Saturday, April 16, 2016

Magic At The Fingertips

Durjoy Datta has just released his 12th novel, 'Our Impossible Love'. The best-selling author of commercial fiction, with sales touching 20 lakh, talks about his career

By Shevlin Sebastian

In July, last year, author Durjoy Dutta, 29, was at a reading session at a New Delhi bookstore. After the reading, two girls came up to him. One of them, Natasha, 19, (name changed) showed a tattoo on her arm. It was a sentence from his novel, 'World's Best Boyfriend': 'Love is a conscious decision to be destroyed'. The other girl had it in her lower back, so Durjoy could not see it.

I felt unnerved,” says Durjoy. “These were permanent tattoos. I suddenly thought, 'What if they stop liking my books tomorrow? Or start hating me? Will they regret the tattoos?'”

Durjoy received the same rapturous reception at Kochi during a recent reading of his just-released 12th novel, 'Our Impossible Love'. The girls cooed, gushed and giggled. One said, “We waited such a long time to see you. Please come more often.” Two girls came near Durjoy said, “Can we take a selfie with you, so that we can put it in the school magazine?”

Durjoy is one of the hottest young writers in commercial fiction in India today. His latest novel has a first print run of one lakh copies. “The theme is about a girl, Aisha Paul, who turns 18,” says Durjoy. “She wants to emulate her mother, but the latter commits suicide. Then the girl thinks, 'My mother is not the person I thought she was. I must be my own person.' The novel tells the story of her journey of finding out what it is to be a woman.”

Thus far, his oeuvre has sold a total of 20 lakh copies. Asked the reasons for his popularity, Durjoy says, “Readers can relate to the characters. They are usually taken from real life. And the problems they face are common to all.”

Some of the subjects include young people in college, who are struggling with their relationship issues, family, and jobs. “But, in all the novels, at the core, there is a love story,” he says.

A mechanical engineer, as well as a MBA graduate, Durjoy became a full-time writer in 2011. “It is a difficult career because of the uncertainty and pressure,” he says. “It is not necessary that all the books I write will sell well. Indian commercial fiction does not have a long history. In the West, if you have two best-sellers, you make millions, and be set for life. James Patterson, [who has 114 best-sellers] can buy a country.”

Interestingly, in India, there are very few best-selling authors in commercial fiction. “Since 2008, there are only eight of us,” says Durjoy. “I believe there is talent out there, but we need to discover them. And the onus is on writers, literary agents and publishers.”

And book-sellers, too. “The shelves in book stores for Indian commercial fiction remain the same,” says Durjoy. “Store owners rarely put new authors there. On the other hand, Western commercial fiction space will never be compromised. Nora Roberts and Stephen King will always get two shelves. So Indian publishers get discouraged. That's the reason why they don't put in that much of effort for a new writer. As a result, authors feel dissatisfied. It is a vicious circle.”

A further discouragement is the critical attitude of book reviewers towards commercial fiction. “I know they did not like three things in the book but liked ten other things,” says Durjoy. “So you should talk about that. In the West, they like a book easily and and talk enthusiastically about it. This helps a book to do well in the market.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvanthapuram and Kozhikode)

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