Indian Fiction: An Explosion Of Talent

I grew up with Enid Blyton, Tintin, Asterix, Phantom and Mandrake... but by the time I reached 9, we had Amar Chitra Katha, which proved to be a trailblazer; Champak and Chacha Chaudhury etc soon became a staple thereafter alongwith ACK. Amar Chitra Katha was the start of my discovery of Indian writing; but somewhere along the line I forgot, and moved back to Robert Ludlum, Alistair Maclean, Erle Stanley Gardner etc - forgetting all about Indian writing. And whenever I was attracted to it, the price tag was prohibitive. It is this very significant change that has altered the scenario to a very great degree. While now the foreign authors are available for 350+, the Indian Authors are available for a much more affordable 120 - 250 max. This is good, and welcome - it gives a much-needed boost to Indian writing.  But the question we need to ask ourselves is whether Indian Authors have reached the same levels displayed by the others? Here is my take on this matter: they are not only equally good, but in some cases have even surpassed the others. This may seem like a tall statement; but I shall connect it up in the concluding section. First, let us take a small profile shot of the top 3 ( in my opinion, of course) of the up-and-coming Indian names.

Mukul Deva

Completing his education from La Martiniere College, Lucknow, the National Defence Academy, Pune, and the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun, Mukul was commissioned in the SIKH LIGHT INFANTRY of the Indian Army in 1981. An eventful Army tenure, which included a decade of operational service in India and overseas, ended in an equally remarkable transition when Mukul turned his attention to the corporate battlefield. The result was MSD SECURITY PVT LTD which, in the ensuing decade, grew into a dynamic, professionally managed company.  Another twist in the tale followed when Mukul turned to his first love - writing. The result was a series of books spanning genres as multi-faceted as his personality.

His fiction works are sheer terror - as they grow on you. Some of his books have accurately predicted happenings in our neighbouring country; this just shows his deep knowledge of the topic. This is not a surprise, since as a Major in the Indian Army he actually fought with terrorism. He successfully concocts terrifying scenarios that are too realistic - a tribute to his writing skill as well as imagination. And this is why his books beat every single author I have read (in his genre) hollow; with the notable exception of Alistair Maclean. I would in fact rate Mukul Deva alongside Maclean, Ravi and Gardner as being the authors to write the most precise and correct plots. And in plausibility, he is unsurpassed: all  his plots are genuinely terrifying and real. His action sequences are awesome - and truly in a class of their own. That is something that not a single other fiction writer can recreate as on date!

Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

The author is an engineering, IIM-Calcutta Alumnus with several years work experience in Marketing, Advertising and Consulting. She has been previously honoured for her writing by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, South China Morning Post as well as several Indian Publications. She is the author of the bestselling Taj Conspiracy in addition to the Long Walk Home.

Whereas Mukul Deva excels based on his personal experience and expertise, Manreet thrives on her imagination, flair for writing and commitment to exhaustive research. She is a purely Indian Phenomenon, in that her target audience is Indian - judging from the only book I have read. Her plots are based on Historical Fiction, and have an element on terror or crime involved. Her forte is creating magic based on characterisation and wordplay, gentle nuances and character / plot development. Her characters grow on you: and that seems to be her mainstay. Manreet, if you are reading this - we are waiting eagerly for the next in the trilogy, Dont make us wait too long, will you? Her inclusion is basis the only book she has written; Ashwin Sanghi was in close second - and in some ways first. But the first book was itself a cracker; and she is in the top in my list.

Ravi Subramanian

Ravi Subramanian is the award winning author of four bestselling books : If God was a Banker (2007), I Bought the Monks Ferrari (2007), Devil in Pinstripes (2009) and The Incredible Banker (2011). Ravi’s maiden fiction venture, If God Was a Banker was published in 2007, establishing itself as a National Bestseller. The book has sold over 200,000 copies and has been widely appreciated by readers across genres and age groups. The book also won the prestigious Golden Quill Award for Readers Choice in the year 2008. Writing is a passion, which this alumnus of Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore) pursues in his free time. Ravi also writes popular columns for well-known magazines and has his own personal column in the Economic Times.

This guy can write... that is all I can say about him. He is another from the expertise brigade: he writes largely on the banking sector. His knowledge and expertise are beyond question; that also comes through in his plots. Further, given that he is in the most unglamorous vocation (looking at it from the point of view of fiction plots), his imagination is also to be praised and appreciated. The way he crafts convoluted and interesting plots from the banking industry is awesome! Perhaps the biggest point in his favour is that he writes in simple prose - so much so that even the most technical terms of banking are explained in easy terms. He brings out the frailties in the processes and implementation that can happen in banks - and how they can impact a large number of people. That is his forte; his chosen field. And, honestly, he has no competition. Not even close; it just doesnt exist. Not on Earth, not yet - anyway.

These are the top 3 in my book: the fun part is that there are many others of superb talent that are coming up. Some established - Ashwin Sanghi (all of whose books I have read, and who also genuinely deserves an equal mention here; Chetan Bhagat (whom I haven't read) ; Juggi Bhasin; Aroon Raman and Navneet Jagannathan - all of whom show tremendous promise - and many others whom I have not read. This trend is heartening to behold; hope it grows by leaps and bounds!

The best part of it is - barring no one - the authors that are now coming up are decidedly at a par with anything anywhere in the world. And, especially in the case of the top-3 in my list, it is my personal opinion that they beat everyone hands down - the world over. While the other authors are still stuck on spy thrillers,  I-want-to-rule-the-world scenarios, and portrayals of Iraq - Afghanistan - Russia - Iran as evil etc, Indian authors are finding different themes, plots and scenarios to write on. There is a freshness in their approach, a newness that one looks forward to. There is no hint of vulgarity - characters dont jump into bed at the drop of a hat. There are precisely zero expletives. And the clincher - while western authors create supermen and superwomen as central characters, the above 3 create an atmosphere: no one superhero saves the day, or carries the story. It is a combination of several people who take it forward. That makes it believable and fun to read - and covers up any small slackness that may have been left elsewhere.

Yes, they can get better - true. While it is true that there is no absolute best in Fiction, the fact remains that these current 3 (4 incuding Sanghi) are writing stuff that is unique; off the beaten track. There are areas where others might feel that the illustrious western names are much better; I concede those areas. Nevertheless, these 3 outclass everyone basis the uniqueness of the plots, the sheer quality of writing, knowledge and research, chosen niche, plausibility of the story and clean approach. All they have to now show is the consistency of Maclean and Gardner; they have shown the potential.  It is possible that I am saying this as the plots are in geographically familiar areas and based in familiar cultural surroundings; but I dont think so for the reasons identified...

In conclusion - the above rating is my personal opinion, and is from among those authors I have read. It has nothing to do with Book Sales or any other award etc whatsoever. I apologise if I have hurt anyone's sentiments


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