Born in 1962, Adi Pocha is a writer, film-maker, based in Mumbai who has been writing professionally for advertising and television for the last thirty-eight years.
Born into a show-biz family, (his father was a comedian, his mother a doctor and a singer, and his aunt is Usha Uthup) he started his writing career in 1984 as a copywriter in an advertising agency called Shilpi, after which he was hired by Lintas in 1985, and was made Creative Head of Lintas’ Calcutta office in 1987.
After six and a half years at Lintas, during which he worked on a variety of campaigns, including the infamous Kamasutra campaign, he left the agency to start his own scriptwriting company.
However, to make ends meet (he left Lintas with just Rs 5000/-), he started directing TV commercials for UTV. When satellite TV was launched in India in 1992, he conceptualized and directed the immensely popular (and immensely irritating) game show, “Saanp Seedi”. Then went on to create, write, direct and executive produce India’s first daily soap, “Shanti”.
While he now runs his own corporate and documentary film making company, he has always thought of writing as his first love. His fortnightly column “Rebel Without A Clue” in The Indian Express (Mumbai Newsline) ran for almost ten years and achieved a modest fan following of its own.
TBE: Hello, thank you so much for your time! Tell us a little about your story and the story world you’ve created in “Behram’s Boat”. Where did the idea for this story come from?
Adi Pocha: It’s hard to say when the idea actually germinated or popped. Or in fact where the idea came from. All I know is that around 2006 or 2007 I got the idea of this mad old Parsi guy who decides he wants to save the Parsis, and hatches a crazy scheme to build a boat. It started out more as a concept note for a film. At the time I used to take about 2-3 trips a year to Goa to write. And on one such trip, the thought suddenly struck me: why not write this as a book. And that I guess is how “Behram’s Boat” was born.
TBE: I absolutely adored “Behram’s Boat”, which was a perfect balance of humour, quirkiness and a heartwarming message. Did you deliberately put all these elements into the story to create your unique main character and his journey?
Adi Pocha: I think when you write, or at least when I write, the story doesn’t fully reveal itself. For me at least, once I had the basic concept, and a rough outline, the story almost wrote itself. The voice was pretty much true to the Parsis. The characters were composite, a mix of people I knew, and then some. The humour and quirkiness were inevitable, given the characters and the fact that the story was set among the Parsis. I think it was only after the first draft, once I had gotten to the end of the story, that I kind of knew where I was going with “Behram’s Boat” and what the book was ultimately about. And then it was a question of putting my craft to work and polishing the book up to its finish.
TBE: Behram initially came across as a stereotypical grumpy man yet as the story progressed and we, the readers, got to know him better it became evident that there was a far more complex and surprising character hiding underneath the stern exterior. Was this something that surprised you as well?
Adi Pocha: So I have always believed that characters in fiction need to be multi dimensional and many layered. Because that’s how real people are. Human beings aren’t simple and two dimensional. We are all flawed when examined through the lens of someone else’s life. Behram isn’t exactly a hero. Nor a really lovable guy, especially to start out with. He is profane, uncouth, rude, extreme in his views, sexist, alcoholic. But I think when you peel away the layers, we come to something that is core to all of us: purpose. And when purpose defines us, human beings have the surprising ability to become noble and shine. And I think, so also with Behram.
TBE: Behram is so literal but so funny. Though there’s plenty of pain in his story, he never fails to make us laugh. How did you come up with Behram’s inimitable voice?
Adi Pocha: As I have mentioned earlier, Behram is a composite character. He is a combination of the many hilarious, lovely, eccentric, crazy Parsis that I have ever known. And then there is a bit of my father and me in Behram as well.
TBE: In researching and writing about Parsi community, what did you learn about the people that surprised you the most?
Adi Pocha: Actually my research of the Parsi community has been ongoing through my entire life. I have lived with Parsis, my dad’s theatre buddies, my own friends. They are a crazy, mad lot. But in a very harmless kind of way. They just have a whacky sense of humour. But underneath that they are also a very kind, generous and loving people. At the core of their belief system, what defines the Parsis, I feel, are just six words. Which just about sum up the entire religion: “Good thoughts. Good words. Good deeds.”
Beyond the Parsis, however, I had to research the whole boat building part of the story. And that was really surprising and exciting.
I did not know that a place like Salaya existed.
But my research led me there.
And I was fascinated by the place, the people, the boats they built and the life they lived.
And that informed a large segment of the book.
TBE: What did writing “Behram’s Boat” teach you, or help you realize, about your own experience in life?
Adi Pocha: I think the thing that I learnt from Behram is simple. I need to have purpose. I need to follow that purpose. And just do it: do the thing I was put on earth to do. In my case, ironically, I feel like “Behram’s Boat” is the start of the building of my own boat. The start of my finally doing what I want to devote my life to doing. Writing.
TBE: In your opinion, what is the most important thing about any book?
Adi Pocha: I feel any book has to have the ability to forget itself. Forget that there is a writer, that this is a book. Ultimately, a book is a vessel for a story. And the most important thing is that: the story.
TBE: How was your publishing experience with Leadstart?
Adi Pocha: I have to say that my publishing experience with Leadstart was and continues to be very good. They have given me just the right amount of guidance, without getting in my face. Even when the book was being edited, they were very sensitive to the writing and the content, taking care not to change either intent or essence. Very grateful to them.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Adi Pocha: Well, I have started my next book. In fact I had started it maybe 3-5 years ago. I am still on my first draft and am still not one hundred percent sure as to what this book will be about in its final shape. All I can say right now is that, parts of it are set in Dharavi, while other parts are set in Mongolia and Bolivia. As of now. Who knows, where the story will take me? Thank you. And God bless.