‘The Beasts of Eden’ by debutant author Anirban Dey Choudhury is one of the best offerings by any Indian author in the suspense genre in recent times. The protagonist in the novel, the suave and talented “Azaad” who has deftly handled several daredevil assignments in the past sets off on the most challenging assignment of his career. While on this expedition, a web of conspiracy entangles him. Other characters are introduced along the way thickening the plot. The story moves across continents keeping the readers hooked to the plot on how Azaad would face the antagonists the dreaded ‘Gottliebs’ who run an international criminal agency.
Without revealing much of the plot, in summary, this novel is a unique blend of a thriller that has a good story, a signature writing style, strong characters and a very well researched plot. A great binge read that you will not be able to put down once started.
The author’s carefully sketched characterization of every character in the story is one of the biggest strong points of the book. Another strong point is the author’s imagination as each paragraph in the book runs through the reader’s eyes like a scene out of a suspense-cum-action thriller movie.
The author intertwines his fast-paced narration with sprinkles of humour that makes the reading, even more, a fun read. The description of Azaad’s facial features as ‘above average’ and something “pursed-lips aunts of a mildly snobbish disposition grudgingly approve for their hitherto single niece in her late-20’s” tells of the author’s brilliant articulation and sense of humour. The Gottliebs, Azaad’s nemesis in the book are larger-than-life and at one point they throw a ghastly challenge at Azaad. The face-off between Azaad and the “13 foot long opponent with greenish eyes” truly justifies the title of the book.
The scene where Azaad faces his humane side with a close brush with death has the reader sitting on the edge. This and many other scenes makes the novel definitely worth your time.
With all the checkboxes ticked for a pacy thriller, and all ingredients just right for a next Azaad adventure, we will await the sequel to “The Beasts of Eden”.
Anusmita Dutta, in conversation with the creator of this thriller novel, Anirban Dey Choudhury…
Anusmita Dutta (AD): Tell us something about your background.
Anirban Dey Choudhury: (ADC) Well, I was born in Kolkata, which used to be Calcutta back then, of course, and grew up in the 1980s and the 1990s—two crazy and colourful decades, considering the kind of social, economic and political changes they ushered in, especially the 1990s, which is my favourite decade of all.
I did my schooling at Calcutta Boys School and then went to Presidency College, now known as Presidency University, where I took a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature. I followed it up with a Master’s in Journalism & Mass Communication from Calcutta University and a short stint as a journalist, but switched tracks soon afterwards and became a Learning Content Designer and Developer. And now that I am a writer as well, I can say that my profession and my passion (+ alternate profession) both involve writing.
AD: In your novel, the protagonist’s character Azaad seems straight out of a Hindi movie. Have you modelled it after anyone?
ADC: God, no! I fervently hope and pray that no reader of mine thinks that Indrajeet Azaad came out of, or was inspired by, Hindi Cinema in any way! It’s based on an entirely original idea.
Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against Hindi Cinema. It is, after all, an inescapable part of India’s pop culture. But I’d like to believe that my story and my characters are born out of sensibilities that are vastly different.
I grew up reading a lot of Western fiction (and I do mean a LOT!); most of it belongs to the Thriller domain—espionage thrillers, crime thrillers, detective fiction, action adventures, et al. I’ve been the biggest fan of Agatha Christie, Alistair MacLean, Jack Higgins, Ian Fleming and Desmond Bagley in particular, and a keen admirer of the complexly cerebral yet intricately atmospheric styles of John le Carré, Raymond Chandler and Frederick Forsyth (honest confession: Robert Ludlum and Sydney Sheldon have never appealed much). In recent times, I’ve been greatly addicted to Matthew Reilly. Those are the kind of sensitivities that I brought in to play at the time of writing The Beasts of Eden.
Having said that, I do feel that my story has very high cinematic potential; that is, it can translate very well into a movie or a web series for an OTT platform.
AD: What made you take up this genre?
ADC: Two reasons. First, as I said, it’s a genre to which I’ve always been tremendously attracted as a reader, and second, as a new writer operating in the domain of Indian Fiction in English, I think there’s substantial scope for contribution in this direction.
Look at how the domain of Indian Fiction in English has evolved since the turn of the millennium. Many of the writers who have appeared on the scene since then have occasionally ventured into the arena of thrillers (Amish Tripathi’s Shiva Trilogy is a very good example of mytho-fiction thrillers), but by and large, the larger chunk of the focus has mostly been on certain specific ‘story templates’ (for want of a better term), such as workplace politics set in the corporate/media/ banking/ law world; ‘slice of life’ accounts of a young man or woman’s journey through life and “growing up”; romantic escapades (read: “sexual misadventures until true love happens”) of 20- or 30-somethings in a metro, etc.
Conversely, Western Literature has always accorded a very wide space to this branch of popular fiction, which is probably why such a rich and diverse body of work in the Thriller domain has come out of UK, Europe and USA on a regular basis.
As a writer, I feel the literary landscape in (urban and semi-urban) India is poised for a big change, especially with the ongoing global pandemic driving the focus away from a bookstore-driven ecology and parallelly widening the avenue of tech-driven self-publishing platforms for new writers like us, who have quality content to offer but cannot afford to pay to have their content published. (It’s like, “Multiplex or Netflix?”) And I want to be a prime driver-contributor of this change.
AD: Any interesting memory during or after writing this novel that has remained with you?
ADC: Not a specific incident as such, but something interesting does come to mind.
In many of their interviews, both collective and individual, writers Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, popularly known as Salim-Javed, had this to say about their classic film Sholay (1975), which they co-wrote: “On many occasions, we felt as if the story was writing itself.”
Not comparing with something of that scale or level, but on several occasions when I was writing TBoE, especially the first draft in 2017 and the final version last year (2020), I felt as if the story had come alive and was adding to itself, fleshing itself out in ways that I hadn’t consciously thought of myself, leading to the inclusion of several important details that added to the ‘meat’. I have no idea how to explain this, but it certainly felt wonderful!
AD: What next?
ADC: Well, I’ve been working on a few ideas in tandem. Next up is a collection of novellas and short stories, each story being quite different from the rest in terms of flavour. There’s drama, there’s suspense, there’s mystery and there’s romance. Hopefully it’ll be out by the year-end.
Then there’s a cops-versus-criminals story set in the US, a neo-noir, urban-centric crime drama that’s part Heat and part Nighthawks. I’m seriously excited about this one because although it’s very different from TBoE in terms of both flavour and treatment, it’s still going to be high on intrigue, high on action and high on twists: a high-octane, ‘two stories in one’ double whammy!
And then of course there’s the next Indrajeet Azaad adventure. I was pleasantly surprised by the kind of reaction I got from the readers. They liked the hero, they lapped up the action and they loved the villain—everybody loves a good, strong villain who’s capable of putting the hero through the grinder, because a strong villain is what brings out a hero’s true colours. It then becomes a question of “Can my hero stand up to the villain?” from “Can the villain match up to the hero?” In my books, this switching of the dynamics is what makes a story really exciting.
So yes, the next Indrajeet Azaad adventure is going to be out within the next two years! I can’t commit to a specific timeline, because (a) I have my usual 9-to-6 day job to attend to and (b) a story of that scale takes a lot of research. But a series is definitely in the works, I assure you!
[The Beasts of Eden is available in Kindle and Paperback versions on Amazon and all its region-specific domains, including Amazon India.]
Contributor: Anusmita Dutta
About our Writing Program Student
A former writing program student, Anusmita works as the Content Head in GetAConnect.in. She started her career in the e-learning industry but moved on to writing in the print and the web medium as well. She is also a Spoken English Tutor and a children’s storyteller.