Of books and bullets

by Zafar Anjum

In Woody Allen’s film, Bullets Over Broadway, Cheech (Chazz Palminteri), a gangster, takes over an under-production Broadway play (he was there to protect the third lead actress of the play, his boss’s keep), rewrites the dialogues and the scenes, makes it a highly successful drama in public and eventually, makes the poor playwright realize that he has no talent to be in the business of creativity. The gangster, who came from the streets, was more creative than the writer who came from the university!

Something like this is happening in India now. A former mafia don, Babloo Srivastava who is based in India, is making his literary debut, and if the Indian media is to be believed, is making quite a splash about it. Babloo once worked with notorious mafia don, Dawood Ibrahim. Now he is turning a new leaf—he is becoming a writer.

It is no more the case that only writers could write about the mafia and the criminals. Now, the mafia are writing their own stories. Earlier, people would crave to read the biographies and autobiographies of celebrities from the field of sports and politics and showbiz. Now there is a new celebrity: the ex-mafia. Their tales are now worth millions of rupees.

Says the Indian weekly, Tehelka: “…Babloo’s first shot at writing, Adhure Khwab, has created an enormous buzz even before the book hits the stands on his birthday, October 14. After all, Babloo is no ordinary man. This former Dawood aide, who ‘turned patriotic’ after the ’93 Mumbai blasts, now craves for the blood of ‘gaddar’ Dawood. That’s his khwab — to eliminate Dawood; that’s how the book got its name.”

“Satish Verma, editor-publisher of Nai Sadi Prakashan believes that it was sheer good luck that he secured the rights for Babloo’s ‘crime thriller’ conceived behind bars. “The pre-publishing hype made me go for the book. After reading the draft, I was sure that it would be a rousing success. The deal was clinched in four sittings,” he says. The don gets 15 percent royalty on print order. The initial print order is of 20,000 at Rs 80 per copy; the contract is of 5 lakh copies or three years, whichever is earlier, subject to renewal.”

For the writer-don, it is really going great guns! Is he going to be India’s Chilly Palmer? Who knows, if Leonard Elmore read this news, his Chilly Palmer would sit down and write a bestseller, and in the process, straighten a few things out in the publishing world too. Leonard, are you reading? You don’t need no research to write this one, I bet!

October 13, 2005
Zafar Anjum is the founder editor of Kitaab.org.