Find out how Deepti Kapoor wrote a part-crime, part-family saga that shines a light on clashing social identities.
Join Tara and Michelle in conversation with Deepti Kapoor about her new book ‘Age of Vice’, in which crime, family dynamics, love, and friendship are weaved into one unforgettable story about the complex realities of contemporary Delhi. How do you deal with questions of morality in fiction? How do you write about the grey areas in relationships? What is the process of a book to screen adaptation?
Tune in to find out!
Books and movies mentioned in this episode:
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Equations by Shivani Sybil
The Billionaire Raj by James Crabtree
Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung
The Last of Us
Produced by Aishwarya Javalgekar
Sound edit by Kshitij Jadhav
‘Books and Beyond with Bound’ is the podcast where Tara Khandelwal and Michelle D’costa uncover how their books reflect the realities of our lives and society today. Find out what drives India’s finest authors: from personal experiences to jugaad research methods, insecurities to publishing journeys. Created by Bound, a storytelling company that helps you grow through stories. Follow us @boundindia on all social media platforms.
So because you know, the people who are involved have the power to cover everything up and pay off everyone. And that's really how you can see the way society works the way the police are involved, the you know, everyone basically at every stage covers up. And that's how you can look at corruption. So that's really where I wanted because I wanted to talk about corruption and the power and abuse of power.
Tara Khandelwal 00:27
Welcome to Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara kendaraan.
Michelle D'costa 00:31
I'm Michelle D'costa. And in
Tara Khandelwal 00:33
this podcast, we uncover the stories behind some of the best written books of our time, and find
Michelle D'costa 00:39
out how these books reflect our lives and our society today. So tune in every Wednesday
Tara Khandelwal 00:45
to enter a whole new world with a new author, and a new idea.
Michelle D'costa 00:51
Yes, and after three years, and 2 million listens, we are back with all factories and five,
Tara Khandelwal 00:57
with hard hitting questions and life changing books.
Michelle D'costa 01:01
So let's dive in.
Tara Khandelwal 01:06
Hi, everyone, welcome back to Books and Beyond. And today, I'm very, very excited. I've been waiting for the peekaboo book since 2014, which is when I read her last book of bad character. And when I saw that she's written this blockbuster deli noir, I was so excited. And I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. And I finished it in one weekend. And it's a big book, I just could not put it down. It's so interesting, because it's about these three characters, RJ who is my favorite character. He's a Dalit boy, and he has dreams about conquering the world. And he gets embroiled in the life of Sonny, who is the son of one of Delhi's most powerful men, and as a journalist character. So there's these three characters, Delhi gritty sort of crime novel in a way. And I actually lived in Delhi, from 2012 to 2014. And at that point of my life, and this is right before I read bad character, I was also 22 year old working in publishing at that time. And I was also a little bit exposed to some of the world that the, you know, talks about in the book. So I really, really sort of connected with the female character a lot, and also just the whole ball that you're trying to put on. So welcome, Deepti.
Oh, thanks for having me. It's, you know, it's a pleasure to be speaking with both of you.
Tara Khandelwal 02:37
All right. So my first question is that I really want to know, you know, the story behind the story. As I mentioned, you have these three very interesting characters who have a very different view of Ajay, who becomes Sonny's sort of, I don't want to say the word but servant, you know, that's the way that he that he's portrayed in the book. And you have Sonny, who's the son of this very rich, powerful man who's trying to find his way in the world. And you have this young NIDA, journalist character who gets embroiled with Sonny as well. So what about this world is so interesting to you, and what we're trying to portray about, you know, the world of the powerful in Delhi through this novel.
So first I kind of, you know, as you've already mentioned, you were also in Delhi at some point of time working in publishing and, you know, kind of, like, encountered some of these walls that I've written about I lived in Delhi in my 20s as a and worked as a journalist, and then also grew up with boys like Sonny when I was in school, I was in a boarding school in Dehradun. And there were a lot of young boys at that point of time, you know, privileged, but you know, the sons of maybe small time businessman, small time politicians, and later, as you know, India's fortunes kind of accelerated and the economy changed. And, you know, people who are maybe rupee millionaires turned into dollar millionaires and all of that these boys became these kind of rich, privileged, young man who were now the son of very powerful politicians, businessmen, etc. So I watched them change. It was always very interesting. And something that I always thought I might write about later, you could really start to see the changes brought on by the opening of the economy in Delhi in the early years of the millennium, and that was, as a journalist, I was witnessing it but I was also documenting it as a kind of city reporter, trans correspondent, I had a very white brief. So I was going and you know, reporting on the opening of the first big bowling alley shopping mall. You know, there was the these large scale developmental projects happening in residential areas in Delhi was changing In an incredibly fast space, you know, new consumers were being created, because suddenly you had call centers opening. So all of that was very interesting. To put it simply, I wanted to showcase the the kind of interdependence of this world, which was like you have extreme, the extreme rich, and then you have the poor, and they're all kind of like living in this big, teeming city that's changing very fast. So I wanted to show the totality of this world like this, basically, this world, I wanted to show the rich. And my initial idea was to write a novel of the kind of Delhi elite, the Delhi rich, the kind of damage they do to other people, because they're wealthy and powerful. And then they get to retreat behind it, because they're powerful. But very soon, that idea became a larger one, because I wanted to then I realized that a novel about the Indian Rich is really a novel about inequality and extreme inequality. So that's really how the project started.
