Once you start reading the novel, it's difficult to put the potboiler down until you reach the end. His need to "creatively express" himself "in a new way" led Jha, director of films like "Chalo America" and "Sikander", to write novels.
"I had written my ad film scripts and scripts for my films, but I had never written long-form novels. So, I decided to give it a shot," Jha told IANS about his journey as an author from his debut "Mumbaistan" to his second literary work and the roadmap for what he intends to be a franchise.
Set in Mumbai, the taut, gripping revenge saga, centred on Ramesh Virkar, an astute inspector with an eye for details, trying to hunt down a killer who outsmarts all his moves, "Compass Box Killer" is Jha's ode to the city he grew up in.
As the plot thickens, annoyed yet impressed with the killer's cleverness and brainpower, Virkar slithers out of precarious situations while following the trail that not only leads him to the killer but he also unravels the motive behind the killings.
In the novel, murder weapons have been science and the mix of fiction and science intensifies the tension and suspense.
Explaining the concept, Jha said: "When I created the 'Compass Box Killer' character, I needed him to outsmart the police. He couldn't do it in the brawn department; so I decided to make him super-brainy.
"I had to think like the killer... So I created the situation and thought of the best way that the killer could kill without being caught in the act, and then found a scientific solution for him to be able to commit the crime."
"I studied science till the 12th standard; so I have a rudimentary knowledge. But I with a couple of scientist friends checked the scientific murder weapons. Only when they said that my way was possible did I use it," he added.
While flipping the pages, the readers would also relish cleverly woven cultural details along with the Marathi and Hindi proverbs. Some of them are so likeable that one would like to memorise them.
"While some of these Hindi and Marathi proverbs have been made up by me, most of them are genuine Mumbai street slang. I have used them to add a touch of Mumbai colour to my character. My protagonist, Inspector Virkar, speaks Marathi, Hindi and English," said Jha.
"English for him is an acquired language, while Marathi and Hindi are what he grew up speaking; so it's most natural that he would be cussing or using Mumbai slang," he added.
After "Mumbaistan", "Compass Box Killer" is his second novel. He finished it in two months and then spent "a month giving some finishing touches and polishing it up a bit".
" I've loved the crime-fiction genre since I was a kid; so my love for Mumbai and crime-fiction met, mated and got married in my mind and the result was 'Mumbaistan' and 'Compass Box Killer'," Jha said.
"Compass Box Killer" has been launched and Jha says his next is expected to hit the shelves early next year. "It is another one of Inspector Virkar's investigations in Mumbai. A bit of revenge, a bit of romance, and lots of crime are promised," he said.
Any plans of making a film of his novel?
"Right now we are exploring the possibilities of taking the 'Mumbaistan' series to a 360 degree franchise - film, TV, graphic novels and games, etc," he said.
(Arpana can be contacted at email@example.com)
--IANS (Posted on 16-07-2013)