Shyam Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Funny Boy, his first novel, won the W.H. Smith/ Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Lambda Literary Award in the US. He is the author of Cinnamon Gardens and Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, and the editor of an anthology, Story-wallah! A Celebration of South Asian Fiction. His books have been published in the US, the UK and India, and published in translation in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey and Israel. His latest novel, The Hungry Ghosts, was published April 2, 2013 in Canada, India and Sri Lanka.
Shyam wrote the screenplay for his first novel Funny Boy along with the award-winning Deepa Mehta, who also directed the film. Shyam’s new novel Mansion of the Moon, a historical novel about the Buddha’s wife, will be released by Knopf in 2022.
In 2016, Shyam had the interesting honour of having a spider named after him: Brignolia shyami, a small goblin spider.
Funny Boy—a Film by Deepa Mehta
Premieres on CBC and CBC Gem on December 4, 2020
Funny Boy is the highly-anticipated dramatic feature from Oscar nominee Deepa Mehta. Widely known for her trilogy films, Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005), Mehta’s latest film is based on the best-selling Canadian novel by Shyam Selvadurai. Mehta co-wrote the screenplay with Selvadurai, with David Hamilton producing. Three-time Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore created the film score.
Shot on location and set in Sri Lanka in the 1970’s and 80’s, Funny Boy explores the awakening of sexual identity by a young boy named Arjie (portrayed by Arush Nand and Brandon Ingram). As political tensions escalate to a boiling point between the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese, a young boy comes of age in a society and family that doesn’t embrace difference outside of societal norms. The film chronicles Arjie’s struggle to find balance and self-love despite the absence of empathy and understanding.
Premieres on CBC TV and CBC Gem on December 4, 2020
Coming to Netflix on December 10, 2020, in the USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand
“Shyam Selvadurai writes as sensitively about the emotional intensity of adolescence as he does about the wonder of childhood. He also paints an affectionate picture of an imperfect family in a lost paradise, struggling to stay together in troubled times”— The New York Times Book Review
Funny Boy—a Book by Shyam Selvadurai
Set in the mannered, lush world of upper middle class Tamils in Sri Lanka, this deeply moving first novel, though not autobiographical, draws on Selvadurai’s experience of being gay in Sri Lanka and growing up during the escalating violence between the Buddhist Sinhala majority and Hindu Tamil minority in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Arjie Chelvaratnam, at the age of 7, prefers dressing up in a sari and playing bride-bride with his girl cousin to cricket. When he is discovered by the adults engaging in this innocent fun, he is forced out of the world of the girls. A lonely outsider, he attaches himself to various sympathetic adults, whose own trajectories and dilemmas reveal to Arjie the difficulties of following ones desires. As the novel progresses, the civil violence and tensions mount bringing devastating consequences to Arjie’s family and their sheltered world.
The journey from the luminous simplicity of childhood into the more intricately shaded world of adults—with its secrets, its injustices, and its capacity for violence—is a memorable one, as time and time again the true longings of the human heart are held against the way things are.