Anirban Bhattacharya, the author of The Deadly Dozen, grew up in a boarding school called Dr Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong which is near Darjeeling. He studied BA English at St Xaviers College Kolkata and Did my Masters in Mass Comm from MCRC Jamia, New Delhi.
He’s been a director, producer and Head of Content at Channel [v] and also worked with The Walt Disney Company (India) as Head of Non Fiction. He’s a Co-creator and Producer of Savdhaan India and has Produced shows like Fear Files and Ishq Kills for Zee and Star Plus.
Anirban is also a standup comedian who made his debut at The Comedy Store Mumbai. He performed his solo show Don’t Mess With The Bong in Mumbai, Pune, Shillong.
He is an actor debuted in Yashraj’s Sui Dhaaga; and will soon be seen in Mission Mangal.
TBE: Tell us about your book, can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
Anirban Bhattacharya: It is the most definitive book on Indian Serial Killers. For the first time a book deep-dives into the lives and minds of these killers. It is a shocking, gruesome, no-holds barred look at the heinous crimes committed by these serial killers.
TBE: Why did you choose to write on this intense subject for your debut book?
Anirban Bhattacharya: I have always loved the genre of crime and I have co-created one of the most popular true crime series on TV – Savdhaan India, and have been producing it since 2012. So I was already living and breathing the genre 24×7. I realised that most people perceive Serial Killers as a western phenomenon. Secondly, many of us aren’t aware that there have been serial killers in India. And thirdly, there wasn’t a comprehensive book that really went into the details of these serial killers. So I decided to write a book that would really be detailed telling of their crimes, their motives and how they were caught.
And when my literary agent The Book Bakers presented the idea to Penguin India, the publishers loved it. Absolutely blessed to have a literary debut as a Penguin author! I couldn’t believe it when they said yes!! Imagine as a kid I used to read Penguin books and suddenly I was writing for the publishing giant!! Surreal!!
TBE: What was your writing process for this book?
Anirban Bhattacharya: As it is a true crime book I had to really be thorough with my research. I realised that I had to approach the project one story at a time or else I would go insane! So I would spend two weeks just researching, collating information, talking to people regarding the case. And then spend another week or so writing that particular story. And then move on to the next. If I managed to get additional information on a story later, I would go back and add that and rewrite portions.
TBE: How long did it take you to write this book?
Anirban Bhattacharya: I have a full time job as the Creative Head of my production house. and I am also a stand-up comedian. So the only time I got for myself to write this book was from 11pm to 4am everyday. I would then go to sleep at 4:30am or 5am and wake up at 9am and head to work by 10am. I followed this routine for a year to complete the book. It was a labour of love and I knew that sleepless nights were necessary if I had to deliver a good book and be on time.
TBE: Which is your most favorite(!) Story from this collection? and why?
Anirban Bhattacharya: I loved writing the Nithari case because it is by far the most complicated case in the book with numerous conspiracy theories and alleged angles to the story. It is like Kurosawa’s Rashomon – there is an event and then there are versions of it from different perspectives and all of them could be the truth!
And the other one I really loved writing was Beer-Man. I deliberately wrote it in a very tongue-in-cheek manner to go with the failed efforts to catch the real killer.
TBE: During your journey from the idea of this book to the publication, what was the most difficult thing you faced? Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Anirban Bhattacharya: Researching was tough. But I think the most difficult challenge was to keep my own sanity. Every story that I researched unearthed the most heinous murders. There were children slaughtered and raped, infants whose skills were smashed in. It was horrible! And researching and writing about such cold blooded killers night after night took a toll on me mentally. I remember when I was writing about Anjanabai and her two daughters Seema and Renuka who used to kidnap infants and smash their skulls – I became physically ill. I vomited while writing it. It was so disgusting and macabre.
And as parent I was scared and I could feel the immense pain that hundreds of parents had experienced after their children were snatched away from them. This world is not an ideal place. It’s horrible!
Challenging factor was I wanted to ensure that I was able to tell a story rather than be inundated with facts and data and end up appearing to be like a news report. I had to make each story interesting and have its own flavour and narrative. So I included languages of the places that the criminal operated in. So there are dialogues in Bengali, Assamese, Kannada, Tamil, Punjabi, Malayalam, Marathi. I wanted the reader to feel like he/she was in the milieu experiencing the wretchedness.
TBE: According to you what is the most challenging thing for budding writer?
Anirban Bhattacharya: Publishing Contract! I was blessed that I had a literary agent like The Book Bakers representing me who are very good at what they do. That really helped my pitch to reach the correct publishers. And so it reached the right editor at the biggest publishing house in the country and within a month of submission of pitch I had a contract in my hand! Without an agent it would have taken a lot more time.
Next is Discipline!! As a budding writer you have to keep at it. A friend and mentor of mine, the actor and author Jayant Kripalani told me – you have to sit at the desk everyday at the same time. It doesn’t matter if you write nothing – you have to be there. In Landmark Forum there is a term called Being on Court. So as a budding writer one has to be on court, turn up every single day to play the game.
