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Interview with Anirudhya Mitra

He is a journalist turned filmmaker. During a successful stint (1982-93) of news reporting in The Times of India and India Today, he broke several stories, including the Bofors scam, Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, drug wars in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, money laundering by the BCCI bank that led to its closure, corruption in the judiciary, the life and times of Indian-model-turned-spy Pamella Bordes, godman Chandraswamy and others. 

He moved to writing and creating television drama series with UTV in Mumbai in 1994 and also wrote and produced movies in South East Asia, of which ‘Di Bawah Lindungan Kabah’ (Under The Protection of Kabah) competed at the Oscars (2012).

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I am a passionate cook.

Q.2 What inspired you to write 90 Days: The True Story of the Hunt for Rajiv Gandhi’s Assassins?
In 1998, when I was writing and producing the television series Sea Hawks directed by Anubhav Sinha, Zarina Mehta - my then boss at UTV - had read my stories on the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. She told me that it must be made into a series. But somehow I didn’t follow up on it. And then came Sameer Nair came with the same suggestion when I was pitching the story to him for a web series. 

I realized it’s time write the book. Specially for the current generation to tell them about this intriguing piece of investigative journalism and to help them gain a deeper understanding of the events-and the attempted cover-up that followed-of what was surely a turning point in our nation’s history.

Q.3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
Yes, I am almost done with my next book.

Q.4 How long does it take you to write this book?
It took me about 180 days to write 90 Days.

Q.5 If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
Follow your dream and not others.

Q.6 What’s your usual writing routine?
Morning till say, 4 or 5 pm.

Q.7 Which crime books do you wish you’d written and why?
All The President’s Men. I wish I could break something as big and as important as that.

Q.8 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing? Tell us about your marketing campaign?
Targeting the right reader is crucial just like targeting the right audience for your movie. If the book or movie is good then that “right audience/reader” will start talking about your work and the word of mouth publicity will help the book/movie travel further. Marketing of this book is planned and executed by my publisher - Harper Collins India. They know what to do with their products.

Q.9 In your book, you mentioned your sources; while there is a saying never reveal your sources, what do you have to say about that?
You are right in saying never reveal your sources. That applies more when you are writing a news story for a publication - a daily or a periodical. But even there also, at times you have to reveal your sources to lend a more perceptible credibility. 

But I think it’s different in case of a book. Also, I wanted to write the book like a racy thriller or else why would the generation today read it? So, my sources became key characters in the book. Therefore, their identification became inevitable.

Q.10 Did you face any kind of backlash/threats/harsh comments from the police, politicians, or anyone because of this book?
No, none. In fact, all I have received are accolades and praises because of this book.

Q.11 How did you conduct your research for this book?
I had covered the case of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination for close to two years in India Today. Naturally, I was privy to loads of information.

Q.12 What would you share with folks who are skeptical of reading Non-Fiction?
I would take responsibility on myself of writing a non-fiction that my readers won’t be skeptical of reading. Often, non-fiction reads heavy and bit boring. I believe in writing a copy that’s readers friendly.

Q.13 What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing this book?
That I could write a book.

Q.14 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
It’s a long list. I enjoy reading a book when it surprises me be it at the concept level or by the narrative. To name a few, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Pather Panchali (Song of the Road), Tagore’s Gitanjali, short stories from Satyajit Ray, The Hungry Tide.

Q.15 How do your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture?
They feel great, which I should have taken up much earlier.

Q.16 What kind of impact would you like to make with your book?
One reader recommends the book to another.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I read every single review of my book. I don’t want to get carried away by the “good” one and take the “bad” one constructively. I am a filmmaker for years now. My audience is my everything.

Q.18 Who designed your book cover? How did you select them?
My publisher (HCI) handled everything. Saurav Das of HCI did a marvelous job. I am grateful to him.

Q.19 What was your most brutal scene to write?
Captain Ravi of the NSG manipulated assassin Nalini to crack during her interrogation.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
It’s been great laced with success and failure. Learning from it is never ending. I write situations from life. Hence, there has been no dearth of inspirations.

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