Charles Sobhraj is an ordinary guy: Farrukh Dhondy

November 15th, 2008 - 11:47 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 15 (IANS) Yesteryear’s crime maestro Charles Sobhraj is an extremely ordinary guy, says author and screenplay writer Farrukh Dhondy, whose latest novel has been inspired by the life of the criminal imprisoned in Nepal for a murder.”The Bikini Murders”, published by Harper Collins, was released here Friday with Dhondy recalling anecdotes from his association with 63-year-old Sobhraj and insisting that his imprisonment in Nepal for the 1975 murder of American tourists Connie Jo Bronzich was unfair.

“I have known Sobhraj and I also know of the murders that he has committed. But his conviction is unjust. All forensic evidence and records against him were destroyed by the police and he was jailed almost without any evidence for the particular case in which the Nepal police found him guilty,” Dhondy told IANS.

He said Sobhraj was a friend of Masood Azhar, the founder of the Islamic terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

“Sobhraj apparently rescued Masood from goons, who had beaten him to a pulp, during their stint in Tihar jail. After that, Masood became very dependent on Sobhraj.

“In 2000, when the Indian Airlines aircraft with 400 passengers on board was hijacked to Kandhahar by militants who demanded Masood’s release in lieu of the hostages’ lives, Sobhraj offered to help India,” Dhondy recalled.

Dhondy was emphatic that the protagonist of “The Bikini Murder”, clearly based on Sobhraj, was an objective study of the character of serial killer and “not meant to intimidate people with a horror story”.

The novel set in a Kathmandu casino is about a conman-cum-serial killer Johnson Thhat and a retired police inspector Pradhan, who arrests him in the casino. The book, a thriller of the whodunit genre, probes how the conman eluded justice for 25 years and why he risked coming to Nepal where he was wanted for the murder of an American girl.

The inspector tries to put together the puzzle from what Thhat tells him. The book is racy and packed with action as it trails the life story of Thhat with a few more dramatic turns.

Asked why he chose a serial killer as the subject, Dhondy said: “I just wanted to write a book about a serial murderer. Johnson Thhat is a killer because he lives in a place where everyone kills everyone. You plant a bomb, carry out terror strikes - but these do not make a book. You can finish writing about them in two pages.

“I chose a killer who kills with a cold mind because I wanted to know what he was killing for. And discovered in course of writing that they are people who go about their job of killing like zombies without any sense of right or wrong.”

Dhondy has his hands full. He has just completed a screen adaptation of V.S. Naipul’s novel “A Bend in the River”.

“The movie will be directed by Hugh Hudson who won an Oscar for the ‘Chariots of Fire’. I have also written a screenplay on child labour in the carpet industry called the ‘Carpet Boy’. It will be made into a movie by Giles Nuttgens, who was the cinematographer for Deepa Mehta’s ‘Earth’,” the author said.

Dhondy has also written a Bollywood script for Sanjay Khan - “The Legends of Ram”.

“It is a modern day version of Valmiki’s Ramayana,” he said.

The author will soon follow up his 1980 best-seller, “Poona Company”, with a book, “Cambridge Company”. Set in Britain, the book will begin from where the characters in “Poona Company” left off.

His first collection of stories “East End at Your Feet” was published in 1977. His books include “Come to Mecca” (1978), “Run” (2002), and the Whitebread award winning novel “Bombay Duck”.

Dhondy was the screenplay writer for movies like “Split Wide Open” (1999) and “The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey”. He also wrote the script for the play “Karna: Warrior of the Sun” in 2008.

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