TBE: How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?
Anirban Bhattacharya: The launch itself was a celebration. I had over 80 friends, family, schoolmates and colleagues all turn up. It was a warm family affair. And was blessed to have renowned director Anurag Kashyap launch the book. After which I think everyday has been a celebration. Just to see my name as an author is incredible. And the book is now No.1 Bestseller on Amazon which is unbelievable!! So it’s been a celebration everyday for the past one month since the launch.
TBE: Do you read much and if so, who are your favorite authors?
Anirban Bhattacharya: I read sparingly but there are certain authors whose books never miss out. Amitav Ghosh and Bill Bryson are my absolute favourites! Then there is Paulo Coelho, Murakami, Pico Iyer.
TBE: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Anirban Bhattacharya: Watching movies, listening to my LPs, hanging out with my son who is an amazing musician – he keeps showing me new stuff that he has composed! Or cooking – I love cooking!
And playing Angry Birds all versions on the phone!
TBE: Have you ever learned anything thing from a negative review and incorporated it in your writing?
Anirban Bhattacharya: Thankfully I have had all 5 star reviews on all platforms. Every author has his or her own narrative style. And that’s what defines each of them and differentiates them. Makes them individuals. So if one cannot or should not react to reviews and change styles or incorporate it in the writing. It’s the age of Social Media where everybody has the power to be judge, jury and executioner from the comforts of the sitting room. They can criticise just because they can… one shouldn’t let it affect the writing… IMHO
TBE: Did you ever have a rough patch in writing, where nothing in the story seemed to fit or make sense?
Anirban Bhattacharya: Absolutely!! It took me almost two months to write Nithari because the plot and the volume of research was so crazy! There are so many viewpoints to Nithari. And so when I went to write it from the official police narrative it just didn’t make sense to omit the conspiracy theories.
Without which it was seeming incomplete. In the end I put in all the aspects and viewpoints and have left the audience to decide what they want to believe. I also spent endless nights trying to figure out how to tell the story of Darbara Singh who was a despicable human being who targeted only immigrant children. There have been nights when I have just stared at the screen and not even a sentence has emerged.
TBE: In your opinion, what is the most important thing about any book?
Anirban Bhattacharya: Accessibility for the reader. Every book whether it’s a non-fiction or a fiction has to appeal to the reader. And that is the duty of the author to make it interesting, easy to understand or amaze the reader with their craft. Look at authors and legends like Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan who has made Quantum Physics and Cosmos so accessible to the reader. Every book has to appeal to the inner core of the reader.
TBE: What was one of the most surprising things you learned during creation of your book?
Anirban Bhattacharya: That I had the discipline within me to complete a 90,000 word book!
TBE: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Anirban Bhattacharya: I want to tell stories in my own original narrative style that will appeal to the viewer. I almost never go back and rewrite. Once it’s emerged out of my head it’s there! Almost stream of consciousness. Every story organically defines the style. One shouldn’t try and impress readers with craft for the sake of it Or try and double-guess what the reader would like to read – and try and please the reader – then one would not be doing justice to the story.
TBE: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Anirban Bhattacharya: When I read Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair and the Magic Faraway Tree at the age of 7 or 8. Those books sucked me in and made me believe that such a world existed! It was magical!!
TBE: Do you have any suggestions to help me (any one) become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Anirban Bhattacharya: Be honest to the story. Keep writing till it feels right. Don’t get too possessive of your writing – be ready to erase a chapter and start afresh. My first submission was 90,000 words – I had to delete 20,000 words. So I had to be clinical and not be possessive!
TBE: A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, and they are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?
Anirban Bhattacharya: Not for me! I am a standup comedian – I will do anything to get attention. Again one cannot generalise and bunch up all writers together in one sack. Every body is an individual.
TBE: Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
Anirban Bhattacharya: As I said earlier writing is a discipline. You have to sit everyday whether words emerge or not. So for me it’s 11pm to 4am when I am writing a book. Inspiration is ether like – she will not visit you if you are not seated at the desk. It’s not the other way around.
TBE: What does literary success look like to you?
Anirban Bhattacharya: Fulfilling my grandmothers dream of becoming the first published author in the family. Fulfilling the dream of a 8 yr old boy who once dreamt of becoming a writer.
The fact that I have people whom I have never met leave appreciative reviews based on just the words I have written. Success in not always fame or money – it’s often more of an emotional satisfaction.
TBE: If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?
Anirban Bhattacharya: Don’t be lazy and don’t procrastinate.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers
Anirban Bhattacharya: The sequel to The Deadly Dozen; a book about my growing up years in Kalimpong and Calcutta – Slice of life, coming of age hilarious stories; and then there is a children’s book which I had written when I was 9 years old. I recently discovered the handwritten manuscript – so I am writing that out. And finally an anthology of horror stories.
Buy Now: The Deadly Dozen by Anirban Bhattacharya
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