Ved Prakash Sharma, who lives in Meerut, spends a week every month in Mumbai. That's because he is the man Ekta Kapoor relies on for introducing new twists to her old plots. But that's not what the 55-year-old is really known for. He is in demand in Mumbai's soap factory because he is a superstar in the world of Hindi potboilers.
He has written 159 novels since 1973, most of them driven by a cocktail of murder, mystery, love and lust. But call them pulp fiction, and he would disagree strongly. "They’re called pulp because of their jacket design, racy titles, and poor production quality. Otherwise, they are as good as any literary work," says Sharma, sitting on the posh upholstery of his living room.
Most of his novels have risqué titles that reminds one of B-grade movies: Kyunki Woh Beewiyan Badalte Thhay, Vidhwaa ka Pati, Gun ka Faisla... To ensure that one doesn’t miss the point, he adds, "The idea behind such hard-hitting titles is to instantly grab attention."
Sharma, who writes “two to eight” novels a year, says it's a difficult art. “There are times when I find it difficult to take the story forward. And there’s no time for re-writing or editing. What I write goes to the press.” His inspiration, he says, often comes from newspaper stories.
In their turn, many of Sharma's novels have inspired films such as Bahu Maange Insaaf, Anaam, International Khiladi and Sabse Bada Khiladi, which won him the Videocon Award for Best Story in 1996. His biggest bestseller so far has been Vardi Wala Gunda, which reportedly sold 8 lakh copies. Now Sharma plans to bring it out in English.
He has not read any Vikram Seth or Amitav Ghosh. “That's because I cannot read English,” says the bestselling author, with disarming candour.