Tara Khandelwal 06:03
And I think when Michelle and I were reading the book, we really loved our jazz character. We really liked the relationship between RJ and Sonny, because it's so complicated. You know, there's a lot of love that both characters have for each other. And RJ obviously has a sense of loyalty towards Sonny. But it's such a problematic relationship as well. Not only is that a very clear hierarchy, where RJ is working for Sonny, cleaning up his message, I want to give spoilers away. You know, I found that sort of relationship. Very, very interesting.
I'm glad you picked that one up, because I was very interested in showing the asymmetry of this relationship of RJ his identification and love and devotion to Sonny and of Sonny, who is this kind of charming, but imperious master, who can you know, throw off like a few scraps do i j and RJ will just gladly like do whatever Sony wants this sort of relationship which is built on decades of inequality as well to baked into the Indian system. And mean, we know what a incredibly hierarchical class and caste obsessed society we come from where you know, you put 10 Indians in a room, maybe they all kind of look similar, but they will be from, say, different backgrounds and you know, caste class region. And when within five minutes, everyone figured out everyone else's respective position in the social ladder and will start behaving accordingly. And that was, you know, and I was always very interested in interrogating that that relationship and seeing where it goes, I remember watching a lot of times when I was in my, you know, in Delhi, these very wealthy young men, and the way they would treat their domestic servants how they would be looked after, and how like, callous they were. But that callousness often didn't amount to anything, because these young men who were serving these powerful masters, you know, they were happy to do what it takes to please them. And I always wondered about these these young servants like, what are they thinking? Where do they come from? What are their dreams?
Michelle D'costa 08:24
Yeah, exactly. The talking about inequality. Apart from the characters in the book, actually, what I really found interesting was the pivotal incident, right? So there is something that happens, it's an accident, that happens, you know, innocent people who are actually sleeping on the footpath, they get killed by somebody, right. And I find this incident very interesting because it also reminded me of other books, like let's say, equations by Shivani Sybil or the White Tiger by Aravind article. So, you know, even with a classic The Gatsby, right, it does involve or driving or incidents. So I want to understand, you know, what about this power equation with driving and killing of the innocent inspires writers, right, especially you, you know, what drove you to write this?
Well, it's just, I mean, just a casual glance at newspaper, you know, headlines in India, at least in a certain point of time, would show, you know, this, okay, so suddenly the economy's opened, people are, you know, becoming very, very wealthy. And then, you know, everyone's starting to drive these big, powerful sports cars. And, you know, there's a celebration of wealth. I remember in in the media, you know, that we had this page three, in the Delhi times Times of India, which everyone would look at obsessively. This is you know, pre internet days. So that was like, the newspaper was the source of all the gossip and the entertainment and and, you know, it was that time of lifestyle journalism was really taking off and then these, these accidents started, you know, there was the guy, he killed five people in his Mercedes, and then he tried to cover up the incident and then Eventually, he, after years and years and years, he did go to jail. And he did, like pay his views. But it was happening a lot. And as you said, it was, you know, I've in the Diigo wrote about it. I mean, it's obviously something that, I suppose extreme representation of how callous society can become when, you know, the extremely rich and powerful basically can get away with everything. And that's, you know, this is basically, it's murder, it's death, you killing, you know, many people, and yet, it doesn't matter because the people you've killed are worthless, or in the eyes of society are deemed worthless. It's an extremely interesting place from where to start a novel, or even James Crabtree, did you read his book? Called billionaire? Raj? Yeah, I read that. Yeah, even he starts with the this, you know, mysterious accident that, you know, the driver, eventually, the real drivers identity is, is is hidden, because you know, the people who are involved have the power to cover everything up and pay off everyone. And that's really how you can see the way society works the way, you know, the police are involved, the you know, everyone basically at every stage covers up and that's how you can look at corruption. So that's really where I wanted because I wanted to talk about corruption and the power and abuse of power.
Tara Khandelwal 11:24
Yeah, I mean, it you're right, you do see that in the headlines. And I think the word that you use callous, that's a powerful word as well, because I think your book really does show that very, sort of viscerally that I love the prose of the book, the characters are one thing and the themes, were another thing, but the prose was, was so lovely, and have questions about that. But in one of your other interviews, I read that you mentioned that you wanted to write about crony capitalism, dial up corruption and inequality. And you also said that you wanted to write about the complicity of the average middle class Indian, someone like me. So could you tell us a little bit more about that, and what you wanted to show?
