Interviews in Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle

Having been part of media for a long time, I know how easily and how fast people working there tend to forget you, moving on to the next thing they haven’t covered. But oh my, isn’t it fabulous to have that 15 seconds of attention? I feel like that now, when I post two really, really good interviews in different papers that came out a week or so back, both talking about chaos and supernatural tales and all things I love about Cult of Chaos. Check them out.

This came out in Deccan Chronicle and I haven’t been able to find a e-link for it. They used photographs from the last year’s coverage when I was doing detective workshops for The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong.

Deccan Chronicle February 2015
Meanwhile at Asian Age, the really polite Rohini who took my interview, told everyone about the book and mentioned my love of folklores. Read the complete article here or below.


Shweta Taneja’s new book features India’s first woman tantrik crime buster, and marries the author’s twin passions: Detective fiction and fantasy

An adventure based in the “supernatural underworld of Delhi”, featuring India’s first “tantrik woman detective” — Shweta Taneja’s new book Cult of Chaos promises to be a crime-busting story unlike any other. Featuring Anantya Tantrist, a “spunky 23-year-old, gaali-spewing, beedi-smoking fearless tantrik who solves crimes”, Cult of Chaos combines its creator’s twin passions — detective fiction and fantasy.

It was when Shweta was working on a graphic novel called The Skull Rosary (which collated the occult tales of Shiva) that she got deeply interested in tantrism and the occult. “I started to explore tribal folklore, oral stories, goddess cults and non-authoritative tales in our villages. These tales, with their violent, sensually rich content surprised and fascinated me,” recounts Shweta. “Then one day, while reading a detective novel, the idea of creating a tantrik detective suddenly struck me. And I had a name for her: Anantya Tantrist, a leftover from a previous unfinished novel. Before I knew it, I had the beginnings of Cult of Chaos.”

Shweta spent the next year researching practising tantriks, shamans and superstitions. Articles, scholarly books, sensational texts even whispered stories, all of these provided material for her story. Then there was the daily newspaper, which also provided enough fodder for the dark details of her novel. “There’s nothing better than a newspaper to give you ideas. It has enough horror, disgust, hatred, violence, evil in its pages to keep your creativity flowing,” says Shweta. “There were so many scenes in the book that have been inspired by real incidents, things I read in the news. Not only about superstition or witch hunting, but also something that a crass politician would’ve said when yet another woman got raped. Everyday domestic violence, which is reported in a single paragraph, taken verbatim from police notes or crimes of caste and religion which are all about power — there’s no dearth of inspiration in our country, especially when one is writing a thriller.”

With so much material to draw on, Shweta knew Anantya’s adventures wouldn’t be ending with one book. She’s already busy at work on a second story, set among “Delhi’s rich socialites who’re abusing a supernatural species for immortality” and a third, which will see the action shift to Varanasi as Anantya works on a case that will force her to confront her past.

“The more I write about Anantya, the more I continue to be spellbound with her and the world she inhabits,” says Shweta of her protagonist. “She’s completely opposite to all ideas of ‘decent’ women we have as a society… I think she has come from the desires of women of this country, the ones who have had it with restrictions and men keeping them safe. I think she is born from the frustration of being an independent woman and having to protect your choices, defy authorities, families, every step of way. I have tried to break gender boundaries with her character… I am freer, more confident today, because I wrote her. And I am hoping reading about her, has the same effect on other women and girls too. Sort of what Superman or Spiderman or Salman Khan has on boys. We need that for women.”


As I was saying, isn’t attention so fabulous? Sad that it goes away in those mere 15 seconds. Still, I am rather enjoying the tick-tock in my favour. 🙂

My two bits on crime fiction in Asian Age

Recently, a kind guy who loves icecream, called Vishav, contacted me for my point of view on the rise of detective and crime thrillers in the English language space. The result was a really good article collating thoughts of authors like Kishwar Desai who is spearheading the first Crime Writers Festival in Delhi later this month and Juggi Bhasin. While giving the interview, I pondered on many things and had two surprises.

One was a rather straight one, the fact that the paper used a photograph of mine, on the same page as author Anita Nair and Mukul Deva. (Proof of arrival on scene, below. Oo.)

01_07_2013_101_005 (Crime Fiction 1)

01_07_2013_101_005 (Crime Fiction 2)

The second was a more insidious surprise. While giving the interview, I realised that not many Indian English authors had given this masalafied fiction to their readers before. Crime fiction, thrillers, mysteries and murders have always been popular with readers. What can compare to reading a cozy murder mystery with a cup of tea in one hand? So why hadn’t Indian authors explored the genre much before? Mind you, this is true only for Indian English and not for other Indian languages which have so much of what I call the pop-masala genre.

I feel in the last decade, there’s a new level of comfort that the Indian author has in her own style of writing, like wearing chappals and walking on pothole-filled streets in crime fiction. That of being comfortable in their own identity, their own experience, in their own chaotic cities, confused traditions and in their own unique style of crimes as well as crime solving. And this being comfortable and exploring Indianness in novels seems to be happening not only in crime fiction but also across genres in the country – be it high literary, historical fiction or romances.

On the other hand, readers want to read books about things that they experience, in the English that they speak or write, stories that they hear from their grannies and friends. Desi crime fiction, written in desi style with desi detectives as main protagonists.

About a few years ago, because there weren’t any really established thriller writers in Indian English (the other Indian languages have always been doing racy thrillers), readers had to look abroad for their thrill fixes. But now thankfully for both readers and authors, that is fast changing. I love the current range of thrillers, murders and mysteries that I can find as a reader in the market. I think this is bound to increase. No more can booksellers tag all authors under the vague ‘Indian author’ category. Nowadays readers are demanding all sub-genres in Indian english writing and authors are more than happy to provide it.

What do you feel? Comment below!