These books usually play with a whole lot of genres from romance, crime, horror, supernaturalalways taking the reader to the edge, deliberately making them unbelievable. And while its still hard to find them in the branded bookstores, every publishing house is now investing time and money in translating regional pulp fiction. Its the overriding trend, across entertainment sectors from films, TV, print, radioto go regionaland publishing is just following suit.
So, not surprisingly, two of Surender Mohan Pathaks crime thrillers have been translated into English already. The 65 Lakh Heist had already sold three lakh copies in Hindi and had a readership over two million, and now Pathak has been exposed to English readers too, courtesy Blaft Publications. Arunava Sinha, who translated Sankars Chowringhee into English, has just introduced Bengali pulp writer Moti Nandy to English readers through two novellas Striker, Stopper. Nandy, very popular with Bengali readers, wrote all his novels around sport. Sinha is also compiling a supernatural horror anthology of Bengali stories for Blaft.
Anurima Roy, publicity manager, Hachette India, which published Nandys book, says clearly there is a substantial market for regional pulp fiction and its growing.
Regional pulp has a very big readership and many books are waiting to be translated and read. The Indian market for English books is still very small, so theres a lot of potential for growth, she adds. Bookstore owners on Kolkatas books avenue, College Street, say over the last few years readers too have been demanding a wide variety of books across genres. Random House and Blaft will separately publish the Urdu pulp fiction classics The Imran Series and Jasoosi Duniya respectively in translation. Blaft, the Chennai-based publishing house set up shop two years ago, introducing the Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction to English readers with great success. More than 7,000 copies were sold, a print run even some better known Indian writers in English cant boast of yet.
Most of the publishers and writers we spoke to had just one wishthat regional pulp got better display at stores, maybe rub shoulders with the Grishams and the Kings.
With the advent of TV how vibrant is the regional pulp fiction space Rakesh Khanna, founder director Blaft, says most of the authors and publishers it has talked to complain that television has heavily eaten into their audience.
But there are still a lot of books coming out all the time. Established Hindi and Tamil writers like Surender Mohan Pathak and Indra Soundar Rajan are starting to see their books released with better production, on nicer paper, costing a little more it's not really pulp anymore; maybe it's not high literature, but people are taking it more seriously.
For publishers like Blaft the response has been really good in Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Kerala, and many other places around the country. But for some reason Blaft has had a hard time getting our titles into Kolkata stores. The books are getting more international attention all the time too, he adds.
Rs 200, Pp 252
Following a girl who could smell grief before it struck, Perfect Eight is about a journey of unrequited love. Through floods and communal riots, the protagonist carries her mothers partitioned spirit and her fathers indestructible love for life as she makes her way through Patiala, Lahore, Ambrosa, Assam and Bangalore. The outcome is predictable and characters commonplace, but Moudgils metaphors are woven well.
It is love at first sight for the protagonist. Her object of affection, however, knows not love, used only to passion.
Samir: Swaying between blistering fervour and indifference bordering on malice, is always out of reach.
Do not look for original plot or imaginative circumstances, and it makes for a leisurely afternoon Sunday read.
Youve Got to be Kidding
Rs 145, Pp 251
London School of Business is the likely setting for this tale where six driven, ambitious Indians have gathered, essentially to upgrade their corporate skills. Their hopes are quickly dashed as 2008 recession begins.
Vicky: An MBA from an average institute, wants to improve his career prospects.
Samaira: Rich, goal oriented, her priorities lie in getting away from family.
Tarun: An IT professional in Singapore, a degree in finance from LBS could do wonders to his career.
Riya: His wife. She cites the concerns of a non-working spouse.
Swami: The only second generation Brit in the group, his concerns are different.
Aditya: The narrator, bored as a consultant, is the one most affected by the recession.
It has the premise of a potentially good tale, but the language is loose, the plot repetitive and attention flags beyond a point.
