Patang: A Psychological Thriller
FHM: Hi Bhaskar, congratulations on a great thriller, Patang. You’ve written that the book is soon going to be made into a film. While reading it I could actually see the plot take shape as in a movie. Did you write it from that perspective?
Bhaskar Chattopadhyay: Thanks. Well, I wrote Patang when someone from the Mumbai film industry asked me to write a story for a film. When I first wrote it, it was a small 30-page treatment, and then I fleshed it out in detail, with ‘scenes’ in mind, into a full-fledged novel. This is, perhaps, why you see the cinematic – almost screenplay-like–approach in the writing. I am of the opinion that the subject itself has a great visual and cinematic appeal. And to add to it, I’ve been told, my own writing style is quite visual.
What inspired you to write a psychological thriller?
I didn’t start with the genre in mind, I started with the idea. The idea of a mind so unimaginably fragile, that it goes to the extent of giving a man a reason to kill. That concept fascinated me a lot, and that’s how Patang happened. Having said that, I must also hasten to add that I am a big fan of psychological thrillers myself. The human mind, with all its victories and all its faults, fascinates me.
What kind of preparation did you undergo before and while writing?
I didn’t prepare before writing the story, I just started writing one day. But while writing the story, I, of course, had to make sure that certain references that I was making were factually correct, especially the technical ones. I come from a Science and Mathematics background, so I felt comfortable making some of the scientific allusions. There are some novels that I’ve written, where I’ve had to do a lot of preparation. But not Patang. It just flowed from one page to another.
Why the kite for a criminal pattern?
I’d have asked you the same question if you’d picked up another symbol... Well, I needed a motif; a token, a symbol, something that always keeps playing in the killer’s mind. I’m sure you’ve had this experience of having a tune stuck to your mind, so much so that it keeps playing in your head over and over again throughout the day. Now imagine something that keeps playing inside your head year after year. What a strong and fantastic impression that would be! And what could possibly be the reason for such a strong impression? To know that, one has to read the book! (Smiles)
You’ve been in the literary circles for quite some time now. Tell us how it all began... your initiation into writing.
I used to write small articles and stories for my school and college magazines, and they were well appreciated. But I’d never imagined that I’d take up writing seriously. It seemed too mammoth a task, to be honest, a task that would perhaps be a futile exercise at the end, for who on earth would publish me? But all said, the writing was a very liberating experience so I continued with it, just for myself. Years went by, and I was working in an IT company, where my project suddenly ended, and I was asked to sit on the bench (techies would know what I’m talking about). It’s a very uncomfortable period when all you do in office is have dozens of cups of coffee and just laze around. I spent most of my time reading and thinking. I revisited some of my childhood classics, books that I had read and loved as a child. Nostalgia aside, one such book bowled me over, and I was surprised that even as an adult I felt the same joy that I’d experienced as a kid. So, with a lot of time in hand, I translated the novel in English, with
absolutely no intention of getting it published. Several months after this incident, on the repeated pestering of a friend who had chanced upon the manuscript, I sent the novel to HarperCollins, who loved it and immediately made an offer. That’s how my first book No Child’s Play, a roller coaster of a thriller, originally written by Shirshendu Mukherjee, was published.
After this, I translated another lovely thriller by Mr Mukherjee called The House by the Lake, and much to my surprise, even that got published. That’s when I thought – who knows, perhaps I can do this too! So, I conceived the idea of a book titled 14: Stories that Inspired Satyajit Ray. Not only did Harper make an offer on the book even before I had written it, the book went on to become a bestseller. I got an offer to translate a dozen stories by noted Bangladeshi writer Hassan Azizul Huq. I did that too. By this time, along with doing translations, I wanted to tell my own stories too, so I began thinking beyond translations. And that’s when Patang happened.
What do you think of cinematic adaptations of literary works?
You see, I come from West Bengal, a land where the alternate name for a film is boi (book). There was a time when almost all the films used to find their story sources in the literature. Even today, filmmakers in our country are turning towards literature to find great stories. And there’s virtually no end to it. Just the other day, I was talking to a noted filmmaker and he told me how one of my books opened his eyes to the fascinating world of short stories, something that he had never considered as a possible source earlier because he was only reading novels and plays. Cinematic adaptations are inevitable and necessary. If you’re trying to tell a story in a visual medium, then along with creating new stories, you might also want to explore those that have been told in a non-visual medium. It’s the most intelligent thing to do. My heart aches to think of all the beautiful gems of
stories that lie hidden in the vast treasure troves of our country’s literature, and which can be made into beautiful films that are both meaningful as well as financially lucrative.