The detective series of James Bond, Dick Tracy, Perry Mason, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple and more have repeatedly featured in Hollywood projects since the last century and are also hugely famous in the Indian subcontinent. Plus works of Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie have been the basis of many famous Hindi classics of the golden era too such as Bees Saal Baad, Gumnam and more.
Interestingly films focusing on individual detectives (and not spies) have always been offered to the Hindi film audience in the past beginning from CID to the likes of Inspector Eagle, Gopichand Jasoos, Do Jasoos, Police Public, Baadshah and many more. But recently we have witnessed a new trend of making detective movies (possibly post the unexpected success of Kahaani) as seen in Mr. Joe B. Carvalho, Samrat & Co., Bobby Jasoos, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy or the upcoming Jagga Jasoos supported by many big known names and production houses.
However, what still remains widely ignored by filmmakers as their subjects for thrilling detective Hindi films are the pulp fiction writers and their respective characters having a huge fan following among the Hindi readership belt in pan India. These are the writers whose works were and are still largely published in a cheap paper material (known as ‘Lugdi Sahitya’) with glossy (read B grade) hand-painted covers (focusing on blood, girls and guns) having some catchy suspense titles. The low priced ‘literature’ (as many don’t like that to be referred as) is specifically written for the masses with quite simple language using the local slangs, phrases and conversational trends adding to the excitement value. Though in the present times the presentation, printing and marketing standards of such novels (books) has gone through a positive, trendy, upmarket change, still the genre largely receives the same kind of treatment from the so called elite class, even today.
If studied in details, the particular subject has enough material for an exclusive depiction of the era beginning from the 1960s, majorly from the city of Meerut, distributed by the A. H. Wheelers stands found at the railway stations. But to give you a fair idea, here is the list of those (top-most) exceptional prolific writers and their famous key characters/investigators who can easily lead a Hindi film from the front based on any of their hit, fast-paced, engrossing novels lying on the forgotten shelves waiting to be explored by some innovative producers and directors from decades.
A. Beginning from the pre-independence era, when Saradindu Bandopadhyay’s Byomkesh Bakshi was getting famous in the Bengali readers, Ibne Safi was fast winning hearts in the Urdu circles (in the early 50s) with his entertaining detective stories & novels led by interesting, likable heroes as:
Imran Ali - a highly educated sleuth with a colourful but complex (eccentric) personality who acts like a fool as a cover to his sharp intelligence.
Colonel Faridi - a rich, well-built, handsome, learned man with a remarkable mind and sharp reflexes who enjoys his passion to solve hard mysteries.
Captain Hameed - the naughty-romantic chief assistant to Colonel Faridi, who turns into a brave and intelligent associate when needed, controlling his frequent mood swings.
Anwar/Rasheeda - the crime reporter/private investigator and his courageous colleague.
With an unbelievably strong fan following Ibne Safi’s books (namely magazine Jasoosi Duniya) were widely read and sold in black too, both in Pakistan and India with translations being published in several regional languages in India. In fact renowned Hindi film lyricist-writer Javed Akhtar praised the impeccable style of Ibne Safi as an inspiring source for few of his own epic creations. And recently his Hindi & English translations have also been published by reputed names such as Random House India and Harper Collins reviving back the gone era.
B. In the 60s-70s when several social-romantic novels of Gulshan Nanda were being adapted as Hindi feature films and Satyajit Ray’s calm & cool investigator Feluda appeared in Bengali publications, the first few famous writers in the world of Hindi pulp fiction and their entertaining heroes were:
(i) Ved Prakash Kamboj, who wrote in the similar format as Ibne Safi following his entertaining lead character of Imran. His most famous heroes Vijay-Raghunath later inspired many known writers in the next decades.
(ii) ‘Janpriye Lekhak’ Om Prakash Sharma and his characters of:
Rajesh – The honest, non-violent, idealistic senior detective from the secret services also known as “Bade Bhai”
Jagat – The anti-hero, con-man but a friend and fan of Rajesh.
Chakram – An old age private detective along with his super-active dog.
(Here not many know that the reputed director Basu Chatterjee also made a film on his non-detective novel as Chameli Ki Shaadi for which Om Prakash Sharma was also credited for the dialogues along with the story.)
(iii) S. C. Bedi and his pocket-book series featuring:
Rajan-Iqbal – The two young boys who were known to solve crime mysteries in their entertaining, playful style.
