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India failed to captalise on 'Feluda's' popularity: Author Ashwin Sanghi

Indian authors have failed to create their own set of popular sleuths like Sherlock Holmes despite filmmaker Satyajit Ray giving us the iconic Bengali sleuth Feluda way back in 1965, said the bestselling thriller writer Ashwin Sanghi, who feels crime writing requires discipline and persistence to narrate a gripping tale.

"We (in India) are at an early stage of the learning curve and we have a lot to cover. The main problem, I feel, is that Satyajit Ray gave us a great character in Feluda but we failed to create our own set of characters after that," Sanghi told IANS in an interview on the sidelines of the Jaipur Literature Festival here.

Ray's character, Pradosh Chandra Mitter, more commonly known as Feluda, was first introduced in popular Bengali children's magazine "Sandesh" and later in "Desh". As Feluda became a popular figure, Ray directed two movies based on the detective - "Sonar Kella" (1974) and "Joy Baba Felunath" (1978).

But after Ray's death in 1990, Feluda remained alive only in the memory whereas Scottish author Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's fictional Belgian detective Hercule Poirot made their continuous presence felt through books, movies and TV series.

However, one can't ignore Bengali author Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay's fictional detective "Byomkesh Bakshi" who also featuered in a popular TV series of the same
name, with actor Rajit Kapur playing the protagonist.

It could be the inability of the crime writers to produce a harvest on this already fertile ground, or the absence of a daring publisher to burn his hands with the genre. Whatever be the reason, crime writing failed to take off post "Feluda".

"Just imagine, 10 years ago, publishers were not keen on investing in popular fiction. At that time, they only wanted literary fiction or non-fiction. But look at the developments now. It is the genre of romance, mythology and crime that they are happy to publish," said Sanghi, author of "The Rozabal Line", "Chanakya's Chant" and "The Krishna Key".

But unlike romance, crime writing is not an easy genre to handle because an author can't afford to ride on the basis of emotions that are evoked from various situations. In crime or thriller writing, the author has to have a plot in place and the ability to connect dots that would complete the jigsaw puzzle.

"In a crime novel, I will have to explain why I chose to leave that cigarette butt on the table. I need to have the knowledge of describing a crime scene or an interrogation scene. I can't create these things from my imagination," said the 46-year-old.

"I need to have a plot in place and then weave the story around it. Research is a very important part of crime writing. But what is most important is discipline and persistence to nurture your story," said Sanghi who who had collaborated with American writer James Patterson for "Private India".

For this crime thriller set in Mumbai, Sanghi went to the morgues for the first time and accompanied a private detective to understand the nuances of the beat.

"I would say that literary fiction is an art and crime writing is more of a craft that you have to slowly hone," he said.

If one goes by Sanghi's philosophy, crime writing is like a stage performance in which actors are playing their part in the front while there are many who are working in the background to support the performance.

"It is a plot behind a plot and I am still a work in progress," he said, adding he is learning the tools of the trade and how to approach the subject.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at [email protected])