Wednesday, June 12, 2024


Bestselling Kolkata-Mumbai author Anirban Bhattacharyya who is
the Creator-Producer of the hit TV show Savdhaan India and
Producer of Crime Patrol is back with his fifth book. Known for his
bestselling true crime books The Deadly Dozen and India’s Money
Heist he delves into his own childhood to bring this semi-memoir
called The Hills Are Burning (Fingerprint). The book is the true
bittersweet, coming-of-age story about three friends growing up in
a boarding school in Kalimpong, set against the genesis and the
subsequent violence of the Gorkhaland Revolution of 1986, and
the human rights violations. The book is already a huge hit and its
second print run has been commissioned.

  1. What was your reason for writing this memoir – was it for
    personal reasons or to capture that political era?
    Both personal and socio-political. One of the primary reasons
    behind writing this book was to document the events, the history
    and the suffering before it all vanished from the collective memory
    and conscience of the people. We are amongst the last few
    remaining generations who saw the genesis of the revolution or
    the andolan (called agitation by the Govt to control the narrative) in
  2. The generation of today have grown up hearing the stories –
    but the stories have become a blind-spot, an urban legend or
    hearsay. Many of the incidents had been erased, denied, modified
    by the then Govt to suit its own narrative and agenda. And I
    wanted to excavate these true, heartbreaking stories of sacrifice
    and suffering and share it with the world – so that they are not
    forgotten. And the personal reason was to capture our growing up
    years of friendship in the boarding school as a tribute to my friends
    and school. This is a book dedicated to Kalimpong and her people.
  3. You witnessed the Gorkhaland agitation from close
    quarters as a young person. But now when you look back,
    after all these years, what is your takeaway, given that fresh
    demands for Gorkhaland are being made again?
    The demand for Gorkhaland is over 100 years old. But since its
    resurgence in 1986 under Subhash Ghising, from my layman
    understanding, the Gorkhaland movement has become cyclical in
    nature. Every decade there is an awakening and demand. And

every time there is violence, protests followed by some new
appeasement or diplomatic outcomes that douses the anger
temporarily. My takeaway is simple. Politics and politicians have
come and gone and will come and go; but in the end it is the
ordinary people who have suffered and will continue to suffer and
pay the price. Speeches, false promises, oratorial skills do not
generate jobs, or fill stomachs. And there has even been an
awakening amongst authors connected to the hills as 4 or 5 books
on Gorkhaland have been published in the last 12 months in
mainstream publishing. So my book is not to arouse political
fervour but to show the world the true story of what happened and
how the people suffered.

  1. You have written it as a fiction styled narrative – and it is a
    beautiful and emotional love story as well… and the language
    is languid!
    If I had written an academic thesis or report or a political book the
    readership would have been limited to intellectuals, political
    analysts or political history students. So this book was about
    Gorkhaland and Kalimpong, as much as it was about the friends
    and boarding school life. Both the true stories or tracks are like
    chalk and cheese – love and violence, peace and unrest clash
    against each other which provides a rude awakening to the
    teenage boys who realize that there is life outside the safety and
    comforts of the boarding school – and that life is tough. The love
    stories are true and what I experienced and all the incidents and
    stories that you will read in the book are true. So a fiction style
    narrative of a non-fiction book engages the reader. And this has
    always been my writing style if you read my true crime books as
    well. The book is nearly 400 pages but readers have messaged
    me saying they have finished it in one or two sittings.
  2. While the plot premise might sound very serious, you have
    managed to infuse many little pockets of humour in the
    narrative. Does humour come naturally to you?  
    I am a standup comedian and humour needed to be there in the
    narrative. All seriousness would not have made the reader
    empathize with the characters. So the book is filled with brilliant
    touches of humour about our Bengali traits and idiosyncracies.
    And the humour also helps me to show a lot of the interactions

between the characters – which may appear serious but the irony
is hilarious.

  1. In the book you have written dialogues in multiple
    languages. Why?
    I love being vocal for local. It brings a huge amount of authenticity
    to the story especially as these are true stories. My first book about
    the serial killers of India (The Deadly Dozen) had dialogues in 9
    Indian languages as per the region where the crime had occurred.
    My next book India’s Money Heist set in Kerala about India’s
    biggest bank heist has dialogues in Malayalam. I enjoy the fact
    that readers will be mouthing these new languages and thereby
    breathing and living the character. This book has dialogues in
    Bangla, English, Nepali, Rongring, Bhutanese and Tibetan. I want
    to be as authentic as possible.
  2. The book has already been a huge hit – what has been the
    I feel completely blessed and grateful that people have embraced
    the book, especially the people of the hills. I think the acceptance
    is because for the first time there has been correct and true
    representation of the people, the culture and the facts about the
    revolution which was filled with human rights violations, which was
    completely glossed over in the last book on kalimpong and the
    revolution. An outsider pretending to be an insider will never be
    authentic. I have lived for 9 years there in the thick of things. My
    friends and I have experienced first-hand. So the people of the hills
    have embraced it. The book has hit No.1 on the Amazon
    Bestseller List in India, Australia and the USA! And I feel blessed
    that the reviews have been very generous!
  3. Some of the incidents are truly horrific, shocking and
    heartbreaking, and yet the book is such an emotional roller-
    The incidents are all true and I have described them without
    censorship – like the heinous way in which they happened. It is to
    shock the readers out oftheir apathy and also to make them aware
    of what truly happened. And the book is very emotional. I
    remember once I had completed it – I broke down as I felt so
    empty and drained like a weight had lifted off. And my friends
    whose stories are in the book have all had a cathartic experience

trying to recalland relive the memories. It is a book written from the
heart in the hope to hold on to precious memories.

  1. Your last crime book India’s Money Heist: The Chelembra
    Bank Robbery was launched by Mohanlal. And this book is
    being read by some heavy-duty literary and screen people?
    IMH is the true story of India’s biggest bank heist which I have
    written with P. Vijayan who is the IG of Kerala and who had solved
    the case. And it was a dream launch with superstar Mohanlal sir
    launching the book. Was completely blessed and grateful.
    The Hills Are Burning has reached Booker Prize winner Shehan
    Karunatilaka and also my literary Guru Amitav Ghosh – both of
    whom I met at the Kerala Lit Fest. The book is also being read by
    superstars Aamir Khan, Prosenjit Chatterjee, avid reader and
    actress Sonali Bendre, my college friend Director and Producer
    Kiran Rao and friend and actor Sushant Singh.
  2. Why should people read the book?
    It is an emotional true story about love, friendship, loyalty, growing
    up, coming-of-age, death, loss, longing, memories and grief all set
    against the epic true story of the Gorkhaland revolution as it
    erupted in 1986. And I am completely thankful to the team at
    Fingerprint Publishing of Shantanu Duttagupta and Sarita Prasad,
    and to my literary agent Suhail Mathur of The Book Bakers for
    taking this book into the world.
  3. So, what’s next?
    I have a horror anthology coming up, a true crime book, a fiction
    and a celebrity autobiography.
    BUY THE BOOK: https://www.amazon.in/dp/9354406955
    SEE THE TRAILER: https://youtu.be/sD0EuO5XjbQ
    Follow Anirban at www.linktr.ee/anirbanb
    Facebook: @booksbyanirban
    Instagram: @author_anirban


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