Crime Files from Maximum City

Film director Piyush Jha’s new book,Compass Box Killer,travels through the dark bylanes of Mumbai

Written by AMRUTA LAKHE | Published: July 23, 2013 5:23 am

While studying in Mumbai,Piyush Jha was given the nickname “Mumbai’s Map Quest” by his friends. He knew the way around every odd bylane and narrow gali

of Mumbai like the back of his hand. This helped him prepare for Mumbaistan,his first book,and the recently released Compass Box Killer. The book follows Inspector Virkar,from the story Injectionwalla in his book Mumbaistan,as he follows clues left by a serial killer in rusty compass boxes in the alleys of Kandala,Belgaun and other areas of Mumbai.

Jha,as a child,was in love with crime fiction. “As a boy,I grew up reading a lot of Hardy Boys and Five Find-Outers. Later,I graduated to crime novels by Frederick Forsyth,Ian Rankin and Robert Ludlum. So,if I had to write a book,it had to be a crime thriller — something that would engage and excite me,” he says.

Jha soon realised that the crime fiction scene in India was at a nascent stage. “When Mumbaistan took off,I realised there was a latent readership for crime fiction. I also made sure the book had a very Indian touch in terms of the language the characters speak and the food they eat,” he says.

Jha talks about how his characters are inspired by the real people one can see walking on the streets of Mumbai. “The protagonist is a police inspector,who is a common man’s hero. He believes in justice but doesn’t mind bending a couple of rules to get it. Isn’t that like all of us? I thought it makes him more real— more like us. People like real heroes,” he adds.

His writing derives inspiration from the city his books are based on. “In Mumbai,one minute you’re in a posh locality,you take one turn and find yourself looking at a slum. The city is full of surprises and,when I write,I try to incorporate that element of surprise,” he says. He adds that while writing crime fiction,the writer has to make sure that he/she is a couple of steps ahead of the reader and the plot is fresh; no one likes knowing what will happen. “That’s the challenge,and probably the best part of the job,” he adds.

Better known as a screenwriter of feature films such as Chalo America,King of Bollywood and Sikandar,Jha has been told that his books read like films. Commenting on his cinematic style of writing,he says,“My style of writing has been naturally influenced since I grew up with television and movies. This has proved to be an advantage. People react more positively to cinema,so it really works in my favour.”

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