Yeah, absolutely. In fact, I was going to come to that next. I was interested, specifically in this idea. And you know, I will include myself in it, of how, you know, if you're in India, where if you have a certain position in society, I mean, it's always in relation to you, the law may be obvious always be someone on top, but you're you know, you're a pretty, you're maybe upper middle class, you are privileged, you've had access to the education to good jobs, you can speak English properly, which also guarantees you a certain kind of status. And so in Indian society, and you think of yourself as a as you know, as a decent person, as a good person. But then, you know, there are lots of people like, because India is this place where you're relatively favorable position means lots of people below, you don't have that. And we become callous, because we accept that that's the way life is, you know, that's just how it is, you were lucky you were born in this in a certain family that enabled you all these opportunities. And that's what I wanted to specifically integrate in derogate. Because I felt that sense of moral compromise that we make on a daily basis in order to just live and the poor are compromising with their dignity with the idea that maybe one day they will also get to this place. So so that was also what I wanted to show with the character of Nether Who is this curious, naive journalist who comes from a intellectual family, a family of elites, maybe whose power is waning in the new India, because it's being eclipsed by the course, new money that's coming in, but they're still extremely powerful, and she thinks she's a good person. But how can she be you know, when she is standing on top of his desperately on equal ladder? That's what I wanted
Tara Khandelwal 13:54
to show. Yeah, and I think the word dignity I think, definitely, neither has character. You know, I resonated a lot with Niro's character, but adjust character with the compromise of dignity, you know, off the ball, I think that really, really struck a chord coming to me last character, your other book, bad character, has some similarities with age advice, because even in that book, you know, the protagonist is this young woman character, we see, you know, it's sort of also like a dairy noir novel, though it's much more internal. What about these themes is interesting to you? Why sort of, you know, that period in Delhi, and how much of yourself is in this in both your female characters that you've put into these books? Well, I
think I mean, I'm, I'm obviously always circling around Delhi, driving and desire at least with a bad character. It was you know, girls, young girls coming of age, exploring desire first and then you know, the idea have like, I think it's because you know, it's just something that I keep coming, you know, writers, if you look at a lot of bodies of work of different writers, they they normally only have a circle, a few themes, you know, even if the work seems very diverse. And for me, I guess those themes are Delhi and I wanted to move away from that solipsistic inward look the single point of view and go out into the world because I felt that as as a writer who was living in India, at this particular moment in time, I needed to be more political. And that's how a device came about. But then at the same time, I wasn't done yet with talking about that Delhi that I knew so well. So how much of myself is in well, in in the, in the Nether, she I gave her a little bit of my working life and my incessant driving. But other than that, she comes from a very different family. She lives in march tomorrow, which is very posh address in Delhi, I lived over the river in East Delhi, not posh at all very unfashionable address, in fact, and she has very different different fat parents, she comes from a very different family background. So yeah, I mean, I like to always put in like a little core of my personal experience, right in the middle of things, because it's always interesting. And I know it well. And then and everything else is dramatized and exaggerated. And fictionalized.
Tara Khandelwal 16:31
Yeah, makes sense. Actually, you know, I really liked bad character a lot, because as I said, I was living in Delhi at that time, and I was around the same age as the character. And I would also, you know, like, go on all these long drives. And it was sort of like a coming of age, for me as well. Because I grew up in Bombay. But I've always sort of been sort of like a wallflower in the circles that you speak about, and sort of Age of ice and bad character. And because of that, I've always wanted to write a novel about the kinds of observations that I've, that I've made being a part of this society, and I never got around to obviously, writing it, but that period of time for me as well, was very significant. And I've actually started writing lots of like, short stories and, and things about, you know, that type for me. So when I read both your books, to me, it was the book that I wanted to write i, which is why I love both the books so so much.
Well, that's really great to hear. Thank you.
Michelle D'costa 17:33
Yeah. And you mentioned about the location in Delhi, you know, it just immediately reminded me of what we have in Bombay as well, right. So because there's also this east and west. And what I've heard is, you know, obviously, the real estate is more developed in the West, and in the east, it's not as much. And of course, you know, like, even though I wasn't a part of Delhi, I could find so many things relatable, because when it comes to class, when it comes to all of this, you know, you find it in almost every place. So another thing that I that I really liked about the book itself was, you know, RJ, the character, and your book literally translates to call you, right? It's called age of wise. Yeah. And it's full of sin and NVC, how he is actually exploited by these two high caste men called Raj Raj deep and Kuldeep Singh. And you know, even his mother and sister are exploited My God, very heartbreaking scenes from the book. But you know, what I liked was, it does not only touch caste system at its surface, right? Because he's a Dalit boy and you literally go deeper into the caste system into its crisis like what it would be like you know, living like that every day. You know what, since you're not from that background, or DPM, very curious about the kind of research that you might have done to actually get into the veins of Ajay because you really did it very well.
Tara Khandelwal 18:47
a lot of academic papers on you know, cost violence and just life in up in a certain and Bihar in at that particular point of time. And I spoke with people I you know, conducted kind of interviews. So, yeah, so that that's basically it lots of accurate academic research papers, because these are studies that were done in particular areas, and there are like long interviews where you were, you know, you're just hearing people talk. And for me, that's very important is, is just voices here, listening to people, and then even meeting different kinds of people. Even if it's a short meeting, you can take away maybe a certain attitude, you can take away a certain impression of someone and use that. So, yeah, real world research, which is always supplemented by academic papers.
