Author Anuja Chauhan discusses her new book

The book is titled Club You to Death, and she reveals why she prefers writing novels to ad copies or screenplays

In Anuja Chauhan’s latest book, Club You To Death, (Harper Collins, ₹399) a hunky trainer is found dead in the posh Delhi Turf Club. The death immediately opens a can of worms with politics, surgical strikes, blackmail and skeletal remains crawling out of the swanky woodwork.

Anuja’s sixth book contains the wit and sass that made her novels such as Battle For Bittora (2010) and Those Pricey Thakur Girls (2013) such fun.

Anuja, who was responsible for some of the best remembered catch phrases in ‘90s advertising from ‘Oye Bubbly’ to ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’, prefers writing novels to ad copies or screenplays. “A novel gives you the most creative control, a movie gives you some and advertising none,” she says over phone from her house in the outskirts of Bengaluru. “Advertising is shiny crayons, big budgets and film stars. That is lovely, but what you can draw with the shiny crayons is limited.”

The Zoya Factor, Anuja’s debut novel was made into a movie of the same name, directed by Abhishek Sharma and starred Dulquer Salmaan and Sonam Kapoor. Sonam is set to star in the adaptation of Battle for Bittora as well. “I usually find that if I read the book before watching the movie, I won’t like the movie while there are chances that I might like the movie if I haven’t read the book.”

Twin worlds

The 50-year-old author says she does not write her books as a blueprint for a movie. So the question of whether The Zoya Factor turned out how she pictured it, does not arise. “I envisioned The Zoya Factor as a book. And it is the most complete manifestation of my vision. I always tell people, ‘please read the book,’ because that is what I am responsible for. That is what I have creative control over and that is my vision.”

After writing five romances, Anuja said she was feeling a little restricted by the format. “I still love writing romance, but there are so many more aspects of romance. You cannot keep writing about that one little period of a couple meeting and getting together. I wanted to explore other aspects such as couples who have been together for a long time, or couples with a toxic past, who are no longer together. I like having a propulsive track to the novel. In a romance, I’m taking the reader along, because we want to see the couple get together. In a mystery, the reader goes along because they want to find out whodunit. In a crime novel, I like the fact that I can pick an interesting theme, do social commentary, think about larger issues and at the same time, not lose the reader.”

A big fan of whodunits, Anuja describes Agatha Christie as an Empress who will reign forever. “I am now reading Seishi Yokomizo, who is like the Japanese Agatha Christie. I love the Father Brown stories. I like cosy crime stories — not too gritty or bloody. I like books that describe a world that is lovely on the surface, but tainted underneath, the set pieces with the suspects…”

Sunny side up

You To Death has a range of colourful suspects from the beautiful Bambi to the dishy Akash. Anuja says she had the most fun with the avuncular ACP Bhavani Singh who is in charge of the case. “I wanted to write about a genius, garrulous 50-year-old cop, a father of daughters. Nowadays you have macho cops with an alcohol problem and all kinds of angst. I wanted to write a character who was an anti-thesis of that.”

Location is important in a crime novel and Anuja says while Club You To Death would have probably worked in any other city, it becomes more authentic when the city is Delhi. “What one tries to do is write something specific, which can also be universal.”

On when will we get to read a Bengaluru novel, Anuja says, “I don’t know if I have the chops yet. I am working very hard to get the cred, but I feel I don’t have the keys to the city yet.” Preferring to work on happy topics, Anuja says she tends to gravitate towards sunny spaces. “I don’t like to go to places that are too dark and depressing.”

Anuja is not a big fan of labels. “I think they dumb you down, they put you in a box and tell you not to punch above your weight. They tell you if you are a literary writer, don’t try to write something fun or frothy and if you are a popular writer, please don’t try and comment on the state of the nation.”

Future plans include a screenplay, a movie which Anuja has written, an OTT adaptation of Those Pricey Thakur Girls and if Club You To Death does well, ACP Bhawani Singh will have a second outing.

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