Turning to crime

Piyush Jha has switched course from making ad films to feature movies and he's now also writing crime novellas

  • Published 28.02.16
Photo: Gajanan Dudhalkar

From ad film-making to writing crime novels has been quite a journey for me. I began my career in 1995 with the ad agency Trikaya Grey, now called Grey Worldwide, where I worked in both the account planning and client servicing departments. A year later I joined the DDB Mudra Group where I set up a film department. This was a turning point as it got me hooked to film-making.

Soon I realised that if I wanted to grow as an ad filmmaker I had to turn independent producer. So, in the early 2000s, I started my own company to produce ad films.

Soon I began to feel jaded and when a friend suggested that I try my hand at making feature films, I warmed to the idea. On a mere whim one day, I contacted the chief of the National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC) and within a month landed the approval for my movie script. My film Chalo America for NFDC released in 2000 proving to be a milestone in my career.

Then I directed King of Bollywood (2004), which featured Om Puri and British supermodel Sophie Dahl. But it was my third film, Sikandar (2009), a social commentary that got me acclaim. The movie went on to be nominated in two categories at the Star Screen Awards 2010 which also proved to be a significant milestone. For I met Priyanka Sinha Jha, the editor of the film magazine Screen — who I ended up marrying!

Though I had a creative bent of mind from my childhood, I never really wrote in my growing up years. For, after I graduated in Psychology from Mithibai College in Mumbai, I did my MBA from K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research, Mumbai, and immediately plunged into the ad world.

So, writing crime novellas never crossed my mind. But when I turned author it happened quite by chance. In 2011, I had set out to write a screenplay but ended up writing crime stories. They morphed into three novellas which I compiled as one book. Titled Mumbaistan (2012), it was published by Rupa. My next two books were Compass Box Killer: An Inspector Virkar Crime Thriller (2013) and Anti-Social Network: An Inspector Virkar Crime Thriller (2014).

My latest title Raakshas: India’s No. 1 Serial Killer from Westland was released in January this year.

Today, I am juggling film-making with writing. On the anvil is my next film which will be a crime thriller. Also, I will be conceptualising, writing and creating a crime-based television show, while one of my books will be turned into a Web series and will also be telecast on television this year.

(As told to Susmita Saha)