The Fast And The Dead

The Fast And The Dead Anuja Chauhan

I was very clear I wanted a genial ‘uncle ji’ type of sleuth — a mild-mannered, sympathetic man, a father of daughters, whose superpower is listening to people, really listen- ing to them. I’m a little sick of the macho, alpha male, slap-happy Dabang type of cops one sees in popular cinema and OTTs. So I modelled Bhavani on one of my older cousins and made him all brown and square and homely but also extremely sharp and capable of taking command when he has to. Bhavani is touching sixty and is very comfortable in himself, he has no points to prove and he doesn’t grandstand or swagger at all.

Well, the book did well — a movie has already been shot by Maddock Pictures and will release on Netflix soon with Pankaj Tripathi in the role of ACP Bhavani Singh. I really enjoyed writing his character, an empathetic, well-adjusted family man in his late fifties, a father of daughters, in a strong stable marriage with an intelligent school teacher wife with whom he talks about his cases in the evening. I wanted to go murderer-hunting with Bhavani and Shalini again and the production house seemed keen on a second season too, so I wrote it.

Bhavani and Shalini have decided that now that their daughters are married and settled and they’ve achieved mostly everything they set out to achieve professionally, it’s time for them to venture out of their empty nest and take an ‘annual honeymoon’. They pick Bangalore simply because they’ve been invited to a senior officer’s daughter’s wedding in the city and the murder occurs on the busy, colonial-era street where their Airbnb is situated.

The street is called Habba Galli (a fictitious name, habba means festival in Kanadda, so it’s a street where people shop for festive supplies — like stars during Christmas, diyasduring Diwali, hearts during Valentine’s Day). Fictitious Habba Galli is situated in completely real Shivajinagar — the part of Bangalore that I love the most. It’s very cosmopolitan, very crowded and throbs with life. People speak Marwari and Hyderabadi Hindi and Kanadda and English, there’s all the faiths and all the foods and all the shopping you could possibly want.

I think, after Club you to Death, which was peopled with very elite, privileged characters and set in a posh, exclusive club, I was in the mood to explore a setting that was totally the opposite. Habba Galli has packs of stray dogs, bhutta sellers and bargaining aunties — full-on bazaar energy.

Well, you’re writing for two kinds of people really. Ones who’ve read the previous book and may get bored if you repeat yourself too much and ones who haven’t read the book that came before and may get lost if you don’t bring them up to date.

So, that was a bit tricky. But otherwise, there was no issue at all — it’s a brand new murder, a brand new setting and a brand new story. The detective is the only constant. In a murder mystery, the challenge is to pull a rabbit out of a hat for gasps of surprise and hearty applause. That’s what I’m hoping to deliver, as well as some pulse-quickening, clean romance (so hard to find in real life or in fiction nowadays) and a window into people’s inner workings, wounds and angst and how sudden death affects us all. I like to call this genre rom-crom (rom+crime+com). What do you think of the name? Like the white knight said to Alice, ‘it’s my own invention!’

Words Nidhi Verma
Date 13.01.2024