The scene is set; the meeting place decided; the tools to be used for the act prepared; and the prime characters chosen with care from across the world, ready to assemble at the appointed hour. It's an event more carefully planned than a Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot crime scene. And with reason. For this weekend, Delhi will play host not to the super sleuths, but some very interesting crime fiction writers.
The first edition of the Hindustan Times Crime Writers Festival, to be held on January 17 and 18, with sessions and workshops at the India Habitat Centre and Oxford Bookstore, has engaged a team of crime and thriller writers from across the globe, with the intent of examining the art of crime writing and how it influences society. Reel and stage veterans will be joining writers to discuss the representation of the genre in the visual medium.
During a curtain raiser event organised in December 2014 at Oxford, Namita Gokhale, one of the directors of the festival had said, "Crime writing and detective fiction are among the most important and underrated aspects of literary expression. They are equally challenging to read and write, bringing in emotive, intuitive and rational faculties… As the genre gains critical mass in India, I'm proud and happy that this idea, which germinated on a cold morning in London, withKishwar Desai (author and fellow festival director), has found resonance and taken root."
An initiative of the Crime Writer's Forum of South Asia, the festival, presented by Hindustan Times and produced by Siyahi, a literary consultancy, will include discussions, book readings, writers' workshops, a musical session presented by NH7 and a crime fiction quiz hosted by Quizcraft Global.
"Though commercial fiction writing in English has gained popularity in India in the past 10 years or so, crime fiction as a genre is yet to take off. Indian detective stories are much more mature in our vernacular languages than in English," says writer Ashwin Sanghi, whose latest work, Private India, is a crime thriller written in collaboration with bestselling author James Patterson.
Take the example of Satyajit Ray's Feluda series, for example, which received both popular as well as critical acclaim in Bengal and established the sleuth so powerfully in the popular psyche, that son Sandip continues to bring out movies under the franchise. Or another popular Bengali sleuth, Byomkesh Bakshi, whose deductive skills not only won him fans in the east, but also got him national recognition in the tele-series featuring Rajit Kapur.
Saradindu Bandopadhyay's fictional detective is also the inspiration for Dibakar Banerjee's upcoming film. Both Kapur and Banerjee will be present at the Festival and will take part in a session on the famous fictional sleuth. Then, there is Surender Mohan Pathak, the Hindi fiction writer, who has nearly 300 books to his credit. Pathak will be talking of his iconic detectives Sunil and Vimal at the festival.
"There are a number of reasons why English crime fiction writing in India is yet to reach a certain level of maturity. One of the reasons is that other genres such as campus romance have experienced such success that people tend to follow in those writers' shoes. This festival, by demystifying the craft of crime writing, holds the possibility of inspiring writers to enter the genre," says Sanghi, who is also on the advisory board of festival.
While that may remain a future goal, what the Festival does offer every visitor in the form of immediate gratification, are two days of getting into the minds of their favourite detectives and deducing for themselves how those "little grey cells" work. Read on to know about some of the personalities who will be participating in the festival.