” Writing true crime is challenging”

Anirban Bhattacharya, Creative Director, Producer – Crime Patrol and author of The Deadly Dozen has now come up with his book on poetry. In a candid conversation with the Daily Excelsior, he narrates his experiences as an author and a filmmaker.
Excerpts of Interview
From making shows about crime and writing about serial killers to penning poetry – that’s quite a huge zag. How did it happen?
Poetry happened in my life, before true crime did. Poetry started 29 years ago when I was studying at St. Xavier’s College in Calcutta (then). I was introduced to T.S. Eliot and my mind was blown. So I started writing poetry in a red diary. And somewhere in my naive head I even imagined it getting published and named the collection of poems Petals. And for the past 29 years I kept writing and adding to the diary. When the lockdown hit us – for the first year I was busy writing a true crime book, but then I got a writer’s block. It was then that I took out the diary and started typing out the poems, editing them and an on a lark sent it to my literary agent Suhail Mathur of The Book Bakers. He was quite excited when he read the poems. And within a month I had the nod from Harpreet Makkar of Petals Publishers & Distributors. And then Serendipity dawned upon me… what I had seeded and manifested 29 years ago came around – I had named my book Petals – and here was Petals who were the publishers of the collection! I had goosebumps! It was like the universe had conspired to make it happen. I am very thankful to The Book Bakers, Harpreet and Petals for publishing my debut collection Mumblings & Musings.
People have the notion 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 that the 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 shall not smell the rain
or hear the breaking of dawn.
A trail of black smoke
is all that I will be;
a thin sliver of ash and
a boat of flowers, afloat
as my body will bid adieu
to my soul.

I shall not smell the rain –
I will be the rain,
and I will be the breaking dawn.
In nothingness shall I exist
I will be nothing – yet everything.

What is there not to understand in this, or intellectual in this? These poems are a journey into one’s own subconscious and hopefully they will get the readers to ask questions to themselves…
Tell us about the book – was it more difficult to write poetry than true crime?
Writing true crime has its own challenges – the research, the investigations, the details – and ensurig that the research does not end up as a news article but a gripping narrative. With poetry it is a far more emotional journey – it also exposes my mind, my identity completely – I am standing for eveybody to see – stripped off any kind of mask or identity to hide behind. So it is a vulnerable experience to share these poems with the world. The book has stunning photographs accompanying each poem – clicked by my classmate and childhood friend Ashish Bakshi. They capture candid moments and still life and add a visual element to each poem.
Which is your favourite poem?
That’s a difficult one. Each poem is like a piece of me. Actor Sushant Singh perhaps described the poems very aptly when he said, ‘The imagery haunts you. Each poem invites you back again and again to peel the layers and keep getting lost in the labyrinth of emotions’. But I do have certain favourites like the Title poem which is a tribute to T.S. Eliot and Pink Floyd – a dystopian universe. And then there’s ‘The Mad Man on the Street’, ‘The Tenth Leper’, ‘Waiting’ are observations on people we meet everyday – and I love them for their simplicity. Each poem is special to me for one reason on the other. There could be a line that came to me that makes it a favourite, 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 which has become a No.1 Bestseller on Amazon. When we say ‘serial killers’ we assume they belong to the Western World, but India has almost 35 serial killers – and to remove the misnomer and to shed light on these cold-blooded killers I wrote this book. After creating Savdhaan India I was working on true crime 24×7 and that is when the idea germinated. In the book I take the readers into the minds of the killers examining why they killed, how they killed, and what was their thought process. This is India’s Mindhunter. If you love true crime, the OTT crime shows – then this is a must read. And I was blessed to have had Penguin as a publisher for my debut book! A dream debut! And I was blessed again to have a super director like Anurag Kashyap agree to launch my book! Did you know that the youngest serial killer on the world is from India? Amardeep Sada was aged 7. Did you also know that the serial killer with the world record of murders is from India? Thug Behram with over 900 murders. It is a thoroughly researched book. Superstar Ayushmann Khurrana has described it as ‘One of the most exciting true-crime books I have read in recent years. Highly engaging. The stories grip you by the jugular. Razor-sharp.’ And superstar John Abraham was very generous and described the book as ‘An extremely gritty, taut and suspenseful thriller. Anirban’s writing transports you to the actual scene of 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 inaugural Jammu Lite Fest – Yayavar! And what an experience it was. Jammu was breath-taking 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 standup comedy and motivational session. The response was humbling. 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 entire day laughing and sightseeing and sharing a meal at a roadside dhaba! I had to force him to accept payment. I was really emotional and we both had tears in our eyes when we parted at the airport. Happy Memories!!
What’s next for you?
I have three books lined up for 2022. There is a Young Adult fiction for Om Books International. A memoir-love story in the late 80’s set against the real life Gorkhaland agitation in Kalimpong where I grew up – this is a true story – and this is for Fongerprint Publishing. And finally I have a true crime book – the publisher can’t be disclosed yet.
Your final words for the interview…
Support Poetry. Buy books. Read. Encourage reading. Write. Buy books from bookstores, especially your neighborhood small bookstores. Support Indian authors. And love. Spread love. Life is too short. Don’t waste it on hating others.