Mills & Boon all set for romances in Tamil

Mills & Boon romances are all set to get seriously local. We’re not talking about just Indian authors writing in English, telling jet-setting stories that can be marketed globally. We’re talking about Tamil romances penned by local writers, stories set in Chennai or Coimbatore or Madurai, and sold by magazine vendors at bus stands and railway stations across the State for Rs. 25.

“These will be in the magazine format rather than bound books, similar to the romances by Ramanichandran or Akila Govind,” says Manish Singh, country head, Harlequin Enterprises. “They aim to cater to the masses; people can carry them in their purses and read them on the bus or train.”

The romance giants are, of course, looking to tap a whole new market of readers with this strategy, and according to Singh, Tamil, along with Hindi, was the natural starting point for them.

“We decided to start in Tamil Nadu based on our sales in the region, and because there is already such a large readership for Tamil romances,” he says.

They’ve been testing the waters steadily for the last few months, beginning by translating bestsellers by popular Mills & Boon authors such as Penny Jordan or Carole Mortimer into Tamil and marketing them in low-cost format. “We’ve been releasing two titles a month since July, initially at Rs. 10 each, and later Rs. 25,” says Singh. “This month, we’ve started including translations of short stories by Indian authors — winners of the ‘Passions’ short story writing contest we conduct every December — along with the global title.”

Up next, full novels by our desi Mills & Boons writers such as Shoma Narayanan and Milan Vohra translated into Tamil will hit the shelves. And in the final phase, the actual Tamil romances will be born. “We’re already in discussions with some authors who write for Tamil magazines,” says Singh. “By early next year, we will conduct the ‘Passions’ contest in Tamil to discover and develop new talent.”

Tamil and Hindi romances are merely the start. Marathi is the next language targeted for the Mills & Boon invasion, followed by Malayalam. How will the company’s famous formula of escapist romances with princes and business magnates translate into these languages? Singh doesn’t foresee any difficulties. “At the end of the day, our books are all about comfort and happily-every-after endings,” he says. “We cater to every style of romance; you can always choose what you want.”