Wednesday, July 8, 2015

FRIENDS OF SUPER COOL BOOKS // Film producer and novelist Abhigyan Jha explains the magnificent secret of India’s epic stories

I spoke at the recent Broadcast Asia conference. Made many new friends there, including a very enthusiastic and prolific storyteller from India named Abhigyan Jha. Abhigyan is a screenwriter, TV producer, novelist and indie publisher. He’s been experimenting with innovative ways to tell his stories and create new publishing opportunities. And he’s been at it long before Super Cool Books got started. I’m really thrilled to have him as a guest on this blog. Here, he talks about how he got started as a novelist, his big break when his self-published novel was made into a long-running TV series, and also why he thinks Indian writers and filmmakers can create such uniquely powerful story experiences.

— D


Failure is a wonderful way to begin
I founded an advertising agency with my future wife & co-author Mrinal when I was 19. It was called Utop Ideas & Approaches (Utop.i.a). It did very well for about 18 months & then our biggest client defaulted on the payments for the biggest print campaign our fledgling agency had done thus far - and we were promptly bankrupt at 21. We decided to fall back on the one thing we knew we were really good at — we liquidated the agency & wrote our first novel, November Rain.

We published it with 51,000 INR borrowed from Mrinal's mom as no one wanted to publish what they termed "Pulp Fiction". That book got into the hands of people who went on to become the biggest producers in the Indian TV industry & we became television scriptwriters. Ten years after it was self published, November Rain became the first English language novel to become a prime time Hindi TV series in India. It ran as the Number 1 show on India's TV network Zee, for 300-odd episodes.

To an Indian - LIFE is A Story
India has the longest possible tradition of narrative fiction. We have two world famous epics — Ramayana & Mahabharata — which are told to all children from an early age. Besides these, we have 18 other epics which are told in different ways to everyone born in India. Indian epics differ from the Greek epics in that we have the concept of Navarasa — the nine emotional responses or emotional takeaways that allows a work to be called Epic. So the aim in India has been to never attempt monochromatic stories which seek one emotional response, that's either a comedy or tragedy. Indian tradition seeks a heady mixture of comedy, tragedy, horror, kindness, pity, disgust, music, dance, etc. It's very similar to Indian cuisine, which mixes the maximum possible ingredients with the most diverse food chemistry. Italian cuisine is monochromatic — pastas are never made with clashing flavours. Indian cuisine can be bitter, sweet, tangy, salty & HOT, all at the same time.

Like I say in my Third Book - Soul Search Engine:

"On the winding road, knowing
it was never ending
knowing it was perfect for me
the willing wayfarer
of the Eternal Way"

It's almost 23 years since November Rain was written & we have done thousands of TV episodes, 4 books (3 novels & 1 non-fiction), 4 films, 1 children's play & we have gone on to publish books by other aspiring authors. We have five ready-to-print works, out of which Bolshevik Conspiracy — about an alternate history of the world from the time the Soviet Union crashed in 1989 to a different future in 2017 — is the most ambitious.

If you have a great idea, you must bring it to life, even if no one else will. Bring it out in whatever form you can afford to. Create. Tell stories. As our publishing imprint’s tagline says: Life Is A Story. Books are relatively inexpensive to create in comparison to films & TV shows, so the ability to experiment with different genres & new ideas is far more possible with books.

Official website:
Personal page:

Follow our story on Facebook