Tara Khandelwal 19:49
And I'm sure you know, all your readers have their preferences of which character they like the best, you know, and for me, as I said, our gems are needed the way To friend. And one of the anecdotes that I really like is I just whole story of you know, he's raised by this couple in the Himalayas, and he has a pretty okay life at that point. And then he sort of has to move. And he goes to Delhi. And then he ends up with a group of Nepali migrants. And he goes to go, Ah, he's sort of exposed to that ball at that time, but he's there, he meets me when he's in the hills as well. For me, I really just found that whole sort of the way that you portrayed his, like, first exposure to this group of people, I found that very interesting.
Yeah, I think, you know, Joe has grown up around foreigners, you know, because there's, he's, he grows up in a small town and he macho, which is like this hippie town, when the some all these kind of hippies come on there on the big bikes. And he starts in this is through them, he learns different languages, not just English, but you know, maybe some German, a little bit of Hebrew. But the really interesting thing is that when the first time he meets a powerful group of Indians, and that's this big, big moment for him, you know, till then it's the the foreigners that he's been serving, but then suddenly, they're these Indians, and they're rich, and they're wealthy and good looking. But they're also kind of, you know, they're, they're very charming, and they, the, the, they're not trying to hide their wealth, you know, they're flaunting it. And that, to him is really interesting that his own countrymen are now like this, you know, he hasn't, he's never actually encountered such kind of Pizzette kinds of people before. And this is, of course, also, at this time point of time, it's the late 90s, when India was changing, and all of this was happening and starting and that's, that's really interesting. And that's, again, a great way for him to then start to, you know, to, to serve, sonny, and to try and please him. And then later on, Sony offers him a job. So, you know, it's kind of like, the perfect time for them to meet up perfect place as well.
Michelle D'costa 22:10
Yeah. And these scenes, you know, like you mentioned, we'd go up the deli, you know, whatever it is, I think one characteristic kept me reading throughout was the fact that it was very cinematic, right, you can almost see the scenes unfolding. You can you'll see urges, expression is gestures, like, you know, almost anticipate what is going to happen next. It was any visual, you know, and you know, most of the people I speak to nowadays, they say that, you know, it's their dream to write for screen, because we do know that it's a very booming, you know, industry right now. And we know the thing that you know, your book has sold for adaptation into a web series. So firstly, congrats on that. Really excited. Thank you. So I'm curious to know, deeply, you don't didn't begin with your writing out for screen? Did you have that in mind? Or is it just your, I will say you are trying to write for screen now when it's being adapted? What's the process? Like?
No, no, I Well, when I was writing, I think I do, I think visually, and I often, often thinking scenes, and then translate them to words, that definitely I think helped. You know, people do talk about the visual quality of the book. As you said, yeah, people are now wanting to write for the screen. It's a booming industry. It's also, you know, I was trying to make it as a professional novelist. And that's really hard, you know, if you don't have any other source of income if you don't have any other job to do that. And I think the rise of Netflix and the rise of TV, and and the fact is that people are looking increasingly at novels that they can adapt to screen was definitely something that I thought, Okay, this would be a good thing, if it happened. The fact that it happened so quickly was a complete surprise. Normally, you know, your book comes out and then maybe someone will approach you and in or you will get some kind of offer to adapt it or mean they will option it to adapt. But in in my case, it happened in when in 2019 When my agent when I had finished one version of the manuscript, and then they showed two in two producers in LA and it happened very quickly. And that was, I guess, a couple of you know, that a couple of reasons for that first, yes, I think it's very visual, and you can see it, which helps and then secondly, it's just people are interested in the moment you know, there's so much there's Disney there's Netflix, there's Amazon, it's you know, an HBO I mean, I'm with FX so I guess it's it's a good time to to be a novelist. It's a good time to be a storyteller.
Michelle D'costa 24:46
Yes, definitely. I love the term storyteller though because you know it you can use it across formats, but But you don't need the as a writer. I kept thinking, how did they do this for 10 years, like you know, really, I mean, it's a really good risky bet. I would say like, for me, especially as a person, see, I'm very impatient. Okay, so in the last month, I think I pitched three different editors, just because I wanted to, you know, get their reply soon, because I don't think I could really wait for like 10 years. So I want to know, deeply. Were you in touch? You know, with your editor? Did you like for example? pitch the idea first, or, you know, were you in touch to basically wet the idea as you're out while you were writing? Or did you wait for, you know, to complete the entire thing? And then pitch it?
