Indian author and controversial star-biographer Mohan Deep is coming out with his new book ‘Color Me Rich’, his tenth. Producer, director, writer and thinker Mahesh Bhatt is launching its print version and editor and filmmaker Shirish Kunder will inaugurate the Kindle version on January 16. Mohan Deep has been an active part of the Indian media scene, as a journalist and writer for over 40 years. In this exclusive interview to Mumbai Messenger, on the eve of his book release the author answers some questions…
YOUR NEW BOOK ‘COLOR ME LAUNCH’ IS MAKING BUZZ EVEN BEFORE ITS LAUNCH…
Yes, it is my tenth book and I am quite excited about it.
THERE IS A LOT OF CURIOSITY ABOUT YOUR NOVEL THIS TIME?
The curiosity started as I found that the basic theme of ‘Color Me Rich’ similar to the double murder that has rocked the art world of India; the killing of internationally known painter Hema Upadhyay. She, along with her lawyer Harish Bhambhani, was killed by a team of artisans, who used to help her in fabricating her arty installations. Police suspected her artist husband, Chintan Upadhyay of masterminding the murder. Chintan, also a world known painter, has been arrested and charged with the murder.
My novel is also about an artist, Akash Saigal who is accused of killing his artist wife, Zenobia Taraporeval. But the story is different. My protagonist is a struggling artist who finds himself involved with an extremely rich art collector and artist and they end up marrying. My story examines the relevance of money to creativity and success. Does a struggling and starving artist paint more, paint better after he is free from money worries?
THAT IS QUITE A COINCIDENCE AND WE CAN’T BLAME THE MEDIA FOR CAPITALIZING ON IT. PLEASE TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE NOVEL…
It is a sensitive love story that is set in our own Oshiwara, in fact, Adarsh Nagar. I would rather have you read the novel.
YOU ARE MORE FAMOUS FOR THE THREE STAR BIOGRAPHIES OF MADHUBALA, MEENA KUMARI AND REKHA. TELL ME HOW IT HAPPENED?
I was a journalist focusing on crime and Bollywood. Though it was an exciting profession, I couldn’t imagine being a journalist for the rest of my life. I decided to quit while at the top, when every article I wrote was creating waves. I wanted to write books. I gave myself a creative challenge by selling the idea of a biography of the late film star Madhubala to the boss of the Magna group, which had planned to get into book publishing. I had never met Madhubala, who was already dead, I ended up doing a Kitty Kelly act on her. I investigated her life, read whatever had been published about her in English, Hindi and Urdu, interviewed everyone who had worked with her, and wrote The Mystery and Mystique of Madhubala. It is considered the most authentic book about her. My next biography was Simply Scandalous: Meena Kumari. I used the same method for this biography too. And then I completed the trilogy with Eurekha!, an unauthorized biography of Rekha. It was translated in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali and this bio too fared very well. The three biographies were bestsellers, and they placed me in a different league as a writer.
SOME SAID THAT REKHA GOT ‘EUREKHA!’ BANNED?
Fortunately, we have democracy in India! There is no question of Rekha getting her biography banned. Why, even Indira Gandhi couldn’t do it when my friend Dom Moraes wrote her biography. During the writing of ‘Mrs Gandhi’, Indira Gandhi got annoyed at his probing questions. She called off the project, but Moraes went ahead and completed the biography anyway. Though she was the PM, Mrs Gandhi couldn’t stop him. Do you think Rekha could do it and I would watch silently?
WHAT WAS THE TROUBLE ABOUT ‘NEHRU AND THE TANTRIK WOMAN’?
I wrote a play. It was based on facts and some fiction. Historical fiction. First the fact. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, had a torrid affair with Shardha Mata. Mata delivered his baby which was given in adoption. No one knows who adopted the baby was. I set my play in the emergency period and it was about the imaginary search for Nehru’s son. I suggested that he could be the messiah when all the top opposition leaders, including Jaiprakash Narayan, Atal Behari Vajpayer, L K Advani, and George Fernandes were behind bars.
AND THIS PLAY WAS BANNED!
The Stage Performances Scrutiny Board of the Government of Maharashtra didn’t allow me to stage it on the grounds that “staging this play could cause a law and order problem”. It was the Congress government. May be now it can be staged, but I have lost interest. In fact, and I am admitting it for the first time, that for a long time I lost interest in writing because of this stifling atmosphere.
HOW DID FENG SHUI HAPPEN?
I was always interested in painting, and also in the oriental philosophy. I came across books about the ancient science of geomancy. It is now popular as Feng Shui. I wrote a few articles and had long discussions with some friends in the industry. I also did a couple of courses. They were ready to experiment. I saw that Feng Shui really worked. So, I started giving consultation occasionally. And then I wrote a book. Feng Shui for the Bold & Beautiful, the Rich & Famous.
TELL US MORE ABOUT ‘COLOR ME RICH’. IT IS A VERY INTERESTING TITLE. IS IT WOMAN-CENTRIC?
I am writing this in a little different way. ‘The Five Foolish Virgins’ worked on two levels – outer conflicts and inner conflicts. It was a saga that started in Karachi during the partition, had a life span of over 60 years and ended in today’s Mumbai. “Color Me Rich’ is brief, reader-friendly and crisp. Every chapter – short or long – is a scene. Quick and easy to read.
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?
More novels, of course! But I have an instinctive dislike for routine… so you never know. My favourite quote is of John Lennon: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”