Rishi Vohra recently relocated back to Mumbai after completing a Green MBA from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law, prior to which he has had a successful career in the Indian entertainment industry. Having been a guest columnist for various newspapers in India, he currently writes for delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine. ‘Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai’ is his first novel.
He is here with us for a short tete-a-tete.
Aseem: Take us through your journey from the entertainment industry to releasing a novel.
Rishi: Well Aseem, it was a long journey. After my B.S. in Corporate Finance / Film making from the U.S., I moved back to Mumbai. I started of in ad films and then moved on to feature films as an assistant director. Side by side, I was also independently directing music videos, TV shows, stage shows, live events, and promos. During this time, I realized that writing is where my passion lay. So I kept writing as I proceeded to San Francisco to study an MBA in Sustainability. During that time, I wrote a novel and pushed it for publication while working / studying. Though it was rejected in the U.S. and other foreign markets, several Indian publishers showed an interest in it.
Aseem: Was it a natural progression for you to write a novel since you were already writing newspaper columns?
Rishi: I never chalked out a path in writing. But I guess that that’s the national progression for any columnist. But most of my columns are related to wine, so for me both were totally different and unrelated.
Aseem: How difficult is it for a first time author to set sail on the journey of publishing a novel? What all challenges did you face?
Rishi: I guess it is kind of difficult because your manuscript is one of the fifty that publishers receive each day. Your subject matter has to be interesting and really stand out for a publisher to take notice of it.
In my case, I faced many challenges, both before publication and after. I realized the amount of effort and resources it takes to market a book to a pan India audience.
Aseem: The main character of your novel is described as autistic, schizophrenic and psychotic. Considering that this character type is quite rare in the Indian literary industry, was it a challenge to describe how he feels, how he behaves etc.?
Rishi: That was the toughest part, Aseem. And it took an immense amount of research, both primary and secondary. Through the help of the psychology department at my university in the U.S., I interacted with many students with disabilities. This and other factors helped me shape up Babloo’s character.
Aseem: Your love for Mumbai is evident from how beautifully you have described the city. So what does Mumbai mean to you?
Rishi: Thanks for your kind words, Aseem. Mumbai means just one word to me – home.
Aseem: So is this story inspired from real life incidents?
Rishi: Not at all, Aseem. It’s complete fiction though there are some glimpses of my life in the book.
Aseem: Considering the Bollywood-ish touch to the story, do you plan to make this one into a movie anytime soon?
Rishi: Yes, I do. A prominent director just got in touch with me and expressed an interest in the book pending the approval of his main actor. So I’m waiting to hear back from him. Otherwise, I haven’t pitched it to any filmmaker as of yet.
Aseem: Do you plan to become a full time writer one day?
Rishi: I would love to!
Aseem: Any upcoming books we can look forward to?
Rishi: Yes, there’s another book based in the Hindi Film Industry. I have yet to place it for publication.
Aseem: Your take on the Indian literary market today?
Rishi: The literary market is booming. Though it has its upsides, the downside is that books don’t have a long shelf life in bookstores and the author has to put a lot of effort in publicity to make his / her book stand out amongst so many others.
Aseem: Reading or Writing – You prefer?
Aseem: How do you spend your free time?
Rishi: Mostly with family and friends. I like trying out new things all the time. Like recently, I watched an IPL match at Wankhede and I don’t usually watch matches live. Mostly, I like being around people. But when I’m all alone you always catch me with a book in hand.
Aseem: What’s your message for first time writers as well as your readers?
Rishi: For first time writers, you will get published. Just keep at it! And keep reading as it only improves your storytelling and writing skills.
For my readers, thank you for reading my book, making it a bestseller, and turning this writer into an author. I love you all!
Thanks Rishi for the lovely interview. We wish you all the best for your future books and other endeavours.