Durjoy Datta is only 28 years old and is already considered one of the best-selling authors in the country. However, Datta doesn't stop at just writing books. He has also written the scripts of two television shows, Sadda Haq and Veera, which are successfully running on Indian television. Dutta, who was in Kolkata to launch his 11th novel, World's Best Boyfriend, spoke to us on his new book, his style of writing and more.

    This is your 11th novel. Why did you choose this title? 
    (Laughs). The story was about a couple, who should not be together but are together. I was constantly confused between world's worst boyfriend and world's best boyfriend because it could have been both ways. I had initially titled it World's Worst Boyfriend but someone in the editorial pointed out that it would have been too negative. So, I said let's give a title that has both the words. Later, I replaced worst with best, to make it sound more dramatic (smiles).

    You have been consistently coming up with novels since your first book. Is there a constant pressure of coming up with new ideas that will strike a chord with the readers?
    (Pauses). There's a pressure to tell a new story every time. There's no pressure as such when it comes to connecting with people. But then it's important for me to write a book that is not a reflection of my earlier books. That's something, which I had done for my first three books as I was getting into a comfort zone. My stories revolved around the lives of the same people. People still keep asking me when the next Deb and Avantika book will come out. I can write three more books about them but it's not going to be new to me. I am glad that I moved out of my comfort zone.

    What's special about your latest book?
    I have always portrayed all the characters in my earlier works as extraordinarily good looking. I wanted to move away from that. A lot of writers, including me have made this mistake of describing a person by how they look and what they are. I wanted to make that conscious change of not judging people by their looks. I have been at the receiving end and I have had some really mean nicknames as I used to be the heaviest and darkest in my class. I wanted to change that approach through this book.

    You were a good student and were studying engineering. What made you choose writing as a profession?
    (Cuts in) I started writing a blog in 2006. I used to bully a lot of people into reading my works and they eventually started liking it. Then, they started asking me to give writing books a serious thought. Initially, I never felt that my works would get published because during those days getting a publisher meant you had to be one of 'these writers' (Laughs out loud). Eventually, my book was published and I was very happy. However, I never stopped being a nerd. I was always into engineering and clearing entrance exams. I knew I had to get a job. It was only after I was sure that I didn't want to pursue a career in engineering, did I think of taking up writing as a full-time profession.

    You have been writing for about eight years now. Do you think one has to reach a certain age before being recognised as a good writer?
    Oh my god, eight years (laughs)? I don't think there is any age to be a good writer but I think my work got published way early. All the good writers get published in their thirties. In my case, I am writing as well as reading all the time, which means I do not have the requisite training to churn out books that are as good as the other 30-year-old writers, who are probably writing their first book now. So, in that sense, I am behind them. Every time I see a new writer, I check out their age first and when did they write their first book? (Breaks into a laugh)

    How do you react to criticism when it comes to your style of writing?
    I really don't count those remarks where I am portrayed as a person who writes grammatically incorrect English because I don't. The only thing that I feel writers like us lack is delivering a particular message in those many words. As a writer, I feel I lack the ability to portray an emotion in less than two sentences. So, I take a paragraph to convey it.

    Given that your books are doing well, was there a need to write for television?
    People kept telling me that I was writing my books too fast and I should slow down. (laughs out loud) Just kidding! There were a lot of people who wanted me to write for television. I could relate to the stories and thought of giving it a try.

    Any Bollywood projects up your sleeve?
    Bollywood is a very slow industry! It's not slow because the producers are slow. It's slow because of the writers.

    What next?
    My next book is again a love story (smiles). I am yet to come up with a title.

A sign of the times

  • Manas Chakravarty
  • |
  • Updated: Dec 08, 2012 22:50 IST

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I was hooked at the age of ten, when the family went for a drive through the Himachal hills. That was when I first saw the beauty and awesomeness of road signs. We were cruising along when the car turned a bend and there was the sign in all its glory, standing modestly by the side of the road. ‘No Hurry, No Worry’, it said and I was struck at once by its force, its masterly economy of words, its stark, spare elegance, its impish half-rhyme. A few curves ahead, I spied another one, ‘Take your time, Not your Life’. I reeled under the profundity of that one. As we sped away, I realised that I had been called to my vocation.

In the years that followed, I nursed my desire in secret, but made frequent trips to the mountains to see as many road signs as I could. I sharpened my rhyming skills with signs like ‘Be Alert! Accidents hurt’, marvelled at the wordplay of ‘It’s better to be Mr Late than the Late Mr’ and blushed coyly at “Feel the curves but don’t hug them”.

It was when I was noting down ‘Mountains are pleasure if you drive with leisure’ that I got caught. “What’s the point of driving through this magnificent scenery if you keep scribbling in a notebook all the while?” asked my dad. That was when I told them my secret. “Dad,” I said, “I want to be a writer.” “Certainly not,” said my mother, “writers starve in garrets.” My dad said no, they starved in attics. My sister pointed out that we had a 2BHK, with neither garret nor attic. I said no, not that kind of writer. “Ah,” said my dad, much relieved, “you could write books of accounts. Many of them are a lot like fiction, anyway.” “No,” I said resolutely, “I want to write signs, preferably road signs.”

They took it badly, of course. I left home shortly thereafter, to make my way boldly in the big bad world of sign writing. I started right at the bottom, with an assignment to write a sign about cars not being allowed to park on the road. I burnt the midnight oil before coming up with ‘Parking here will be injurious to your health,’ but that was rejected. I tried poetry, with ‘Hark! Hark! Do not park’, but that effort too was spurned. Many weeks later, after several rebuffs, including the superb ‘Only an aardvark/Can over here park’, I came up with the laconic ‘No Parking’, which I am proud to say was accepted at once.

The months that followed were hard, but I patiently honed my skills. Some of my pieces at that time were gems such as ‘Bus Bay’ and ‘No Honking’, but my best work, inexplicably, found no takers. These included the literary, ‘The road ahead is full of curves/Gird your loins and steel your nerves’; the mathematical ‘Curves ahead — don’t go off at a tangent’; and this masterpiece ‘Reading signs while driving I don’t recommend/But at least you’ll come to an educated end.’

I dream sometimes of going to Africa and writing signs like ‘Beware, gorilla crossing’. But I, too, have had to compromise and take on odd jobs to keep body and soul together. So here am I, sitting quietly, scribbling columns, waiting for my big break, when I hope to write the definitive sign for these delirious times.

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal


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