Social networking sites, for many, are just virtual space where you come in ‘contact’ with people of your liking for a while and then disperse as easily as you have ‘met’ because unlike physical intimacy, your chance interaction and mingling do not bear down upon you with the constrictions of physical proximity or commitment I was lucky to have ‘met’ many like-minded friends on various sites with the difference that the friendship has more than once transformed therefrom virtual to real. By real, I mean a more tangible connect by way of tele talk or actual face to face acquaintance or exchange of notes.
When I say like-minded, I refer to the common thread, per se, or more elaborately, the symbiosis of benefit, not in the least in material terms, but more in the lines of an unpremeditated mutual growth which for all ideal purpose should be the keystone of any honest and evolving relationship. I was lucky to have known Mr. Jitendra Mathur for the past so many years as a thinker who has always been sincere and ever ready with his valuable comments and appreciation whenever I have tried to express my views, in my limited capacity, on any sundry topic, on my blog space or on sites of mutual indulgence. To get a friend by your side, who understands your mind, is a blessing of divine proportion. Oft-perceived lightly, the sense of understanding is an unflinching assurance that our intersecting thoughts promise not to malign.
Mr. Mathur has always charmed me with the sincerity of his intention. Even his critique has been perceptive, directional and more than often presentation of an alternate viewpoint which my microscopic takes have bypassed. A movie buff, an avid reader, an honest reviewer, a talented playwright and a compulsive writer (by his own confession), words fall short when it comes to sketching a multi-faceted persona like Mr. Mathur. However, I think it is our addiction to that factor of unknowability that has actually spurred on our association over the past so many years. In short, we are both huge fans of murder mystery and detection. I am still to make out what kindles a man’s perceptivity – is it profession or is it the bent of mind which eggs him towards his chosen vocation? Being a Chartered Accountant, analytical acumen, clarity of thought and the ability of distinguishing the necessary from the clutter, come naturally to Mr. Mathur. But it is reading his reviews, be it of Christie’s or Surendra Mohan Pathak’s, I became increasingly aware of a mind which is endowed with the power and precision of logically deducing the truth, from a haystack of deluding facts, in an almost unforgiving manner.
I would not like to take the credit of what followed suit because the seeds of the future is always sown somewhere in the past and watered by the present. Even though it’s a doer’s prerogative, It was the latter that I unashamedly boast of triggering and I am happy that the result is so awe-inspiring that even the one who coaxed him not to stop, is stunned by the outcome. Writing a full-fledged novel, taking out time off a demanding career, is no mean task. And it is also an occasion to celebrate with a virtual cup of coffee and as stimulating a conversation as the caffeine in the coffee beans could provoke. So here it goes…
Me : Writing is cathartic or therapeutic for you?
JM : Both – to vent out my frustration and stuffiness and to anoint the wounded heart.
Me: From playwright to novelist, would you call it a quantum leap, a gradual process or an inevitability?
JM : I became a playwright because of the demand of the situation in 2003 when a play was required by my friends for participating in the cultural event of the then organization I served. My second play was also written on someone’s request. But after writing many plays, when one fine morning, a thought came to my mind that I should try to write a full-fledged novel also, then it proved to be an altogether different business because of the genre. After successful materialization of my dream, I can call it a quantum leap. Had I written a romantic or a social novel, I would have termed it a gradual process.
Me: You have often remarked that my short stories lean towards abstraction not easily followed by many. But when we talk of hardboiled murder mysteries we are actually veering towards that dark realm of performance which is as abstract as confounding. Your comment.
JM : Well, that’s a ticklish question. To some extent, I agree that mysteries also contain an air of abstractness. The thought of murder is a result of mental abstractness. However, this abstractness is subjective. All the same, murder mysteries can’t be completely abstract because the acts preceding and succeeding a murder (especially unraveling the mystery) are nothing but tangible incidents.
Me : Qatl Kii Aadat, your maiden novel, is of a steamy mainstream genre. Yet, a Christie or a Sir Connan Doyle fall within the purview of classics. What according to you are the requisite ingredients for thrillers and suspense dramas to acquire literary stature?
JM : The requisite ingredient for a suspense drama or a thriller to acquire literary stature lies in the psychological aspect or element finely and subtly embedded therein. Murder is only an act but the background and foreground of the act decide its qualitative quantum – the crime, the process of detection, the quality of investigation and the finale. This applies to mystery movies too, a very few of which, achieve the cult status. In a nutshell, a mystery or thriller can be considered a classic when it is much more than a suspense or a thrill story.
