Love, desi style

Seller of Mush Andrew J. Go

Seller of Mush Andrew J. Go   | Photo Credit: Photo: AFP

Books Once Mills & Boon brings local writers on board, doe-eyed Indian beauties will lock eyes with the men of their dreams

Smart, savvy, aggressive, alert and experienced. These are adjectives that can apply as much to this publishing house as the dream heroes it has been featuring in its romantic novels for the last 100 years. Harlequin Mills & Boon has its finger as much on the racing pulse of its mounting sales figures as of its passion- tossed heroines. The books smoothly yank women out of their humdrum lives and settings into exotic locales and a world of steelyeyed, macho men.

The publishing house that has succeeded in sweeping millions of readers off their feet is always looking for new conquests. And, it is fresh Indian territory that the giant of romantic fiction is now eyeing with its Harlequin Mills & Boon (India) Pvt. Ltd. The stage is all set for almondeyed desi heroines to swoon under the spell of "dark, handsome" Indian princes and corporate honchos. And, the scenery to shift from the vast Australian outback, Scottish highlands or exotic islands to the deserts of Rajasthan and the teeming Indian metropolises.

What are the strategies outlined by M & B to woo the college girl, the working woman and the homemaker in Indian cities with its new avatar? How successful will the Indian formula be? Will it lead to a dichotomy between the tried and tested ingredients and an alien feel? These questions form part of the telephonic interview with Andrew J. Go, the visiting Indian Operation Head of Mills & Boon in Mumbai.

"Last year, we sold 131 million books, which makes for four books sold every second," he points out. "In India, in less than a year of entering the market, we have registered double digit growth. We have recently launched our "Passions" short story contest to attract aspiring Indian writers."

"The change of location does not matter," says Go. "Whether the setting is Paris, London or New Delhi, the independence, the insecurities, the conflicts and the conflict resolution all make for a successful Mills and Boon novel. Love translates over all languages. What we are looking for are stories with an Indian flavour."

How well do the books do in India? "We have operation in 18 countries," Go explains. "Our first trip to India was in January 2007, and we found the brand equity very powerful. Previously, we were marketing the book from the U.K. The books would come late and would cost up to Rs. 200. The books are now printed here, and sell at Rs. 99. We sell them not only at bookstores but also through magazine- wallahs and retail outlets.

Have not Mills and Boon novels changed dramatically with the accent on sex, sex and more sex - some books seem almost like soft porn? "It depends on what women readers want in these books. Some of our books contain only scenes of couples holding hands and kissing. We have different series and categories such as `Modern', `Romance', `Desire' . And, how do you define `soft porn'?" he counters. "Some of the Hindi music videos, for instance, leave very little to the imagination. Women today are much more independent than in the past, and the books have to take changing cultural and social mores into account."

Have a story to tell?

The “Passion Short Story Writing Contest” will provide aspiring writers a global platform. The entries will be accepted only online. Those willing to participate can log on to > for details.


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