Hot Stage

Hot Stage Anita Nair

Two random scenes swept into my mind one day in May in 2010. One of a man dressing up as a woman; another of a middle-aged policeman on his Bullet. I was stumped, wondering how I would bring these two scenes together. All I knew is that I couldn’t locate it in Kerala or Tamil Nadu where I had set my other novels. When Bangalore, the city that had been my home since 1989, lodged itself as the landscape of the novel, I knew that this was the Bangalore novel I had been waiting to write and Inspector Gowda would be the protagonist. As with all my protagonists, who appear fully formed in my mind, Gowda emerged and demanded I write about him.

At the end of Cut Like Wound, I knew that I couldn’t let Gowda go. He was too real and alive as a character and it would be wrong to contain him in just one book. From the embit- tered drunk in the first novel Cut Like Wound, Inspector Gowda has evolved into a more mature and less bitter person in Chain of Custody. His battle is with the system and not with the people and in Hot Stage, you see a Gowda who is still passionate about what he does, except that he has also learnt to play the game to some extent and so takes chances that he wouldn’t have before. It is as if Gowda is in a race to keep abreast of the city that has changed so dramatically that if he is not on his toes, the city and its crimes would leave him behind and worse, overpower him. As cities grow, the nature of crime changes. As technology races ahead, the bestiality of mankind only becomes stronger. And Gowda, despite everything that happens to him, is a survivor, won’t lose his bite, no matter what.

I moved to Bangalore in 1989. Since then, it has been my home. But the Bangalore I moved into had changed right before my eyes. From a sleepy city, it has turned into an overcrowded cosmopolitan city, bursting at its seams. The nature of crime has changed as well with the increase in population, as well as the economic disparity. Even though the Bangalore I write about is set mostly in the Cantonment area, it is adequate to capture the changing city which is as much a character as Gowda is in this series.

The challenges are multi-fold: one is the choice of themes. Crime fiction has explored just about every depravity known to mankind and so to be able to hone in on a subject that is relevant to India as well as Bangalore and which interests me, takes a lot of groundwork. Secondly, to create novels that work as standalone books, while being part of a series, is tricky. It’s walking a tightrope. Also, the dynamics of relationships change with time and the series needs to echo that. So even while writing a new book in the series, one needs to be conscious of what came before.

Words Nidhi Verma
Date 05.01.2024