Rs 250, Pp 200
It starts with a dream striker Prasoon Bhattacharya is in it, being coaxed to join Brazils Santos Football Club to replace Pele no less. When he wakes up, harsh reality confronts him, and he knows he has to first manouevre his way through Calcuttas ruthless football clubs even as his insides are gnawed away by hunger. Striker is the story of this footballer and his unbelievable journey to success. He gets his five minutes of fame, with fans screaming, Prasoon, Prasoon. Stopper, on the other hand, is about a player who has been there, done that, but plays a last game for a variety of reasons. The excitement builds up as the referee blows his whistle. Will Kamal-da win
Prasoon: A striker who dreams of playing in the big league but struggles to find his feet in the cruel Calcutta football clubs.
Kamal: A veteran, who must redeem himself in his final game.
Catches the agony and ecstacy of playing a sport. Has a pulse on 70s Bengal, but the story is universal, of the ups and downs, the heartbreaks one must often endure to soar in sport. Crisp translation; good production values.
Rs 199, Pp 288
Arnab is a shy assistant librarian at the Delhi University college. His greatest ambition is to become a bank manager. A beating during a bank robbery sees him acquire some superhuman powers - greatly enhanced strength and speed and what pleases him mostnight vision. While his little neighbour Chintu is the first to recognize the powers, Arnab himself is more hesitant to believe in them, till he finds himself involved in vigilante justice. And not everything is smooth, and super beings suffer too, he is quick to discover. Unexpectedly, larger contemporary issues affecting India, corrupt political system and terror overtake him as he has to make difficult choices.
Arnab Bannerjee: The most super man ever, this affable, retiring 25-year old is possibly the most likeable of all characters you shall meet this summer.
Khan Chacha: His mentor and guide
Balwant Singh, PC Sharma, DCP Upadhyay: They who run the country, a motley crew of unlovelies that all Indians are familiar with.
Mishti: Not all women want the same things!
Excellent balance between super powers and what they leave out, Hero giri also has a surprisingly refreshing take on politics and society. Arnab GA Bannerjee is the unpretentious hero you want by your side.
It Happened That Night
Rs 100, Pp 192
A global cola giant, 2002 Gujarat riots and a blooming love affair between the MNC executive and a TV journo. Its a story that is defined by a battle between personal and professional life and how the protagonist is caught between the two. He witnesses a murder during the riots and is caught in a dilemma whether to reveal the truth about the killing or suffer silently.
Chandan Mathur: caught between a promising job, his lady love and a gruesome murder.
Bhavna: A TV journo and Chandans girlfriend
Sumanta Sen aka Sumo: Chandans boss and his pillar of support.
Anwar: The victim killed in the name of religious fanaticism.
A relevant concept and similar references to the 2002 Gujarat riots make it easy for a reader to relate.
Rs 250, Pp 236
M already has a mid-level position in her channel, but finds personal life and demands of cut-throat rivalry take their toll on her. Pretty close to life as seen by the TV insider, as the author has been for about a decade. Starting off brightly, at the Japiur Lit Fest, the book starts breezily, but then the progress of the plot is almost proportionate to the addition of dark overtones. It defies the happy ending of most popular fiction, but is an informative read nevertheless.
M: The protagonist has more than perhaps her fair share of misfortune.
Janki: Wannabe BTM who upstages M.
Rashmi: Ex-friend, ex colleague, exits life causing heroines heartburn.
Samit: The typical edit room boss.
Deepa: Ms security blanket.
Susheel, Nikhil, and Vikram: Smart and mostly teflon survivors.
You were right. TV isnt all about myth, magic and glitter and news is often broken.
The Immortals of Meluha
Rs 295, Pp xii+398
More of Indian mythology- inspired modern interpretations. The once near perfect land of Meluha stands threatened. Shiva is the hero out to save the Suryavanshis, read good guys, from the evil nexus of the Chandravanshis and Nagas in the first part of a
Shiva: The chillum-drinking protagonist overshadows all else in this book of epic pretensions. There is a huge support cast, largely caricatures.
The story is set in 1900 BC, and the Suryavanshis are descendants of Rama. Contradictory, as any historian will tell you, as the earliest Rama tales are from the Iron Age, nearly a 1,000 years later. There are references to Manusmriti, composed about two millennia later! Shiva as a Tibetan leading the armies of Meluha, roughly corresponding to the Harappan Civilisation, is more interesting. You almost root for the Chandravanshi terrorists! The book is fast-paced, gore and battlements abound and good beats evil, again. Groan.