Writers who jump genres in their writing are often asked why they do this. Nilanjan Choudhury had answered the question in many forms when writer C.K. Meena responded to stop this tired question once and for all. “When an idea strikes you, you have to pursue it.”
Choudhury commented on the nature of the publishers’ interest in writers, and the regular compulsion to make a book into a series. This question was especially relevant to Choudhury’s second book, launched in December 2014. “The Case of the Secretive Sister”, starring P. I. Chatterjee and Sister D’Souza is a light-hearted crime/detective fiction book about a retired man with dreams of becoming a successful private investigator in Bangalore. It could easily turn into a series, but Choudhury attributes his reluctance to a recent epiphany to write in a different genre.
This epiphany came as a result of a new Bengali film “Open Tee Bioscope”, which reminded him of growing up in Shillong in the 1980s, and later living in Kolkata. The film is meant to evoke this sort of nostalgia, and combined with the unrest in Shillong he witnessed in his youth, made him reconsider his next project.
He has taken quite a journey, from his first book – a mythological thriller titled Bali and the Ocean of Milk, to his plans to write a coming-of-age semi-autobiographical novel set in Shillong.
His writing does not happen following a routine with Carnatic music playing in the background, as he joked but rather in a car or a hotel when he can squeeze in some writing. “I am very lucky that I have a flexible career”, but he had to later add, “I am terribly undisciplined”, so there are long gaps when he is not writing at all. We heard this with an empathetic ear, our smiles showing where we stand.
- I. Chatterjee’s story flows seamlessly, with his plans to disguise himself to gain entry to a school and later to follow a nun around for a couple of hours, what could go wrong? The excerpt at the last “Writerly Life” of META 2015 certainly piqued our curiosity, full of Amazons, spears and school. The story borrows from Choudhury’s experiences in the city, largely as a parent, and in other ways.
The short session covered a range of topics, from the illustrations in the book, writer’s block, the deals public relation firms offer to writers, to the value of literature festivals for authors. The answer he gave about literature festivals was, “I don’t know how readers find it, but it is good for writers”.
The flattering level of attention he described from the Kolkata lit fest, with security guards stopping the crush of people waiting for particular books, made becoming an author as attractive as becoming a Bollywood celebrity.