From The Indian Express
The popular series of romantic novels Mills & Boon gets an Indian makeover
Tall, dark and handsome. Petite, pretty and perfect. The two shall meet, fall in love and share an amazing chemistry. The altercations and differences notwithstanding, the couple will walk down the aisle and live happily ever after. In Mills & Boon novels some things are forever, like love. However, when the popular romantic novel was launched in India, its publishers, Harlequin Mills & Boon India (HMBI), decided to give it an Indian twist. The authors of Indian Mills & Boon set out on a mission to keep in mind the preferences of Indian readers while conceiving the characters, situations and stories.
While over 20 titles are now locally published and distributed every year through Harlequin, Manish Jain, country manager of HMBI, says that the success story dates back to 2008, when they launched the India operations. The company’s network, which is more than 100 years old, comprises 1,300 authors from diverse backgrounds. An author development programme is conducted through the contest titled Passions Aspiring Authors Auditions (PAAA). “The first Indian Mills & Boon, titled The Love Asana, was launched in December 2010 and written by Punjab-born Milan Vohra. The second winner of the PAAA contest, Aastha Atray’s book will be launched in December 2011,” says Jain, adding that the cover of the novels will also have Indian faces, selected via a model hunt.
While Jain is hopeful that Mills & Boon will continue to receive a positive response from the Indian audience, in Mumbai, Atray is working on the final draft of her book, His Monsoon Bride. The 29-year-old journalist writes about communities, people and relationships — three genres that describe the 2,000 word story, Poor Rich Girl and the Man with a Menacing Grin, which won her the contest. “I read about Milan Vohra winning the contest last year and decided to give it a shot," says Atray, adding that she took just over an hour to write the story. Set in Mumbai, the typical Bollywood narrative has a boy and a girl who hate each other at first and eventually fall in love. “We all love the typical Indian love story. The leading lady in my book, Amrita, is also a journalist. She is curvy and shy about her weight. The hero, Mehtab, is a perfect man,” says Atray. While she feels that sticking to a formula is tough, she believes that the challenge lies in making it fun. “I followed my editor’s instructions and made sure that the language, setting and characters were Indian,” says Atray, pointing out that it was not easy to extend the story from 2,000 to 35,000 words. “The aim was to offer something new to the readers,” she adds. Atray is looking forward to another book, probably a relationship saga. Her favourite love story is Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds.
The first runner-up of the contest, Poonam Dabas, meanwhile, has also set her tale in India. The Delhi-based English teacher’s story has a warm setting that is endearing and vibrant. Having grown up reading Mills & Boon in school, she feels that back then the novels were more “soft” and not “explicit” like now.
Shoma Narayanan, second runner-up of the contest, agrees. The Mumbai-based banking professional submitted a 2,000 word story about a couple who part ways after college and meet years later, at a friend’s wedding, to realise that they are still in love. “It’s subtle, not explicit or steamy and something that Indian readers might not be comfortable with,” says Narayanan, who’s story is set in Mumbai and travels to Kolkata and Hong Kong. “I have been writing short stories and have read a couple of Mills & Boon novels. Romance, love and crime are genres of writing you can never go wrong with,” says the author, adding that she captures the new Indian woman in her book — who is honest about her emotions, is upfront, not submissive and considers the man to be an equal partner. “The face of the new Indian women — how they approach love, relationships and career — is an essential ingredient of the book,” says the author, who is looking forward to a January release of the book.
“Many men submitted entries for the contest, but it’s the stories of these ladies that touched the editors’ hearts,’’ smiles Jain.