Sunday, August 14, 2011

Plots of gold

They sell in lakhs, churn out hundreds of novels in a lifetime and constantly finetune their storylines according to the latest trends. Aabhas Sharma meets the bestselling writers of Hindi pulp fiction.

Sitting in the basement office next to his palatial bungalow in Meerut, Ved Prakash Sharma makes a startling revelation in a matter-of-fact tone. “I stopped counting after 1.5 million.” Sharma is talking about his bestselling novel, Wardi Wala Gunda (Hooligan in Uniform), which is treated as a classic in the Hindi pulp fiction genre. “My books sell as they are a heady cocktail of what an average reader wants,” he says. His heady cocktail includes murder, revenge, sex and greed. Throw in book jackets in technicolour screaming murder, cheap thrills, raunchy women and a gun, and you have a sure winner.

Titles like Bahu Maange Insaaf (Daughter-in-Law Demands Justice), Aankhon Wali Andhi (The Blind Woman with Eyes), Dahej Mein Mili Revolver (In the Dowry came a Revolver) and Paintra (Move) have sold like no other genre in the country. The men churning out these potboilers prolifically might not be as famous as Chetan Bhagat, but enter the Hindi heartland and you will find that they are celebrities. Bhagat’s last book, Two States: The Story of My Marriage, has sold about a million copies — stupendous but still 500,000 short of Sharma’s Wardi Wala Gunda. Amitav Ghosh’s latest book, River of Smoke, has so far sold around 60,000; Shobhaa De’s bestsellers do around 25,000.

Take the case of Anil Mohan. This Delhi-based writer has written over 180 books in two decades. On an average, his books sell about 50,000 copies each. (He could be close to the 10 million mark now in overall sales. Though far short of the 400 million or so copies of Harry Potter books of J K Rowling, this is better than any Indian English writer can claim.) Still, he feels that he hasn’t got due credit: “When they [English writers] sell 3,000, it becomes a bestseller. What about our books?”

Full report here Business Standard

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