Kolkata: Ashwin Sanghi is the bestselling author of our times and in a candid chat with eNewsroom he discusses a wide range of topics – right from his decision to venture into the world of detective and crime fiction; why he admires Satyajit Ray’s Feluda and how in the political scenario, India has witnessed Kautilyas at work. Read on to know more.
eNewsroom: Is it true that you are now all set to write your very first detective novel?
Ashwin: Yes! At present, I am working on the sixth book of the ‘Bharat series’. I intend to finish writing it by the end of June and launch it by the end of 2019. And after that I will concentrate on writing my detective thriller.
eNewsroom: Why is it that we hardly get to read crime or detective fiction written by Indian authors?
Ashwin: In modern times, Satyajit Ray created Feluda and held the bastion in Bengal. The crime thrillers written by Surender Mohan Pathak in Hindi also became popular. Yet unlike the West, Indian writers shied away from these genres and that is because the publishers in India were not very forthcoming to publish detective and crime fiction written by them. Even now, publishers are happy to market detective and crime novels penned by Western authors simply because these books sale. Thus, foreign writers and foreign publishers continue to dominate our market…
eNewsroom: You mentioned Feluda a short while ago.
Ashwin: That I did. I have read Feluda – of course, the translated version in English – and I find him and his adventures fascinating. Satyajit Ray was a master storyteller.
eNewsroom: So, how has Ray influenced you in your new literary endeavour?
Ashwin: I have learnt a lot by reading Feluda and the detective or crime thrillers written by the pioneering Western authors. I have understood about the importance of developing a compelling plot from them. They have taught me how to create a strong and well-developed central character and adding certain nuances that will make both the story and the characters stand out.
eNewsroom: You seem to have a strong Bengali connection. You like Feluda and now your books are now being translated into Bengali as well…
Ashwin: (Smiles). See, Bengal is the reading capital of the country, so it makes sense to have my books available in Bengali, doesn’t it? Translated works not only create a bigger market space, but also encourage readers to explore authors writing in different languages. For example, I could read Feluda because it was translated into English and now my books are being translated into Bengali. Life comes a full circle.
eNewsroom: How challenging is it to write a detective thriller or crime fiction?
Ashwin: Since I am looking at developing a series in this genre, thus, my first challenge involves developing a fascinating central character. The next one is to visualize the overall arch of this series. Today’s crime and detective fictions have to be more creative but, I would need to exercise control while sketching the scenes involving violence. Research plays a vital role in all my works, but in this genre, I have to do a large amount of footwork and also get present the details of forensic procedures accurately. The list goes on and on.
eNewsroom: Your creation – Chanakya’s Chants – is one of the bestselling political thrillers of our times. But there is still a dearth of indigenous political thrillers.
Ashwin: Right now, the commercial fiction space in India is being dominated by two genres – romance and mythology. Writing a political thriller is a huge commitment – research takes a lot of time; the novel demands accuracy; dedication and even the word count is a lot higher – and despite all this, a writer has no assurance that his or her book will get a good share of the market space. Thus, authors here prefer to concentrate on those genres that have already passed the litmus test. What’s more this trend is being encouraged by publishers because it is commercially more viable. This is also the reason why Indian writers are wary to explore the horror and paranormal genres as well.
eNewsroom: Your graphic series on Pandit Gangasagar Mishra of Chanakya’s Chants fame has created ripples on social media.
Ashwin: I decided to reprise Pandit Gangasagar Mishra and re-invent both him and myself in the process. (Laughs). It also enables me to keep the book in the spotlight. In the series, Pandit Mishra shares his political observations and gyan with the right touch of wit and humour and I am hopeful that his observations will influence those who follow me on social media.
eNewsroom: Talking about social media – Do you think that issues and arguments get unnecessarily amplified there?
Ashwin: Earlier diametrically opposite people used to engage in face-to-face disagreements and difference of opinions. Today, the scene has shifted to social media. It is a big space with lots of people which means lots of opinions and that is why things get amplified. Social media is a great platform but it all depends on how one is using it. For example, I use it to inform about what is going on in my life; share inspirational messages et al. I do not use it to discuss who should form the next government or talk about issues that I know is going to lead to debates and reactions. I think that those who face such reactions et al want to get into such situations. I find such arguments to be a total waste of productive time.
eNewsroom: What is your take on the ‘intolerance wave’ that recently hit social media?
Ashwin: I can only say that the time has come for us to exude one of the biggest virtues of tolerance – be tolerant of those who are intolerant.
eNewsroom: Do you think that India needs another Chanakya?
Ashwin: I feel that India has had her fair share of Chanakyas till date. (Smiles). When one thinks of Chanakya, one thinks of kut niti. Many are reminded of Machiavelli’s philosophy where ‘the end justifies the means’. When I think of Chanakya, I think of his invaluable lessons. One such lesson harps upon the need and importance of that supreme ‘higher purpose’ – that of working for greater and national good. He advised emperors/rulers to always keep the nobility of this ‘higher purpose’ in mind for truly nothing should overshadow the desire to what is best for the nation, its development and national unity. What a meaningful ‘chant’ this it, right?