Anuja Chauhan was eager to spread her wings wider, and took the challenge of writing the murder mystery of her sixth book – bang in the middle of last year’s closure. Club You To Death, published by HarperCollins India, is in the fictional world of Delhi Turf Club and follows the lives of former fans Bambi Todi and Akash ‘Kashi’ Dogra as they help ACP Bhavani Singh end a murder trial taking place inside the club grounds. With the signing and deception of Chahan’s signature as he keeps the reader guessing who the killer is in all new ways, Club You To Death is the undisputed whodunnit that will keep students entertained right up to the last page.
The author talks to Firstpost about his latest work, explores a new genre, and deals with labels.
He said locking makes you want to kill people, so do it with this book. What was your inspiration?
Being locked up in a house with children, dogs, housework and crazy dystopian stories on TV was very confusing. The story of Bambi and Kashi has been cooking for a long time in my head, and whenever I wanted to escape the lockdown blues, I would open my laptop and enter the world before the lazy lunch break, tennis courts, and flower gardens in Lutyens’ Delhi.
I’ve always loved the life of the club. As a fauji child it is a big part of your growing up; a safe place where you can wear shorts and start conversations with people you have never been officially notified of. I wanted to seize power between members and administrative staff, loyal members, non-members who look jealously from the outside, and all the capitalists who vigorously monitor their negligence. There was a wide range of exposure to hypocrisy, politics and double standards in such a situation – something beautiful on the face but tainted by the core.
Have you decided who the killer will be in the first place, or will the criminal continue to change as you write?
I had decided on my killer even before I started writing! But as I continued, I loved my killer so much that I was sometimes tempted to turn a criminal into a happy ending for this man. But I didn’t!
This was the first time he tried to kill a mystery – what is the hardest part about getting into a new genre? Are you looking for other jobs to get inspiration?
Agatha Christie is the queen of this genre, and I have read all her books many times. We have all his degrees at home, so my kids found him when they beat their teens. We ended up discussing a lot of books, so I met him again about this. It was a family idea that I should try whodunnit, and I liked that suggestion as I was in a different mood after writing five love stories in a row. The challenge of producing a killer with a hat appealed to me. It was a big scam, and I still don’t know if I did it right!
The list of characters includes the personalities that everyone has encountered in their lives – are they being shaped by the people around you?
Every letter I write is shaped by someone I know. ACP Bhavani and his assistant Padam Kumar were very happy to write. I was looking for some kind of Uncle Vibe Bhavani – the father of daughters and a military man with an English clergyman to get a wife – so I used one of my cousins as an incentive. Padam is drawn to the beautiful and smart driver who has been working for my husband. I fell in love with Urvashi Khurana, her husband Mukesh – and ‘Zumba aunt’, and Randy Rax (who was also pulled out of life). In fact, everyone!
Letting your creative juice flow during the global epidemic can be difficult – what was it like to create a novel at this time?
It was actually a good escape from the epidemic facts! My writing process remained almost the same.
From surgical strikes to political drama and media debates, many real-life situations find a place in the framework of the building – what was the purpose behind such events in the story world?
The job was to take life as really as possible, and all the issues cited by those of the top clubs were facing. Member cast is the kind one can find in a posh club in any city – a combination of military people, officials, and the business community. Getting involved was important and fun too, because it gave me a physical list of suspects to work with!
Many of your works have been used in cinema – what do you take from books turned into movies?
As a student, I have never been satisfied with movies made from books that I love – the most recent example being the Eligible Boy. But I do see and respect the broader reach of cinema, and it’s all done for writers to get a wider audience for their work. Money is good, and we writers need it too!
Whether it’s a murder mystery or a love story, all your books are written with humor – does your style reflect how you view life? Have you ever tried a difficult lesson?
I write critical articles all the time! Superstition, political corruption, government-sponsored propaganda, family politics, zealotism, and the right that comes with the right are the subjects of my books to date. I just don’t believe that one should write about a sensitive topic in a critical way. I feel that a less developed point is more effective than a clearly defined point.