Ready to be dissed by all and sundry: Anil Thakraney

13 Jul,2015

 

Most people who’ve been reading MxMIndia and some of those who would read The Brief: in the 1990s are familiar with Anil Thakraney’s work. Or you’ve read his interviews or stings in Mid-Day and Mumbai Mirror.

 

Over the last two years, Thakraney has been working on his first novel – a crime thriller called ‘An Invitation to Death’. Released on Friday, July 10, the book has been received well, we hear. We read a review on Sunday and that said it was unputdownable.

 

Pradyuman Maheshwari interviewed Anil Thakraney and put him through the kind of questions he [Thakraney] would subject various others to. Anyone smiling, hehehaha?!

Read on…

 

 

Why I wrote ‘An Invitation To Death’

Once I decided the time had come to get cracking on my first book, the decision to write on crime was a no-brainer. Because crime has always fascinated me (I would dearly like to eliminate a few people, hehe). And I gravitated toward fiction because I needed my characters to be interesting people. People I would want to hang out with for a drink, even at the risk of being stabbed on the way to the loo. Real-llfe crime stories I have read about in India (and covered as a journalist) have left me uninterested in the protagonists; hard-core criminals, mind-effed for sure, but essentially boring, depressing people.

 

While pondering on the subject, the thought of writing on a serial killer was alluring. Mainly because there hasn’t been a noteworthy story written on the subject in this country. Perhaps because most of the serial killers in post-independent India have come from the lower strata of the society, there hasn’t really been a suave, handsome, intelligent white collared serial murderer (aside from Charles Sobhraj, who is half-Indian, from another era, and has been dealt with to death across the world). I suppose this might have been a dampener for writers.

 

This got me thinking. What if there WAS one such in today’s India. What would he look like, how would he behave, what would be his background, what would he do for a living, indeed, what would be his personality and motivations. And soon Darius Irani was born. A dark, mysterious, edgy but immensely interesting and charming character. Someone you want to know more about, someone who attracts you. Someone who invites you to your death, and you gladly accept it.

 

As novelist Chelsea Cain says, ‘Ugly people kill people all the time. But when pretty people did, it got attention.’ And Darius Irani will get your attention all right. He will stay with you long after the last page is done. That’s a promise. (I can hear him sniggering. Loudly.)

 

(from AnilThakraney.com)

 

Why a crime thriller? Why not a love story? Or something else?

Hard crime has always fascinated me. Have always wondered exactly what goes on inside a killer’s mind, what are his/her motivations, what drives a human to take another human’s life. And within this genre, I was most keen to write the story of a serial killer. Mainly because there haven’t been too many serial killers in India (not recorded, at least), and most of those that have been, have come from the lower strata of the society. This got me thinking; what if there was an educated, urban, white collar, true blue desi serial killer in our midst? Someone like you and me? That I found enormously alluring. Sure I will write a love story some day but there will be plenty of blood and gore in it. 🙂

 

You weren’t ever a crime journalist. As a genre, does crime interest you more than anyone else?

While crime wasn’t my specific beat, both at Mid Day and at Mumbai Mirror, I worked on the odd crime story. Also don’t forget, I have interviewed policemen, top cops and criminals in my journalism career. Not to speak of the netas and the so-called religious heads with criminal records. Crime does interest me but that won’t prevent me from exploring another genre in the future. Basically it’s about the story idea, that’s paramount.

 

You are an accomplished writer of not-so-long print/digital media copy? Was writing loooooong copy for fiction tough? How much time from start to finish?

Not really. Once I got going, the words simply poured and poured. It was like the characters had got a life of their own, and were doing their number with me watching as a spectator. It’s almost an eerie feeling. I once went for a drink, and felt the serial killer in my book, Darius Irani, sitting right beside me, loudly making fun of someone seated on another table. It’s almost a schizophrenic feeling. It took about two years in all, but it would have taken lesser if I didn’t have bills to pay! I would write for maximum three hours a day, and then slip into work that kept the home fires burning.

 

As someone who’s revels in subjecting others to intense scrutiny, is it worrying that now you too will be subjected to the same, especially by all those you damned?

Haha. I am ready for the book to be dissed by all and sundry! As you know, I once edited a fearless, give-a-damn ad and media magazine called The Brief. I then went on to write hundreds, maybe thousands of columns with my pen loaded with sulphuric acid. The extremely harsh reader comments I would often get in return, and the open threats from the high and mighty, to either get me sacked or killed, only helped to make my skin thicker than it already was.

 

If you have to self-assess, how would you rate ‘An Invitation to Death’? On a score from 1 to 10?

9.5. I have taken off 0.5 because I don’t want to appear immodest. 🙂

 

You haven’t gone for a big-name publisher for your first novel? Is it because the biggies were acting difficult? Or is it because you make money in self-publishing?

An Invitation To Death isn’t self published, it’s been published by the Delhi-based Srishti Publishers & Distributors. While they aren’t as high profile as some of the bigger ones, their distribution network is solid, and that’s well know in the publishing industry. Also, I approached only three publishers. One did not bother to reply, the other asked me to ‘tone down the violence’ (eeeks!). Srishti fully believed in the idea and the story, they were super excited, and that’s what I needed from my publisher.

 

One has heard stories about how certain writers rose up the popularity charts by buying their own books in bulk from the bookstores? Any plans on that?

Sounds good! What an idea, Sirji! Would love to do that but will need to rob a bank first. You know how poorly we freelance journalists get paid in this country. I can’t even afford a fancy book reading do at Crossword, and that’s being honest.

 

We have read the first chapter, and it’s possibly too early to talk about it, but are you looking at converting this to a film or TV series?

Yes. Would make for kickass cinema. Will discuss with a few producers after the book is out. I just hope they don’t tone down the violence! 🙂

 

There is talk of likenesses to real-life folk from the media in your work? You’ll obviously want us to read the book to figure it out for ourselves, but some clues?

Yes, you will identify a few characters. But the book isn’t really about targeting individual media personalities. As for the media angle to the story, it’s more about how the Indian media, particularly television channels, deal with crime in this country. The focus is usually on sensationalism and eyeball gathering, rather than concern for loss of human life. You will discover the heartlessness and callousness of India’s so-called ‘vibrant’ media.

 

What next? Have you started work on your next book?

Nope, not immediately. Have to first get my bread and butter work in order, the courier company just delivered the latest electricity bill. 🙂

 

 

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