Tell us something about yourself and when did you first realize you want to be a writer?
I hail from the city of Kolkata.
An Electronics and Telecommunications Engineer, in my day job, I work in a senior leadership position in a leading global consulting firm. With several publications on emerging trends in business and technology, I have been a speaker in various national and global conferences and technology summits.
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I have never really written for a purpose – it is just something I love to do. In my early childhood, I would spend hours writing, as well as making illustrations for my own stories. A number of my poems were published in children’s magazines back in the day. I continued to write through my teenage and later in college.
I kept writing in office magazines for a couple of years, but the demands of my career as an Information Technology professional and my travels across the world soon left me with very little time and creative energy to write fiction.
However, as I travelled across the world, I grew as a person getting to observe people from widely varying cultural backgrounds and to study their emotions, their thoughts, their behaviour from various perspectives. And stories began to grow all over again.
My motivation to become a published author became overwhelming when I received the Golden Pen Award in the Monsoon Romance Contest conducted by Sulekha.com in 2014 (the winning entry in that competition was later developed into a story that now features in my book Romance Shorts, a collection of four dark-romance short stories).
My debut novel In the Shadows of Death, a psychological thriller, set in the city of Kolkata, was published by Srishti Publishers and Distributors in December 2015.
Tell us about your book.
‘The Colours of Passion’ is a fast paced thriller set in the ‘new’ Kolkata. It provides an authentic view of the corporate world, and the glamour industry – movies and fashion. It talks about the trials and tribulations the people we adore on screen go through in reality. And the story deals with an extremely relevant social issue at its core.
What made you write on this topic?
There are three key elements that drive the narrative.
In my story, I talk about our passion for our work, our craft. I talk about the almost oppressive desire to excel in what we do, which keeps us awake through nights. And how that passion often makes us blind to our sense of propriety. And then, there is the passion one feels for another human being. It can have a variety of shades – some we are ‘comfortable’ with, some which do not conform to societal definitions and are readily dismissed or looked down upon.
A story for me is also a vehicle to talk about issues that matter to me. In my first novel, I spoke about several topics that are usually considered ‘taboo’ and are best pushed under dusty carpets. I talked about the sexual harassment of the male child in the supposedly secure confines of home. I talked about the politics of sexual exploitation and sexual favours, as well as the ‘reverse’ sexual harassment of men, at the workplace. I painted a stark picture of adultery and infidelity rampant in the modern urban society with changing ways of life and tried to find plausible causes without being judgemental. I was sceptical about the reaction of my readers. Within a few weeks of the release of the book, my confidence in the maturity of Indian readers was validated. And I was encouraged to take up in this novel issues that continue to fuel debates across the nation. I am looking forward to what readers and critics have to say about the story that lies at the core of ‘The Colours of Passion’.
Finally, I wanted to paint Kolkata in all its glorious inconsistencies. We have the moneyed upper class and the upwardly mobile middle class with its new-found avenues of prosperity that make the city a natural destination for global brands and plush real estate. We have shopping malls which are among the best in Asia, residential apartments which literally kiss the sky, nightlife which is among the best in the country, and a glamour industry which is getting its due attention in the national and international arena.
We also have the squalor of slums that are now home to the burgeoning mafia – smugglers, contract killers – and their unholy nexus with politicians and industrialists. My Kolkata is a living, breathing character in ‘The Colours of Passion’. She had to be introduced in all her glory – warts and all notwithstanding – to the world, all over again.
Where do you get the information and material for the book
I have been a celebrity-watcher for several years now. I love following the journeys of celebrities – Indian and International – from humble beginnings, often from nondescript backgrounds, to dizzying heights of fame, and observing how those journeys change them. Not only in the way they look and carry themselves, but also in their outlook, their opinions, their consciousness of social responsibilities and in some cases, their insecurities and what those insecurities often lead them to.
And having been in the corporate world for several years, I have realized that these traits are not characteristic of only the glamour industry. The same power games, the same insecurities, the same treachery and the hypocrisy exist everywhere. And at the same time, there are rays of hope to be discovered everywhere.
Because, at the end of the day, it is the complex, unpredictable human psyche at the core of all stories. So, while readers – including seasoned celebrity journalists – and reviewers are surprised at how, being a complete ‘outsider’, I could so meticulously build the characters and create the settings in a novel based on the glamour industry, I personally could relate to everything that goes on in the story.
Name one thing you learned while creating your book.
I firmly believe that, there is a killer lurking inside each one of us. When penning crime fiction, one needs to reach out to one’s cunning, scheming, wicked self. This becomes especially true when one is writing a psychological thriller.
Coming from an entirely different professional background, every time I write a thriller, I do a fair amount of research into areas like forensics, autopsy procedures, DNA studies, cyber forensics and so on. Technology plays a crucial role in detection procedures these days. Add to that, the fact that readers today are exposed to more sophisticated methods of investigation because of their exposure to the internet, crime serials on foreign-origin channels, and international bestsellers.
Do you have any suggestions for me to become a better writer?
It is important to create real, identifiable characters in a story. Correct use of the language is essential. An author should ensure that a story progresses at a uniform pace – a story that slows down after an energetic start is a big let down for me. Finally, it is not about the length but always about the impact of a story. I have read 1-page stories that have left me thinking for days.
“After this, are there any plans for your next book. If yes, then on what topic will it be?”
I have a couple of ideas for the next Agni Mitra thriller. I have also been working on a theme-based anthology of novellas.