Oh, no, I, so I didn't work. I had an agent first. So I didn't work with an editor. First, I worked with my agent. And she, I didn't pitch the I mean, I wrote us I kind of wrote, you know, my first book had come out in 2014. And then there were a couple of ideas that actually got rejected. And I'd even written one complete draft. Oh, yeah, I have a novel, but it didn't tell
Michelle D'costa 26:00
me how many words just curious. Like,
I think it was, I think it was like, 90,000 words or something ish? Oh, yeah. Yeah. So you have to I guess you have to keep going at it, you know, you just can't give up. But I mean, with age advice, I did think that this is, you know, this is my last chance, I'm not going to get this right, I'm going to have to think of something else to do because, you know, my husband and was at that time doing, working as a freelance copywriter. And we were both working together and doing kind of travel stories. He's also a photographer, we used to review boutique hotels in India, for very, you know, for website, like we did all everything that we, you know, got thrown our way, especially articles or stories that asked us to travel because in traveling is also a great way to collect stories, stories that then you can just pour into your novels. That's actually what happened with RJ is character is that he's inspired by a young boy, I met in the Himalayas, in a small guest house, whose family had sent him away to work. And you know, his story was wonderful of loss, but he was full of hope as well. So, so you know, so this is the thing like, you, you travel, you collect stories, the stories can then go into your work, but at the same time, it is also an unstable life and precarious. So you know, it can, there are moments when you think, what am I doing? Do I need to get like, a regular job that pays every month, but I guess you just keep going at it. I mean, you know, it's great that you're pitching three editors, because sometimes the impatience also helps.
Tara Khandelwal 27:40
Wow, I think that's a is firing as well, that you know, because people always see the success at the end, right? They're seeing that, you know, it's your it's going to be adapted to a screen and the book is doing so well. But obviously, there's so much that is behind the curtain, as well. Yeah,
totally. And with this, it was just, you know, keep I wrote multiple drafts, when I first wrote three chapters and a synopsis that worked, but not that, you know, it was, there was a little bit of interest, but not too much. And then my agent suggested that why don't you write a complete draft? Because that does really help. Because then people editors get to see, you know, where this is going? Yeah. Also, a lot of people, a lot of editors feel that, you know, do you have it in you to finish a novel, because the first three chapters are often easy, you know, and a synopsis. But to go all the way that takes a lot more, I think, you know, energy, it's like, it's kind of Marathon, you know, so if you haven't established a name already, as a writer, as a novelist, then you have to be able to demonstrate that you can you can at least complete
Tara Khandelwal 28:52
at work. Yeah, yeah, there's a lot of creative stamina. And actually, you know, when I read the book, I didn't know that it was part of a trilogy. So I bought the book, and actually Juggernog had sent me the book, I read the book, and I never realized it's part of a trilogy, and then I found that, okay, you know, the ending, I was like, okay, like, is it gonna be something next? Or then I looked it up and then realize, okay, you know, it's going to be a three part series. But I found it very interesting that the book was not advertised as such. Yeah. Yeah, advertise it that because usually, you know, and maybe that's because it's literary fiction, because in fantasy and all of these genres are you very much know that it's Book One, Book Two, book three. So here, you think, oh, it's gonna sort of is just one novel. And then I was very, very happy that there are two more novels and a TV show, because as I said, I put the first book in one vote, and I absolutely can't wait for Book Two, web three. But I didn't want to ask, you know, why was it sort of position in that way?
Well, that's a good question, because I'm also wondering the same If I don't know these decisions, and sometimes you don't have any power over you no control over I think, yes, because it does end on a cliffhanger. And I think where are you much? You know, it should, you know, people should know that there's two more books coming. So it's okay if it ends on that note. But I think also, you know, I, as you said, this is literary fiction, and normally you have books in, you know, the fantasy genre, which are trilogy. So maybe that's why, you know, this is like, I just, I wasn't involved in that decision, though. Maybe for the, you know, paperback, or at least it's already a paperback in India, but maybe later, it's going to be it's going to have that like book one. You know, because I think that's actually it's a sensible thing to do. Yeah, habit, like Book One, Book Two, Book Three. Yeah.
Tara Khandelwal 31:00
Yeah. And another thing that I found very interesting, because I read the immune version, that, you know, it was promoted as a literary crime thriller. And Michelle and I were talking about this and this thing, you know, what other books are like this, and, you know, a lot that there are lots of literary fiction writers that are right now writing, crime, that are writing, you know, things that are writing sort of genre fiction in a literary way. And the, the biggest example, is the Booker Prize winner. This year, the Sri Lankan, or the current Delica, who actually writes about ghosts and all of those things, speculative fiction, and he won the Booker Prize, and we actually interviewed him and spoke about that. And then like, so even like things like, you know, like, my favorite TV show right now, is called Last of Us. And it's essentially a zombie show, but it's super, sort of, it's not about the zombies, it's all about, it's very deep. And it's, it's almost like art, you know, so just taking this sort of, like, new thing going, going on, where, you know, there's a lot of sort of, I'll call it sort of like literary mass entertainment, where we're sort of taking literary fiction. I love that level. Beyond beyond the scope, so I just wanted to know, like, what are your thoughts about that?
