23 is an age where you feel you can do anything in life. I thought I could be the next big thing in Bollywood. I came to Mumbai to be an actor. However, Mumbai is an amazing scriptwriter. It plans a destiny for you, which you wouldn’t have imagined. So as I was doing the rounds of producers and production houses seeking work as actor, a senior writer suggested that I should much rather take to writing, especially television writing. It is easy to break in as a television writer, as everybody is hunting for new concepts. Given the volume of work that happens in the TV industry, there is always a dearth of good television writers.
So television writing actually happened overnight to me. It was not a planned thing; it happened accidentally. For two years, I did several shows. In the year 2004, when Star One (later got rechristened to Life OK and soon to be Star Bharat) was launched, I co-wrote a show called Pyaar Ki Kashti Mein. I co-wrote few other shows like Dekho Magar Pyaar Se, Tumhari Disha and few others. However, somewhere down this journey I started realizing that I am too much my own writer. I write what I strongly believe in; I create characters that I enjoy creating. And that was very difficult on television because TV is largely a restrictive medium. You have feedback coming from the channel and production house and the writer’s job is often to collate the different feedback. You can’t be too adventurous on television. And this was frustrating me. It was not probably my writing style. This phase where I was disillusioned coincided with the phase when the Indian publishing industry was really opening up.
That was when I converted one of the stories which I had for a film script into a book. That’s how my first book in 2006 happened. It was titled ‘That Thing Called Love’. It went on to become a huge best-seller and has sold over 1.5 lac copies. Though this also did not come as planned, the sheer satisfaction which writing a book gives you is humongous. You are the soul creator, unlike a TV show wherein there are many creators. So that exclusivity, joy and sense of fulfillment cleared a whole lot of confusion that prevailed in my mind. Thereafter I took to writing books as a regular career.
TV is largely a restrictive medium. You have feedback coming from the channel and production house and the writer’s job is often to collate the different feedback. You can’t be too adventurous on television
In the last 10 years, I have brought out eight different books. They are all of different genres. I have written romantic fiction, relationship stories, political thrillers. In fact, I have written three back to back political thrillers and kind of invented the genre of political thriller in India.
But given the restless soul that I am, I realized that there is a larger calling. Politics has always fascinated me for whatever reasons. It always depends on when your first tryst with political awareness happens. Mine happened in the year 1990 when I was 13 years old; that was a very crucial year for India. There was a Kashmir issue, the Mandal Commission agitation, there was also the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. It was a very disturbing year politically. For a teenager who was just beginning to be politically aware by reading newspapers, you could not get a better year to understand Indian politics and develop a taste or distaste for it. So that was one of the reasons why I have been politically aware from thereon. That was also why three of my books were political thrillers.
my failure as a television writer, I think of it as a wonderful stroke of luck. Had I done well on TV, I would not have managed to tread the world beyond
Politics for me was a larger stepping stone or you can say a logical extension!! So let me tell you how it all began!! In 2011, when Mr. Nitin Gadkari became the President of BJP, that was the year when the 2G scam had broken, and whole lot of scams broke in, I had offered the party my support to fight corruption. One of the advisors had suggested me to put together a book on development issues. As you know, BJP has always been working on growth and development. Mr. Gadkari had initiated a whole lot of social entrepreneurial initiatives around Nagpur, which were not written about, but were like a benchmark for all the social-entrepreneurs. So I co-authored a book with him called ‘India Aspires’. That actually started my strong association with the party and with him began. Even at this point of time today, I am a consultant with his Ministry. I am looking after certain Road Safety initiatives of the government. I am in Delhi every second or third week for two or three days to expedite these initiatives. I am also the Mumbai BJP Spokesperson and pretty active on National Television debates on most news channels. So I am pretty clear that this is the career which I am moving into and which I am serious about. This pretty much sums up my journey so far.
Of course there are certain political initiatives that are close to my heart, one of which is to develop an institutional mechanism that aids reverse migration and incentivizes shifting back to smaller towns and villages. That would bridge the divide between urban and rural India. There are a few other political ideas I am passionate about but would much rather talk about them at an appropriate time.
When I look back, I think being your own self and not giving in to what others tell you to be, have been a blessing in disguise. At least in my case, it has been a big boon. Earlier, when I was not getting my due as a television writer, I was obviously disappointed, especially when I would see some of the most mediocre writers mint heaps of money.
But today, when I look back, I realize there was a design in everything. Today, my failure as a television writer, I think of it as a wonderful stroke of luck. Had I done well on TV, I would not have managed to tread the world beyond.
As an author, I am currently working on two books, one of which will be out by the end of this year which is again a political thriller, with a strong romantic inspiration. It has a Kashmir backdrop. The other book is about the infrastructural advancements of India in the last three years. It is a behind the scenes story of how infrastructural advancement was brought about. It will come out somewhere around March or April next year. So I will much rather call myself as an author and politician rather than a television writer. I have consciously reduced my involvement in television; not that I have been closed to it. But in the present stage of my career, I don’t have time for it. But yes, if I would get to do just the ‘story’ maybe in a television series, I will be happy doing that. But screenplays and scripts and regular interactions with channel are what I cannot afford to take time out for, at this point of time.
40 is an age when you are more aware of your true strengths and what you can achieve. Today, I am headed towards a full time career as politician. I feel this was an inner calling I had to answer. Once I am done with my pending books, from next year onward the focus will be almost entirely on politics. I see politics as an instrument of socio-economic growth for any society. Moreover, if good people are not willing to enter politics, they ought to be prepared to be governed by bad people. Politics is about taking responsibility rather than sitting on the fence. This is a good time for young professionals to enter politics, especially as the biggest scourge afflicting our democracy- dynastic politics, is about to collapse.
(As told to Srividya Rajesh)