Crime pays! No, really, it does. Just ask Piyush Jha. This ad-man turned filmmaker turned writer has all of it written. His first book, a crime fiction, Mumbaistan had three crime thrillers. The book became (and still is) a bestseller. Pegged by its success, Piyush is back with Compass Box Killer: An Inspector Virkar Crime Thriller. A part of the Mumbaistan Series, we see the very Mumbaikar Inspector try to stop a serial killer via clues kept in a compass box. Jha speaks to The Punekar about the story, Inspector Virkar and the genre of crime thriller in India.
Why another Inspector Virkar? Why did you not create a new character?
If you remember, there was a character called Inspector Ghote. HRF Keating had written it and I had read the book as a kid. Keating passed away last year and I realised that there won’t be any more Ghote books. Somewhere I felt we had to carry the legacy of the good inspector from Mumbai. The cop is from Mumbai and loves the city. My character and book evolved from there. Inspector Virkar is such a character. He is not afraid to fight for justice. Also I always wanted to write on a Mumbaikar like Virkar. He is caught in a warp as he has been out of the city for a while and sees changes around, once back. He is unhappy with these changes. The story is about him too.
How did the plot come up? And what’s with the killer’s fixation with compass box?
This guy (killer) is confused and in this confusion, he is seeking justice. Something has happened in his life when he was young. That incident stayed with him. The plot was always there somewhere in my mind. About the compass box, I don’t know… the idea just came from the character’s background.
For Mumbaistan, you did extensive research. Was it the same for this book too?
Except for some research of Belgaum, I did not do much, as I knew the landscape of Mumbai. Writing about the city came easily. Also the police rulebook came handy here. I acquired knowledge from it.
Did you base the character of Virkar on someone?
If you want to say based on someone, it could be me (laughs). Honestly, I met a lot of police personnel who stayed with me, like a cop from Mumbai posted in Gadchiroli. I had gone there for some work and he was happy to meet another Mumbaikar. When I was creating Virkar, I thought of him in a strange way. Virkar was posted in Gadchiroli as he offended someone in his training academy. When back in Mumbai, Virkar feels alienated. He is trying to find his feet. He tries to do what he is supposed to do – fight injustice and oppose pressure.
I noticed that your female character uses men to achieve her goals. In one of the stories in Mumbaistan, you find such character. What’s with this fixation?
You can say it is a fixation from the Noir style of films. In those films, you had a femme fatale character. There was always a tug of war for the hero between the femme fatale and detachment from things. I am trying to bring the same in Mumbai via the novels.
How easy or difficult is it to write a crime thriller in India, considering the different kind of literature around and the last big detective character being Satyajit Ray’s Feluda?
You could say I have been successful in this genre. I did not imagine it. An engaging crime thriller or fiction always intrigues people and this book has enough suspense. People were writing in other languages like in Hindi or Marathi. It’s just that no one tapped the English language market as I did perhaps.
You had plans of making one of the stories from Mumbaistan into a film. What happened to that?
There are a couple of things in pipeline like television, games, etc. But things are at an infant stage. It all will be a part of the whole.