Yeah, I think, you know, mashing up genres, not sticking to, you know, this idea that you have to write a serious book to be taken seriously. I mean, for me, the idea that you can basically write this Pacey, the crime noir like thriller, which then gives you a lot more readers because, you know, there's, I think just people who read a thriller, a crime thriller is a lot more than just, they read literary fiction and then through that you can smuggle in serious ideas about say, corruption and power and capitalism, you know, crony capitalism, all the ideas that I wanted to communicate without being didactic, without being you know, I don't believe in being this kind of novelist who, who called in messages. I just like to show how systems operate work. Two reasons. First, of course, it's financial, if you want to make it as a as a novelist, and have some kind of financial success, then you got to think of a literary fiction unless it wins a literary prize isn't going to pay your bills. And the second reason is just to it's interesting to do it as well. And I think that's why more and more people are trying to do it. I mean, che Han did it wonderfully. And, yeah, I mean, it's, you just end up having either a lot more viewers or readers. And there was this thing that I read many years back by, which always stayed with me by David Simon, who created the television show the wire, which is that crime drama set in Baltimore, he said, You know, it's ostensibly a police procedural but it's not it's about the city. It's about the way the systems work. Inequality, racism, everything and he said that what audiences want is ice cream what they need is broccoli. But what you what you're going to try and do is give them both right and how do you do like broccoli ice cream
Michelle D'costa 34:21
broccoli ice cream,
some Yeah. Something that like they they will devour. But at the same time, you can you can basically smuggle in serious ideas. So that's what I wanted to do. And yeah, and that's what so many people are doing now, I think, yeah, yeah, no,
Michelle D'costa 34:40
and one book I wanted to mention before we move on, is Berachos. Cost bunny. So it's a translation from the South Korean and I loved it for this specific reason. It's a very strange world okay, that she creates like all of these stories are weird, strange dog. Aren't you know, there's horror, all of that. But at the end of the day, it's always, you know, making a commentary on something. It could be a woman's role in society. It could be divorce, it could be marriage, whatever. But yeah, but I like the fact that genre is able to do that. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
You know, I mean, also, yeah, labels, you know, you can just try and like, transcend the idea of just biting, serious fiction. Listen, we live in a world where you're, there's so many things competing for your attention now. So to try and get two people to sit down and read a novel is anywhere really hard. Because you're competing with the internet, you're competing with social media, with television, you know, the 1000s of shows that you can watch now with podcasts, you know, so it's like, there's like, what can you you have to then make it? I think you have to try and make it propulsive and a page turner?
Tara Khandelwal 35:54
Absolutely. Yeah, we are in an age of distraction. And so yeah, I also, you know, your book has come out with Juggernaut, and Chiki Sarkar has been your editor. So I just wanted to know, you know, how is it how's it working? With hers is one editor that you return to and the book, you know, three part series. So how much sort of back and forth was there? And what is the relationship like? Well, chicky Chicky is
an old friend. And she, you know, I've known her since she first moved to Delhi, in the in that time period that I've actually written about just the mid 2000s. But she, she was incredible editor for bad character, but she actually took a step back for a device where she didn't edit the novel as much as Jesus publishing it. But she said that I want you to just work with one editor. And that was Sarah, my American editor. So so so that's, you know, so But otherwise, my relationship with her is just, it's wonderful. You know, we've, like she, she knows me. And you know, she's just a friend, but who's also, you know, she's very, she knows the Indian publishing wild, really wild. She knows how to talk about a book, which I think is a really incredible quality for an editor. She knows what kind of books work and now she has incredible amount of experience in the Indian publishing scene. So yeah, it's wonderful. Working with her.
Michelle D'costa 37:28
Awesome. Okay, so, now that we know so much about the book, we've actually created a really fun quiz for you the so yes, it's all about the book and we really hope that you have as much fun as we did curating. Okay. One character you would go on a blind date with,
okay, a RJ.
Michelle D'costa 37:50
We gotta see Sonny de Anita.
Oh, I was hoping for Eli. He's not in the options. Oh, god. Okay. Yeah, I
Michelle D'costa 38:03
was I was actually tempted to add
Tara Khandelwal 38:07
Eli is the security who's is is really good looking.
He's he's quite laconic. You know, he's a cool guy. I'd go for Eli, but he's not in there. So blind date so you know first date which means it you know, okay, Sunny. Go with somebody.
Tara Khandelwal 38:28
Interesting. Yeah, yeah. Okay, so one scene featuring Anita in the book that you would like to play on screen. One Neeraj meeting sunny in private at his house to NEDA in the classroom lost in thought and three NEDA and Cornmarket
Oh, no didn't come Okay
Michelle D'costa 38:52
next one thing about Delhi that you missed the most now that you live far away? Okay. The food be the people see the pollution
I mean, this one's easy. I mean ANB food and people but food I don't know who's like food Oh no, I really incredible meal or set of meals because you know it's not just one meal It's like a constant feast with all the people that I miss all the time.
Tara Khandelwal 39:31
Any of you if you choose producer okay if you could switch professions what what would you choose politician gangster or bodyguard?
Oh gosh this is a tough one. I don't want any three any three. Okay, I'm not gangster obviously. But I mean, you'd have to define gangster you know what kind of smooth consummate gangster or you know the actual guys who do all the violence, no politician, because it just seems the one I can most easily do slip into, because I can't do security and I can't be a gangster. So
Michelle D'costa 40:14
fair enough. Okay, the last one. What is it about new art that thrills you as a writer? Action? cuss words or drugs?
