1. How much research do you need to put in while writing a crime thriller?
The only thing I needed to research really is correct police procedure, which I did once or twice at the initial stage. Apart from that I don’t research much. I more or less write about stuff that I know about and add a liberal sprinkling of my imagination to the mix.
2. Certain cities unwittingly seem to breed crime, and Mumbai is one such… definitely the one Indian city to set a crime thriller in! If you’d grown up elsewhere, do you think you would still have chosen to write about the exploits of Inspector Virkar?
Yes. Perhaps I would still have. Mumbai has fascinated me since I was a little boy, and the result of that was my fiction.
3. What about the spin-offs from the books – the graphic novel and the movie – when will we get to see them? Had you consciously planned on having a full franchise earlier, or was that a result of the popularity of the books?
I did plan on some of the elements, and some of them came as the books became popular. I’m working on putting all the elements together as one composite plan of action, and hopefully my efforts should bear fruits soon.
4. A lot of Bollywood movies have had very charismatic criminals – from Gabbar Singh to Don. How much of a role does the villain play in making a gripping story? And is it a challenge to make sure he doesn’t end up overshadowing the hero?
It is said that the hero is only as good as the forces of antagonism that he goes up against. It would be extremely boring if the hero could defeat the villain easily. We really wouldn’t have a story. Therefore, to me the villain is always more important. He makes my hero shine.
5. Which is harder – filmmaking or writing a novel? And which is more satisfying?
Filmmaking is a collective effort, while novel writing is a solitary process. Both have their challenges, but ultimately when they are created, both are equally satisfying.
6. If Inspector Virkar met Sherlock Holmes, what would he say to him?
Diwali tu ne jaada dekheli hogi, pan phataake apun ne jaada phode hain.
7. Have any members of the Mumbai police force given you feedback on your books? What was the experience like?
Yes a few serving and retired police personnel have given me inputs and feedback. Most of them loved the books.
8.If not crime writing, which genre would you choose?
Perhaps comedy or satire. I have an entire satirical novel thought out in my head. Someday I’ll get around to writing it.
9. Very refreshingly for Indian readers, you write in Hinglish; your characters often mouth dialogues in Hindi (“Ankh khuli andhe ki, toh vaat lagi dhande ki”). If your books were translated for foreign audiences, how would you ensure that the flavor is retained?
It is difficult to truly translate the essence of the Hindi/Marathi lines I use. I would just retain them and not bother. I don’t feel the need to pander to foreign tastes, I write for an Indian audience.
10. Do you read any Hindi pulp crime fiction, such as by Surender Mohan Pathak, Ved Prakash Sharma, Amit Khan or others?
Yes. When I was a kid, my mother used to buy and read a lot of Hindi fiction, and so I got to read a lot of Hindi pulp crime novels written by the likes of Col. Ranjit And Surendra Mohan Pathak.
11. If there were a single crime you could commit with impunity (no Inspector Virkar on your trail!), what would it be?
I would form a vigilante group called the Corruption Commandos and unleash them on all the corrupt in India.
12. With so many things on your plate, how do you unwind?
By reading a good crime-fiction novel or watching a good thriller.
Thank you very much, Mr. Jha, for taking time out from your busy schedule for this interview with Indiabookstore! We wish you all the best for your future endeavors.