In India, idea of serial killers is misunderstood: Piyush Jha

In India, idea of serial killers is misunderstood: Piyush Jha

Delving deep into the mind of a serial killer, writer and filmmaker Piyush Jha in his latest book has attempted to dispel the popular notion about serial killing prevalent in India.

His recently launched book titled, "Raakshas – India's Number 1 Serial Killer," (Westland) is a thrilling narrative of a serial killer's life and the challenging investigation to nab him."

Jha who believes that serial killers exist beyond the pages of fiction says, "I wanted to bring out the fact that in India the idea of serial killers is not understood properly. Not among the police, not among the people.

"Just yesterday I overheard a conversation where a policeman was dismissive about the existence of serial killers in India and suggested that such killers existed only in the western countries. I try to dispel the myth that serial killing does not happen here. It happens in India too," he says.

Jha who is best known for his critically acclaimed film, "Sikander" also has a handful of crime thrillers like "Mumbaistan," "Compass Box Killer" and "Anti-Social Network" to his credit.

According to the writer, people's idea of a serial killer here stems from the American films and television shows that they are exposed to, resulting in the genesis of absurd beliefs like killing could be 'cool.'

"In India, when people talk about serial killers they would think of American concepts like the Dexter or Charles Manson or Zodiac. As if there would be a moon pattern according to which someone would kill people! Through films and characters like Dexter, serial killers have been made into cult figures, they have been made 'cool.'

"But it India, it is altogether a different ball game. Serial killers are killing for money also. They are caused by deep psychological problems but financial reasons also play a part here or may be for survival," he says.

The author in his book does not idolise the killer but tries to find out the reasons that might have fostered the criminal streak in him, through the investigation carried out by his protagonist- a woman IPS officer.

"It is about a man who out of certain circumstances goes out killing people and after a point of time aspires to become India's number one serial killer. It's about the hunt to capture that man. How the police and especially a woman cop lay a trap to capture him and all the events that take place in due course," he says.

"The book is also about the psychological process and mental-health. In India, we don't really take mental health as an issue. If it happens with anyone here then it is seen as a stigma or a taboo that need not be talked about openly.

Jha, who has been a student of psychology says, "We do not talk about a mentally ill person; they are hidden in some back rooms of our homes. We do not like to tell people of them wondering they may think of it as our shortcoming just because we have a mentally ill person in our house."

When asked about the target readership, he says, "Besides the people who like this crime-thriller genre – I'm also looking to inform people who might not be reading crime fiction but might be informed about a phenomenon which exists in India. They will also be my readers. So it just broadens the base from crime-fiction lovers to people who want to be more informed about things that happen here."

The author-filmmaker says he has built upon reality. Although it's a fiction, but it is very close to reality, you can feel it happening because it is mired in reality.

Further, divulging about the book, Jha says "A young person has been affected in a particular way. He lives or pretends to live in a normal everyday world. But his mind is so deranged that he can pull that off. So my idea is to convey that it could be any normal guy like a delivery boy or anyone."

"It goes into the psyche. The story in itself gives you an idea that what could be done to prevent it. But it is not so explicit that I tell you that 'these are the solutions.' In the subtext you get the idea that why it happens," says Jha whose previous crime-fictions include "Mumbaistan," "Compass Box Killer" and "Anti-Social Network."

Regretting that most of the Indian writing in crime fiction is a rip-off of Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie, Jha also noted that the genre was misunderstood as only gang versus police fights.

"Crime fiction is being read more. But, what I see most of the writers do is ripping off say a Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie or similar stuff. The true Indian crime writing, in the Indian setting, home-grown is less, but I hope it will grow," he says.

"The whole idea of crime in India is the gangster(s) versus police or inter-gang rivalries. We don't have an understanding that it is not really about that. That is just a kind of crime. Crime fiction is what happens to real, honest, normal people in their daily life...people die. Like for example, the story on the Aarushi (Talwar) murder case - that is a true crime story. If I do a story similar to that it will be a crime fictional story," he adds.

Jha's new book is out in stores now while he has already started work on his next crime-fiction.  

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