Writer Rajesh Kumar has changed. At 67, he’s now on Facebook with over 5,000 friends and answers fan mail on Whatsapp. His crime novels, which were strung like chips packets in front of shops in the 80s, are now available as e-books. But a few minutes into the conversation with him, I realise that he’s the same person I interviewed four years ago at his quaint Coimbatore residence by Marudhamalai. He was in the city for the launch of the e-version of his novel Poovil Seytha Aayutham by NewsHunt.
Clad in the trademark Safari suit of the 80s, he fills me in on what happened over the last few years. “I crossed 1,500 novels long ago,” he begins. “I’ve applied to the Guinness Book of Records and am waiting to hear from them.”
Rajesh Kumar was born in Coimbatore and spent all his life there. He started his career as a school teacher. “But I got bored of teaching the same subject every day,” he says. He then took to selling rubber belts for industries and travelled extensively as a sales executive. But he eventually ended up as a writer, spending 41 years churning out crime novels, popularly known as pulp fiction.
“I restrict myself to writing 10 pages a day now,” he says. “I’m getting old and want to ensure that I start on a new assignment only when I’m done with the one at hand.” Magazines and dailies vie to carry his fiction series. Poovil Seytha Aayutham is one such that ran in women’s magazine Mangayar Malar for a year. The series is a chilling narrative of how a journalist’s life changes dramatically when she unfolds mysterious happenings at a trust that funds an organ donation NGO.
Crime writing has consumed Rajesh Kumar’s life and continues to do so. He spends long hours digging into real-life incidents on the Internet for inspiration. “I now write on sophisticated crimes that could affect us in the future,” he says. “I have to keep myself updated.” His readers range from shepherd boys and serial killers (‘Auto’ Shankar read his novels in prison) to police officers. “Some 20 years ago, a mysterious murder shook Pallavaram. The department couldn’t crack the case,” he recalls. A police officer couriered Rajesh Kumar, a stack of papers containing the case details, convinced that the author could solve it. “I wrote back to him saying that when I write a crime story, I know who the murderer is right at the beginning, unlike in real life,” he smiles. “Some readers assume a writer knows everything.”
Apart from writing for various publications, Rajesh Kumar is now making headway into the film industry. He wrote the story and dialogues for the Sarath Kumar film Sandamarutham and is waiting to hear from Prabhu Deva who has approached producers in Bollywood with the writer’s story on the missing Malaysian aircraft.
His day in Chennai is packed with media interactions and film discussions. But he’s happy in his home by a hill in a city, far from the buzz of cinema. It’s there, inside a room with a desk that overlooks a window, that he’s been writing all these years. The man spends his entire day writing. “I wake up by 7.30 a.m. and walk 10 rounds on my terrace. After breakfast, I sit to write from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. After a nap, I write from 4 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. It’s during this time that I send out my columns and stories through courier to various publications,” he explains. The two hours after 11.30 p.m. are his most precious. He spends them on social media and research online. Despite tweaking his themes to suit the present times, Rajesh Kumar refuses to use the computer to type. He writes by hand, for he feels there’s “current” that flows from mind to paper that’s not there when the keyboard is employed. “We would waste time on commas, full stops and fonts rather than focus on the story,” he feels. “To me, writing on a computer is artificial. There’s no jeevan in it.”
He’s consistently sailed through writer’s blocks, deadlines and reader expectations. How is he able to write so much? “It’s by God’s grace that ideas come to me,” he smiles. “I don’t know how, but when I create a story in my mind and set out to write it, I can see all the characters standing around me.”