxury, the biggest challenge has always been the review of literature, and finding references. The literature on luxury, before my first book, has mostly been product catalogues. So it is always a struggle and in many cases I have to refer to my own research.

Can you recommend five books from any genre, for our readers to add to their reading lists, that you particularly cherish?

These are “Our Films, Their Films” by Satyajit Ray, “The Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger, “Trans-Himalaya” by Sven Hedin, “Being and Nothingness” by Jean-Paul Sartre, and “The Mythic Value of Luxury” by Dr. Mahul Brahma.

What are your other interests apart from writing?

I am an actor and my recent film “Aparajito” by ace director Anik Dutta has just been released. It is based on the story behind the making of Satyajit Ray’s first film “Pather Panchali”. The film is doing very well commercially, even outside India, and has also got selected in the Toronto International Film Festival. This is my second film with Anik, the first one was “Borunbabur Bondhu”, which starred the legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee.
My first short film as an actor was selected and screened at Cannes Film Festival in 2016. My micro-short film as a director, “Post-It”, has also received many national and international accolades.

There are many new writers and poets who are aspiring to get their work published. What would you say to them?

Keep writing. I write every day for an hour, from 6 am to 7 am. You have to be very disciplined to pursue a creative field. The work is most important. And if it has quality, it will surely find a way to the surface and reach its readers, no amount of rejection will be able to hold it back.

What are you working on next? Any new literary projects that our readers should look out for?

I am working on a book of contemporary essays on life and times.

Can you share with our readers a motivational quote that keeps you going?

‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.’
– Robert Frost

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