(And that would also remind many friends the whole mesmerizing world of comics and their famous lively detectives as Babloo, Bahadur, Ram-Rahim, Inspector Manoj, Crookbond and many more)
(iv) Parshuram Sharma's novels and Maqbul Jallandhari’s Colonel Ranjit series revolving around the middle aged Major Balwant dressed in urban style finding the real culprit.
(v) Ved Prakash Sharma and his hit investigators such as:
Vijay - Son of the IG and an undisclosed chief of Indian secret service acting as a private detective with many weird activities but extremely sharp crime solving skills.
Vikas – Vijay’s nephew and his professional chela (disciple) personally trained by him as the secret agent.
Keshav Pandit – A unique character using his mind as his major weapon, he doesn’t have any Law degree but even the court remains stunned with his logical arguments given, saving his innocent clients. (A TV Serial was recently made around this specific theme and character.)
Vibha Jindal – The head of a big industrial house, who begins her journey as a crime investigator from her husband’s murder only. She is a clever lady solving the peculiar cases with her critical intelligent analysis as a passionate hobby.
(Interestingly a few films were made based on Sharma’s chosen novels like Bahu Ki Aawaaz, Sabse Bada Khiladi & International Khiladi, but they unfortunately didn’t feature any of these specific detective characters.)
(vi) Surendra Mohan Pathak and his immensely popular:
Sunil – A charming, witty investigative journalist working for the fictional newspaper Blast. He is romantic in nature and often finds himself fighting for the innocent with the help of his ‘youth club owner’ friend Ramakant.
Sudhir – Contradicting to Sunil’s character, Sudhir is a kind of ‘philosopher’ private detective of Delhi portrayed with the typical features of the city’s lingo, style and life patterns giving him the title of “Sudhir Kohli – The Lucky Bastard”.
Vivek Agashe – A retired military officer in the mid-50s is the elected president of the unique Crime-Club apart from working as a professional private detective solving the twisted cases.
(SMP – as the writer is popularly known among his big fan following, has another of his hugely famous notorious character Vimal aka Surender Singh Sohal who is not a detective but can easily lead a crime thriller movie with many fast paced, engrossing moments woven around an impossible heist.
To give the writer his long awaited due, SMP is one of the first Hindi pulp fiction writers to be translated in English and published by reputed names (in the new millennium) becoming the bestseller in this genre on major online portals. Plus he also has a super-active fan group at Facebook too, member of which even organize fan-meets and events in various cities on regular basis.)
C. The 80s witnessed a cut throat competition between two best sellers of this industry namely Surender Mohan Pathak and Ved Prakash Sharma with many more joining in the increasing demand like Anil Mohan & later Amit Khan including some ghost writers en-cashing the ongoing trend.
But post the mid-90s with the arrival of Cable TV and internet revolution, Hindi Pulp fiction began losing its passionate readers, only to be revived a few years back by reputed publishing houses like Harper Collins coming up with the latest novels of Surender Mohan Pathak (in Hindi only) and the earlier works of both SMP & Ved Prakash Sharma made available in the form of e-books at mobile platforms such as Newshunt.
Incidentally, the past decade has seen a substantial growth in crime-detective novels in English by Indian (or India based) writers too with many interesting detective characters such as Vish Puri, Inspector Lalli, Inspector Singh, Reema Ray and more. Besides, noted film-makers such as Piyush Jha and Neeraj Pandey also ventured into crime-writing coming up with a few appealing books featuring their own invented characters like Inspector Virkar and Ghalib Danger. Yet after reading them, one still finds the Hindi pulp fiction much more engaging, spicy and entertaining with equal dosage of suspense, crime, sex and humour, waiting to be adapted for many worth-watching films since decades.
However, with no news of any film project being made on these specific characters, all we can do is hope…. that these ready-made scripts soon find their way into the offices of big production houses and renowned stars giving a Sunil, Sudhir, Imran, Vijay, Vibha or a Rajesh an equal chance as given to Feluda and Byomkesh Bakshi in our Indian Cinema.
© April 2015 – Bobbytalkscinema.com
This article of BTC was published (in an edited form) on IBNlive.com on 26th May 2015 with the heading :
“Ibne Safi to Surender Mohan Pathak: 7 Hindi pulp fiction writers and their detectives waiting to be explored on screen” - By Bobby Sing