Oh, I think no, I mean, none of these actually. But turns me I mean, for me, it's like, sort of tension psychological tension. And so I guess I would say action, but within that action, it would not just be like physical action, you know? Yes.
Michelle D'costa 40:42
Tara Khandelwal 40:43
I love the sort of power play in both the novels. Okay. So that moves us to our reading recommendation section. So, you know, we already spoke about this whole, you know, literary fiction and all of those things. So, you know, we always hear of terms like the Bombay novel. And you know, there are so many amazing ones. So, I want to know, according to you, what is the Delhi novel?
Okay. What is Delhi novel? I don't know, I have to ask you guys this question. A Delhi novel? I don't know. i This is a tough question. What is the Delhi novel? It's a novel about excess, and intoxication. And, and, you know, volatility and beauty as well, because there is, you know, also beauty beautiful, and could be anything that I feel like, always, you know, for me, it's really and this is something very interesting because it is easy to define a Bombay novel, because you can you know, you immediately you can think of Midnight's Children at one end, and you can think of maximum city or the other. But for Delhi, I don't know, how do I define it? I don't know this. I have about this. Can you guys think of something that? Yeah,
Tara Khandelwal 42:04
I actually don't know myself. But I think it might be interesting to like, maybe, like, ask you the next one, which is right. Which novel The Seven Deadly apart from yours? Do you really like?
Oh, gosh, again, you know, I don't remember. I don't recall reading any Delhi novel that I can say, Oh, my God, this spoke to me. And I think that's because first of all, you know, I've lived in Delhi for so many years. So you know, you're, you're harsher on the novels because you kind of know the city and you're like, nah, this is not a deadly novel thought I did. Do you know, this. And I know wish she'd write more. But his uncle Saikia is his who used to work as a journalist and for India today, I think. And then he wrote a couple of incredible crime novels set in Delhi. And I, I forget the name of the novel, but that was, you know, I thought it was like a really good daily novel. And it's a newer in crime. And other than that, I cannot think of some anything. Do you guys have any ideas?
Tara Khandelwal 43:18
Now that I think of it, you know, what, like, I don't either, which is interesting. Actually, I do have one recommendation, which we interviewed her last year, equations by Shivani Sybil, and actually, it's very interesting book because it's not sort of Noir. But it is about class differences. And it is about the perspective of, you know, the upper class and then the domestic staff that serve them, you know, so it does have those layers as well. So it's, it's quite I really, really enjoyed that book. That's one of Yeah,
okay. That's, that's interesting. I will have a look at that. But you know, it's really interesting because I can think of Bombay suddenly, you know, there's Rohinton mysteries work which is just incredible and Muna speaks so eloquently of a certain milieu and lifestyle in Bombay, and then there's of course, to get the meta and then there's, you know, and the push the button down, like, yeah, to create that work. That body of work hasn't come out of that. Yeah,
Michelle D'costa 44:24
yes, it's not and I just wanted to add because I'm more fascinated with the Bombay novel, because you know, I say to Bombay more So more recently, there has been Jerry Pinto j. So many love, just love those books, but But you know, going beyond Delhi, Bombay, India, what I want to do is, you know, could you name some Asian crime Nawaz that you really like the that's something that's kept you on the edge of your seat?
You know, no, I know I can. Asian crime Nawaz. This is something that actually I do try and look out for and I haven't found but there is. He's an English writer, novelist called Lawrence Osborne. And sometimes he's described as like a modern day Graham Greene. But he he lives in Bangkok. And he writes these very kind of like atmospheric moody Nwaz set in, you know, mostly in places around Thailand and Cambodia, Vietnam. And I've and his he, his, his his work is his language is very evocative. It's very, it has a very strong sense of place, mostly his characters. I like these. You know, people from the West, you know, there could be a woman who has maybe stolen a large sum of money in his neck hiding out in Bangkok, or you're an American girl, and then the stuff, you know, it's about like crime and its consequences. But it's all set in these these, these seedy towns and in across Asia, and I find them. I love reading them. So yeah, Lauren saucepot.
Tara Khandelwal 45:57
Sounds great. Thanks. So that's exciting. Yeah. Are you right? What are you writing next? And is it also set in Delhi? Or do you think you will write something that with another setting?
What do you think of Writing Next, in the next? I'm strapped to my chair, I can't do anything else. I wish I could know, I'm writing a book too. And it is on it's set in Delhi, but also in other parts of India? And I am yeah, so that's basically my, that's, that's what I'm doing. Right now, my world is age advice for at least a few more years.
