Ibne Safi to Surender Mohan Pathak: 7 Hindi pulp fiction writers and their detectives waiting to be explored on screen
What still remains widely ignored by filmmakers as their subject for suspense-based detective films are the Hindi pulp fiction writers.
Novels of Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie have been the basis of many famous Hindi classics of the golden era such as Bees Saal Baad, Gumnam and more. Plus projects focusing on individual detectives (and not spies) have always been offered to the Hindi film audience in the past beginning from ‘CID’, ‘Inspector Eagle’, ‘Gopichand’ ‘Jasoos, Do Jasoos’, ‘Baadshah’ and many more reaching the currently followed trend (possibly, post the unexpected success of ‘Kahaani’) seen in ‘Mr. Joe B. Carvalho’, ‘Samrat & Co.’, ‘Bobby Jasoos’, ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy’ or the upcoming ‘Jagga Jasoos’.
However, what still remains widely ignored by filmmakers as their subject for suspense-based detective films are the Hindi 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 hand-painted covers (focusing on blood, girls and guns) having some catchy suspense titles. The era of such ‘Jasoosi Novels’ which began in 1940s with Ibne Safi became a flourishing business from 1960s onwards, majorly operated from the city of Meerut, distributed by the A. H. Wheelers stands found at the railway stations.
Here is the list of those exceptional prolific writers and their famous key characters/investigators who can easily lead a Hindi film based on any of their hit, fast-paced novels lying on the forgotten shelves waiting to be explored by some innovative producers and directors from decades.
1.Ibne Safi’s (aka Asrar Ahmed’s) entertaining Urdu detective stories featuring interesting, likable heroes as Imran Ali, Colonel Faridi, Captain Hameed and the team of Anwar-Rasheeda.
The much-loved writer was widely read and his books sold in black too (post-independence), both in Pakistan and India having translations published in several regional languages in India. In fact the renowned Hindi film lyricist-writer Javed Akhtar has also praised the writing style of Ibne Safi as an inspiring source for few of his own epic creations.
2.Ved Prakash Kamboj, who wrote in the similar format as Ibne Safi following his lead character of Imran. His most famous heroes Vijay-Raghunath later inspired many known writers (admitted openly).
3.‘Janpriye Lekhak’ Om Prakash Sharma’s characters of Rajesh, Jagat and Chakram. Not many know that the reputed director Basu Chatterjee 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.
4.Colonel Ranjit’s investigative ‘whodunit’ series (created by Maqbul Jallandhari), revolving around a middle aged detective Major Balwant.
5.SC Bedi’s pocket-book series featuring two young boys Rajan-Iqbal.
6.Ved Prakash Sharma’s hit investigators such as Vijay, Vikas, Keshav Pandit and Vibha Jindal. Interestingly a few films were made based on Sharma’s chosen novels too like 'Bahu Ki Aawaaz', 'Sabse Bada Khiladi' and International Khiladi, but they unfortunately didn’t feature any of these detective characters.
7.Surendra Mohan Pathak’s immensely popular Sunil, Sudhir and Vivek Agashe along with Vimal aka Surender Singh Sohal (though he is not exactly a detective solving the cases.) SMP - as the writer is popularly known, is one of the first Hindi pulp fiction writers to be translated in English and published by reputed names becoming the bestseller in this genre on major online portals.
Incidentally, the past decade has seen a substantial growth in crime-detective novels in English by Indian (or India based) writers with many interesting detective characters such as Vish Puri, Inspector Lalli, Inspector Singh, Reema Ray and more. Besides, noted filmmakers like Piyush Jha and Neeraj Pandey have 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 all, one still finds the Hindi pulp fiction much more engaging, spicy and entertaining with ample dosage of suspense, crime, sex and humour as required for a mainstream Bollywood movie to win over its viewers.
So let’s hope any of these ready-made scripts soon find their way into the offices of big production houses or renowned stars giving a Sunil, Sudhir, Imran, Vijay or Rajesh an equal chance to prove themselves as it has been given to Feluda and Byomkesh Bakshi in our Indian Cinema.