Anirban Bhattacharya, Creative Director, Producer – Crime Patrol and author of The Deadly Dozen has now released his book on poetry. In a candid conversation with the Daily Excelsior, he recounts his experiences as an author and filmmaker.
Whether it’s doing crime shows, writing about serial killers, or writing poetry, it’s a huge zag. How did it happen?
Poetry came into my life, before real crime. Poetry started 29 years ago when I was studying at St. Xavier’s College in Calcutta (then). I was introduced to TS Eliot and my mind was blown. So I started writing poetry in a red journal. And somewhere in my naive head, I even imagined that it would be published and named the collection of poems Petals. And for the past 29 years, I have continued to write and add to the journal. When lockdown hit us – for the first year I was busy writing a real crime book, but then I got writer’s block. That’s when I pulled out the journal and started typing the poems, editing them and a lark sent it to my literary agent Suhail Mathur of The Book Bakers. He was very excited when he read the poems. And within a month I got the green light from Harpreet Makkar of Petals Publishers & Distributors. And then Serendipity appeared to me… what I had sown and manifested 29 years ago happened – I had named my book Petals – and here Petals were the editors of the collection! I got goosebumps! It was as if the universe had conspired to make this happen. I am very grateful to The Book Bakers, Harpreet and Petals for publishing my first collection Mumblings & Musings.
People have the idea that poetry is intellectual, difficult to understand and academic to understand. Is this true in your case?
My poetry is not at all difficult to understand. And it is very visual in nature. I use imagery to convey an idea so readers can see it. The ideas are simple, relatable and universal – love, death, fear, life. For example in a poem called Merging in which I talk about death and the afterlife…
I won’t feel the rain
or hear the dawn rise.
A trail of black smoke
is all I will be;
a faint burst of ash and
a boat of flowers, afloat
as my body will say goodbye
to my soul.
I won’t feel the rain –
I will be the rain
and I will be the breaking dawn.
In nothingness I will exist
I will be nothing – yet everything.
What’s not to understand in that, or what’s intellectual in that? These poems are a journey into one’s own subconscious and I hope they will lead readers to ask questions…
Tell us about the book – was it harder to write poetry than true crime?
Writing a true crime has its own set of challenges – research, investigation, detail – and making sure the research doesn’t end as a news article but as a gripping narrative. With poetry it’s a much more emotional journey – it also completely exposes my spirit, my identity – I stand up for everyone to see – stripped of any mask or identity to hide behind. It is therefore a vulnerable experience to share these poems with the world. The book has great photographs accompanying each poem – clicked by my classmate and childhood friend Ashish Bakshi. They capture candid moments and still lifes and add a visual element to each poem.
What is your favorite poem?
It’s difficult. Each poem is like a piece of me. Actor Sushant Singh may have described the poems very well when he said, “The imagery haunts you. Each poem invites you again and again to peel back the layers and get lost in the maze of emotions.” But I have some favorites like the Title poem which is a tribute to TS Eliot and Pink Floyd – a dystopian universe. And then there’s ‘The Madman in the Street’, ‘The Tenth Leper’, ‘Waiting’ are observations about people we meet every day – and I love them for their simplicity. Each poem is special to me for one reason over another. There might be a line that came to me that makes it a favorite, or an imagery, or the thought, or the emotions…
Tell us about your first book – The Deadly Dozen: India’s Most Notorious Serial Killers published by Penguin?
This is a true crime book that has become a #1 bestseller on Amazon. When we say “serial killers” we assume they belong to the western world, but India has nearly 35 serial killers – and to remove the misnomer and shed some light on these cold-blooded killers, I wrote this book. After creating Savdhaan India, I was working on true crime 24×7 and that’s when the idea sprouted. In the book, I take readers inside the minds of killers by examining why they killed, how they killed, and what their thought process was. This is Mindhunter from India. If you love true crime, OTT crime shows – then this is a must read. And I was lucky to have Penguin as my editor for my first book! A dream start! And I was lucky enough to have a great director like Anurag Kashyap who agreed to launch my book! Did you know that the world’s youngest serial killer is from India? Amardeep Sada was 7 years old. Did you also know that the serial killer with the world record of murders is Indian? Thug Behram with over 900 kills. It is a well researched book. Superstar Ayushmann Khurrana described it as “one of the most thrilling true-crime books I’ve read in years.” Very engaging. Stories hold you by the jugular. Razor blade.’ And superstar John Abraham was very generous and described the book as “An extremely gritty, tense and suspenseful thriller”. Anirban’s writing transports you to the real scene of the crime. Strongly recommended!’
So I believe in 2019 and 2020 you visited Jammu and Punjab with your first book?
Yes! What an experience it was. In the winter of 2019, I was invited by author and Rotarian Nupur Sandhu to be part of the first Jammu Lite Fest – Yayavar! And what an experience it was. Jammu was breathtaking and the response was fabulous. And then just before the lockdown in March 2020, I was at Lovely Professional University as part of the Jalandhar Literary Festival where I performed my stand-up comedy and motivational session. The response was humble. And the press was so generous, warm and welcoming in both Jammu and Jalandhar. I remember meeting Jammu di kudi Shwetima for the first time and we hit it off immediately. The hospitality was so awesome. On the last day, I remember the Vinay, the taxi driver refusing to take money because we had spent the whole day laughing, sightseeing and sharing a meal in a roadside dhaba! I had to force him to accept payment. I was very emotional and we both had tears in our eyes when we parted ways at the airport. Happy memories!!
What’s next for you?
I have three books planned for 2022. There is young adult fiction for Om Books International. A love-memory story in the late 80’s set against the real turmoil of Gorkhaland in Kalimpong where I grew up – it’s a true story – and it’s for Fongerprint Publishing. And finally, I have a real crime book – the publisher can’t be revealed yet.
Your last words for the interview…
Support poetry. Buy books. Read. Encourage reading. Write. Buy books at bookstores, especially small bookstores in your neighborhood. Support Indian authors. And love. Spread the love. Life is too short. Don’t waste it hating others.