Me: You are a huge Christie fan (like me). Has Christie in any way been an influencing factor in shaping your novel?
JM: Of course! Though the plot emerged out of my own life experiences, the Christie influence on me has something to do with its shaping and presentation.
Me : Do you wish to see your protagonist SI Sanjay Sinha on the same pedestal as Christie’s Poirot or SMP’s Sunil in coming days?
JM :Yes, why not?
Me : Coming to Hindi pulp fiction, your reviews have inspired many, including me, to have a taste of these. However, the very coinage “pulp” is somewhat derogatory given their huge salability and readership. Do you agree and why the nickname “pulp”?
JM : The nickname ‘pulp’ has been derived from the quality of paper used for publication of such novels. And it’s because of the poor quality of paper, cover page and other production related aspects that led decorous people to look upon them derogatorily. And once they got tagged as ‘cheap’, the tag continued to stick to them for ages.
Me :Given the present scenario, do you think writers are now more motivated by commercial interests and less by literary thirst?
JM: Yes. Though I have come across authors and poets who create purely out of passion and literary thirst, it’s to be admitted that the commercial interests has taken over the scenario. All the same, it’s nothing new. We have to admit that the basic needs of life are the same for creative people as they are for the others.
Me: Your experience and views on self-publishing?
JM : Self-publishing is the order of the day. Due to diminutive readership and in turn printed publishing, this is the only viable option left to new authors and poets. It’s a known fact that a couple of today’s celebrity Indian authors had begun through self-publication only.
Me: Is crime an art or a craft? Your take in view of contemporary times…
JM : Crime can never be an art, Geeta Ji because art always exists for its own sake whereas crime cannot be contemplated for its own sake. There has to be a motive for it. However it can be called a craft. Mind it, if the criminal is willing to accept the legal punishment for his crime prior to contemplating it, then the crime is neither an art nor a craft. These terms are to be used only when the criminal has to make a plan to escape the law of the land after committing the crime. The art lies there and not in just carrying out the crime and surrendering to the law thereafter.
Me: Logical detection and plausible finale are something which we find lacking in many contemporary novels. Do you think writing a mystery novel requires a different bent of mind? How difficult or easy is it?
JM : Yes, writing a mystery novel requires a different bent of mind. It’s definitely difficult than writing a social drama or romantic stuff. The author has to know well in advance what his detective hero is going to know and then reveal in the climax. All the loose ends are to be tied up in the end, all the questions are to be answered and all the activities of different characters are to be logically explained. Else, the finale may leave the reader dissatisfied. Hence it’s a unique style which the author has to develop and refine by practice.
Me: Political intervention in policing is a necessary evil yet an acknowledged fact. Your reply as SI Sanjay Sinha….
JM :Political intervention in policing is an evil for sure but how can we call it a necessary evil ? There is no necessity for it except for the vested interests. Hence it should be stopped and the dutiful and committed officers should be allowed to function without undue pressures.
Me: Who would you like to see as Sanjay in a cinematic adaptation of your novel?
JM : That’s a hypothetical question. If it really becomes possible some day, then yes, Arjun Kapoor.
Me: A little about Qatl Kii Aadat…..
JM : It’s a murder mystery set in an industrial town which is small in area with smaller villages connected to it. The nearest city is miles away. The local police chowki suffers from want of manpower and resources. Still a very young and inexperienced but honest and dedicated chowki in-charge investigates the case which is entangled like a spider’s web and ultimately succeeds in reaching the culprit.
Me: If you had to review your own novel ….
JM: As the author I am subjective. For a more objective analysis, an independent reviewer should be entrusted for it.
Me : About your next venture…..
JM : Not planned yet.
Me: All the best to you for your novel and next venture, whenever that is due, Mr. Mathur!
With that we took the last sip of our coffee. Needless to say, I am as eagerly looking forward to reading Mathur Sahab’s creation as my other friends are.
Qatl Kii Aadat is now available on www.pothi,com in e-book form. Be the first to review it.
But before signing off, I promise I shall come back again in another Coffee Session with Mr. Mathur after devouring the book.
Till then …..Happy deducing….