Durjoy Datta has ruled the world of romantic novels since 2008. All his books have been bestsellers in the teen world. This engineer turned writer is now also writing for movies and serials.
Judging by the crowds of youngsters following him at the recently concluded Jaipur Literature Festival, if Shah Rukh Khan is the king of romance in movies, Durjoy Datta can be called the king of romance in novels. Since 2008, with his first book ‘Of course I Love You Till I Find Someone Better’ he has been ruling the hearts of millions of teenage readers, especially girls.
An engineer by education, Durjoy tasted success at the age of 21 while in the final year of his college. Slowly as each of his books started topping the bestseller lists, he decided to turn into a full-time writer with a specialization in romance. On reading his books, one would expect the author to be the traditional chocolate faced hero, however Durjoy Datta is quite different from the common perceptions. He is soft-spoken guy who believes that romance is the only pond he’d like to circle.
Some excerpts from the tete-e-tat:
From the time you published your first book in 2008 to today, how have you evolved as a writer?
I think at that time, I was a teenager and had a different perspective on romance. After my first book was declared a best seller, writing became a means to earn money. But over the years, I have started enjoying writing and the kind of freedom I get with it. Hence, I would like to safeguard my career as a writer.
Why do you only like writing romance? Why don’t you experiment with other genres like fantasy or mystery etc?
To be honest, earlier romance used to be the main theme in my novel but now it has become incidental. I have also written mystery novels, but my books are still sold as romance novels since my strong point is romance. I know what the limit to my talent is. For me, it is the easiest to make the characters fall in love with each other. Even in television shows, you can do it for 6-7 seasons. In India, you cannot write fantasy unless it is backed by some mythology. I am just waiting that someone sets a precedent and I will hang on to it and write my own fantasy novel.
From a college boy to a married man and now a father. How has your writing changed with the changes in your life?
I think now I cannot write about teenage romances or young romances the way I used to. I am 37 years old. I can only write what I feel strongly about otherwise it will look artificial and put on. When I am writing a book, I look forward to constructing a good story. All of my earlier writing was touch and feel-I just wanted to know what the characters feel like. Now they are more in-depth. In my book, The Boy who Loved which was published in 2017, the story of the boy was set in 1999. So for the story, I had to travel back to 1999 and remember how I was in that time. My latest novel When I Am With You is about a single mother who is also an entrepreneur and is dealing with a new relationship as well.
So, what kind of a person were you in 1999? How has the world changed from then to now?
Frankly speaking in 1999, I was just 12 years old. At that age, I was really intimidated by women. In those days, even if you had a crush on someone, you couldn’t talk to them or express your feelings . But today, the society has shifted. Earlier it was all cloaks and daggers but now we can have open conversations about most things. Now people can express themselves. I remember in those days, there were two different worlds of girls and guys where each had their own groups. They had clandestine messages which if discovered by the elders could wreak havoc. Now the barriers have broken down even in the interiors to a large extent.
As a person who specializes in romance, you must have read a lot of romantic books in your young years?
Actually, not at all! In my childhood, most of my reading has been dictated by my parents. Book reading was compulsory at bed time and no romance was allowed. I used to read Enid Blyton, John Grisham, Stephen King. After a while, ,my parents tried to introduce me to Salman Rushdie’s work. Initially I didn’t understand what he was talking about but then after a while I could relate to the books. In fact, I did not even know romance as a genre. Most of my introduction to romance has been while writing for television where you can create two extremely likeable characters and then make them fall in love and continue for the next 1200 episodes.
People say with the social media and Kindle, paper books are not going to be around for long. What are your thoughts?
I remember hearing about it in 2008. People used to say that with the introduction of tablets and smart phones, books won’t last for long but now it is 2023 and books are still here!
Are you on social media? Has social media taken over books?
Earlier I was on social media and when I used to get into my Instagram account, I used to spend hours swiping. I used to think that if I am doing this, my readers would also be doing this. But lately I have started noticing that many people have dumped Instagram and have started reading books. I really got hooked on to the social media when I became a parent. Parenthood is extremely boring- at least for the first few years. So, Instagram helps you to reconnect with your child in a different way. For example, when I see my daughter doing something cute, I record it and post it. When people find it cute and like it, I go back and look at that 15 second clip to see what is cute in it. This way I use my followers as a dopamine fix. But then this used to take over my life because I used to then think about what should be the next video to maintain the same likes. So, I pulled back. Now I am on social media just to sell my books.
What is the difference between writing for television and writing novels?
The difference between writing for television and a novel is a lot. Writing a book is a solitary exercise. There isn’t much money unless your book becomes a best seller. But in case of television, the money is huge and the feedback of the writing is almost instantaneous. For example, if I publish a book today, the feedback will come after six months but in case of an episode, the feedback comes the very next day through the TRPS. That allows the writer to change his ploy if the TRPs aren’t good or the audience isn’t enjoying the story.
So, how much does TRP impact writing for television?
Actually TRP ratings are the life blood of television. The fact is that on television, a show cannot survive if it does not have high drama. Trends also dictate the show. For example, five years ago, there was this huge trend of getting animals on the show, so everyone followed that. Every show that you see on television starts with a very noble thought. They have a social issue they want to tackle through a story. But eventually every one has put on so much of money, that they try to get as much traction as possible.
I remember Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi was perhaps one of the only shows in the history of television that went for so long because everyone involved in that show believed in that show. The interesting thing is that though it did not have the usual saas bahu drama or those stories of reincarnation etc and it was a very progressive show, it still did not get good TRPs. Despite that the producers, the writers and the creators kept giving the show time so that people could see its value. And people saw its value. It is one of the highest watched shows on YouTube. A lot of people go back and watch the show. But it did not get the traditional TRPs.
Do you think this kind of TRP governed shows are impacting our society?
Of course, there are conversations about this everywhere. For example, on social media a lot of people talk about toxic boyfriends but toxic husbands have been a theme on television for like years. Now its like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t want to show such a thing but when you show it, your show works and attracts TRPs. That really impacts me since I am so emotionally invested as a writer. Here book writing is way better because by the time the book comes out and actually makes an impact in a year or two, you are a very different person. Also, once the book is read and the reaction comes, I cannot change the book as per the feedback by the readers.
Do you doubt yourself at times?
There are times when I am afflicted with crippling self-doubt because honestly I had not expected that my first book would be published and would become a best seller. You see the difference between the kind of books I read and write is huge. I got published at 21 when I was reading books that were leagues and leagues ahead of my book. Then when people say that they have read and liked my books, I start wondering if they have read the really ‘good’ books.
Had you not tasted success in such a young age, would you have continued writing?
I have would have continued writing in some form or the other. Before I started writing books, I had a very successful blog. Lot of my blogger friends advised me to write. Had the book not worked, I would have continued writing and would have found another way of leveraging my writing.
This article by Shailaza Singh appeared in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit Section on February 21st, 2023. You can also check out the video of the interview on https://youtu.be/h-DJ8jcLJ8Q