Tara Khandelwal 46:38
You know, I was so excited when I read that there's going to be part two and three. And then in one of your interviews, you said that, you know, in part two, we're gonna see that Sonny suddenly gets what he always wanted. Yeah, he's gonna wake up the king, and the novel will explore he does that. And I don't know. And I just going to discover a sense of self. So I'm very, very excited for book two. But I also wanted to ask him, because this is a very long process your book to your book three, you have the show that you're also working on as a writer. So these characters are going to be with you for a very long time. Do you feel that, you know, you will get tired of them? Or you will be done with them? Or are they sort of, you know, people that you think that you want to live with for so long? I
don't know that. I'm going to I'm going to discover the answer to your question. In the next few years. I go through periods when I'm, like, tired, but at the same time, it's all I think, as well. So, you know, I guess you it's, you know, it's yeah, I'm I mean it now. So that's what I'm doing. And at some point of time, I'm going to want to completely exit this world. But at this point in time now, it makes I'm actually very excited to be thinking about it back in it, you know, working on on the next book, so this, this is a good moment. But there are also moments when you feel like okay, I'm done with it.
Tara Khandelwal 48:16
Yeah, when we booked to be out
my I intend to finish at least a working draft at the end of this year. And, and then, you know, try and see how long it will take. But soon, I don't want to stretch it out. So yeah,
Tara Khandelwal 48:33
I'm waiting. actually stretch it out. Especially the trajectory of what you a little bit of what you reveal happens in that interview. I'm very, very excited to see how these characters pan out and also see them on screens.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm, I'm excited for that too. Whenever that will happen. But yeah, it is. Yeah, it's it's incredibly exciting.
Michelle D'costa 49:02
Awesome. Okay, um, so I think we are we are finally reached our most exciting section, which is towards the end of the episode Deepti it's called the rapid fire round,
I thought we already
Michelle D'costa 49:17
know and that's where you had multiple choice. You know, options. You're you don't have any option. Okay. You can just reply in one word or one sentence. Alright. One word to describe your mood while writing the book over nine
years. One word I don't know.
Tara Khandelwal 49:32
Serious. Yeah. Serious. Yeah, awesome. Okay. Which is your favorite character? RJ? Nice.
Michelle D'costa 49:41
Okay. One half. Oh, yes. Okay, all right. One habit that you have borrowed from your husband
coffee, drinking coffee. Used to be a tea drinker. But no, you know, full on coffee drinker.
Tara Khandelwal 50:04
Which actor do you think would be the best to play RJ on screen?
Oh, I this has to be someone who no one knows. I mean ideally it will be you know someone from like a theater circuit or a complete unknown so yeah, it makes sense. Oh, I don't know for Sunny as well I'm you know, because they're young so you know it'd be great if you could, you know, like you could say for example think of Game of Thrones none of the actors that came well known before and then they they just became the characters and I think that's ideal for for agent base. Awesome. Okay,
Michelle D'costa 50:45
um, one film set in Daddy's underbelly that you really like.
When you said Delhi's underbelly I was like thinking of Delhi Belly. Yeah. I am thinking of I don't I can't think off the top of my head at Khosla ghost labs. Right. Good. But I mean, it's not really in the delis. It is right. Maybe it's about this guy. I don't
Michelle D'costa 51:10
remember quite an old movie. But yeah,
Tara Khandelwal 51:13
yes. Yeah, I think the one that comes to my mind is no, no one killed Jessica.
Michelle D'costa 51:20
Oh, yeah, that was me goosebumps. Yeah.
Yeah. And I just got all case as well, when I was in Delhi during that time that all of that kind of also is in my novel in some way or the other. It's as the consequences right
Tara Khandelwal 51:33
of Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. You can really see all of those influences. Yeah, exactly. Okay, one book about another bad character that you really like,
oh, Margo, dresses, lover. You know, like, which I was really inspired. I was really inspired by for writing that character. Yeah.
Michelle D'costa 52:00
Okay. All right. Um, one favorite Western to know that you wish you wrote
a Western thriller? Well, I can't I mean, it's not a thriller, per se. But the sopranos is amazing.
Tara Khandelwal 52:14
Yeah. Okay, where do you write?
Right now on my desk, in my kind of, it's like a study and living room. And it has, it faces a window, which looks out on a corner on a street with lots of just, you know, you can see floats, sheets drying out in the sun, and, you know, rooftops, and sky, and you can have traffic. In fact, one of the reasons we chose this apartment when we moved here was the fact that it reminded us a little bit of India because it feels very noisy. So it's lots of street noise, which is nice.
Michelle D'costa 52:58
Wow, I think I think that description itself was so cinematic, no more no, no wonder it comes, you know, flows through in your book as well. But this brings us to the end of the session deeply. I wish it could be longer, because I had so much fun talking to you. And you know, just so that our listeners would know, I actually interviewed the very long back when it came out. Yeah, and, and the interviews online, so I just, I was waiting for a chance to speak to her. I'm so glad we got to cover so many things today. Thank you deeply.
No, and it's great, Michelle, because, yeah, it's a lot of fun for me to be talking to you both. And you know, interesting that this in the last eight years, of course, when you kind of transitioned from, you know, online interviews to podcasts, you know, see,
Michelle D'costa 53:45
Tara Khandelwal 53:51
So here we are, where the end of yet another journey into the many worlds of Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara Knievel.
Michelle D'costa 53:59
I'm Michelle D'costa. And this podcast is created by bout a company that helps you grow through stories, find us at sound India or all social media platforms. So tune in
Tara Khandelwal 54:10
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Michelle D'costa 54:25
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