When investigative journalist Sunil sets out on the trail of a blackmailer plaguing a rogue publisher in the Hindi novel Dhabba (Raja Pocket Books), he stumbles upon a conspiracy far more nefarious. There is murder, mayhem and a damsel in distress, but what there is not, iterates Hindi pulp fiction writer Surender Mohan Pathak, 81, is any sort of graphic sexual content. Which is why, when he was informed by his fans of the use of his 2010 novel in the second season of the popular web series Mirzapur (on Amazon Prime), the writer was taken aback to know the context.
“A character, played by the actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda, is shown to be reading my book in the third episode of the series. A voiceover reads out a sequence that appears to be an excerpt from the book. It is explicitly sexual and doesn’t exist in the novel. I have been writing pulp fiction for nearly 60 years, my books continue to be bestsellers, but sex or violence have never been the hooks for my books. People will see this and think that this is my life’s work. This just seems to be mal-intentioned,” says Pathak, who immediately wrote a letter to the producers of the series seeking an explanation and a removal of the voiceover, failing which he would seek legal recourse.
One of Hindi literature’s most prolific crime fiction writers, Pathak began his writing career in 1958, with a short story, Sattavan Saal Purana Aadmi (The Man Who Existed 57 Years Ago), while still working as a mechanic with the Indian Telephone Industries at the Ansari Road exchange. Since then, he’s written nearly 300 novels featuring working-class heroes who double up as sleuths. His minimum print runs in Hindi are pegged at an average of 40,000 copies; some of his novels have sold as many as 1,45,000 copies, an impressive figure in trade publishing in any language. Which is why, Pathak, who hasn’t watched the show and who stays away from social media, says he decided to take up the issue of misrepresentation with the makers of the show. “Pulp fiction has a short shelf life. You read a book and you move on. I don’t want people who haven’t read my books to think that all I did with my books was to titillate my readers,” he says.
Since his letter, Pathak says screenwriter Puneet Krishna, one of the writers of the show, has gotten in touch with him. “He told me that he was a fan of my writing, that he meant it as a tribute but what sort of tribute is it if it misrepresents my work?” asks the writer. Krishna, says Pathak, had also assured him that the show would feature an apology and the voiceover would be removed. “Though that is yet to happen,” says Pathak. Mirzapur, one of streaming giant Amazon Prime’s flagship shows, is a gritty crime thriller that follows the lives of mafia dons in the UP heartland. Marked by its unvarnished portrayal of violence, both sexual and otherwise, the show has garnered high TRPs in both its two seasons. Repeated requests to the show’s creators and to Amazon Prime for a comment went unanswered.
(With inputs by Ektaa Malik)
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