Piyush Jha, a filmmaker, who has directed films like Sikandar, King of Bollywood and Chalo America, is ready with his debut novel. It’s called Mumbaistan, and consists of three crime novellas that spring from the mean streets of Mumbai.
Jha grew up in Mumbai wherein need, necessity and opportunity throw up a fascinating behaviour pattern. Nowhere does it manifest itself better than in criminal acts which usually are sort of extreme actions. These tales prompted him to write Mumbaistan; he is gearing up to turn it into a film.
The Mumbai microcosm
The throbbing, pulsating city has a million stories to tell. Its myriad voices and its many tales, the sordid truths and the fantastical goings on. It is a city of romance, aspirations, gross inequalities, fundamentalism and cosmopolitanism, strength and unity and divisiveness. It is the city of extremes and in that sense, remarkably a city of the world – a microcosm depicting the inane possibilities that surround us.
Mumbai, a city of dreams for many. But for others, a nightmare. Behind the façade of lustre and glamour churns a seething underbelly of squalor, corruption and crime. Mumbaistan’s three explosive novellas unravel the subterranean secrets of the maximum city—from the teeming maw of Dharavi and the wanton streets of Kamathipura to the swank high-rises of Bandra. A prostitute, her lover and a policeman play for high stakes in Bomb-Day. Injectionwala exposes chilling medical malpractices and a lovelorn vigilante’s twisted game plan. In Coma Man, a man wakes up from coma after twenty years, and sets out in search of his wife — and himself. Macabre love stories, conniving cops and hard-boiled slumlords form the backdrop of a schizophrenic city that is brooding... dying. An intriguing take on the crime genre, this debut work spans years and is an exploration of lust and glamour.
Too fantastic to believe
“Everyday I turn the pages of the newspaper and incredulously read about the evil that people do. I wonder if I used a real story in a plot, would it work? But, I feel that if I put them in a book, they would be perhaps too fantastic to believe. I do use real people and their hopes and aspirations as the reasons for their actions, but true crime and its brutality turns my stomach,” says Jha.
“I just needed to research certain official terminology and police procedure, the rest of the storyscape comes naturally to me. I have roamed the streets since I was a child, and know Mumbai inside out. I have used the city's throbbing energy as a style that powered my writing. Much like Mumbai where every corner there is a new twist and turn, my stories are page-turners that eventually turn on their heads,” he says.
“All I have written is a fictionalised amalgamation of crime stories that could perhaps be possible only in a city like Mumbai. The cases in my book may be possible, because as we know, sometimes facts are stranger than fiction,” says the author.
“To see abstract thoughts in my head transform into paragraphs, chapters and then a full-fledged book is, well, magical. As opposed to a film, where the image is displayed to the viewer, I think it is more difficult to conjure images in a reader’s mind. And to accomplish a task such as that is to crest a new high in one’s creative pursuits,” believes the filmmaker.
“When one dons a filmmakers' hat and looks at written material as a source for film stories, one has to become brutal. Alfred Hitchcock called it ‘killing your babies’. Basically, you have to throw away the book, and make the film from the story that's left in your head-because that's the best part. Fortunately, I know this, so as I write, I’ve already made up my mind what stays in the book and what will appear in the film,” says Jha.
Filmmaker Ekta Kapoor, who would be launching the book, has also shown interest in Jha’s crime thriller. She has even written the blurb for Mumbaistan.
Writer by accident
“I discovered the writer in me quite by accident. After the release of Sikandar I was at a loose end, wondering what to direct next when I started writing a crime novel just for a lark. When I finished the first novel I sent it to three publishers. To my surprise, all three accepted the manuscript. I chose Rupa. Now I am well into my second novel,” says Jha.