Indian model of love
It's emerging India on the Mills & Boon circuit, what with first writers and now models adorning the cover and content of these ageold romance series. Diehard fan Shalini Saksena brings you a report
‘Get in,’ Vivan barked, vehicles already starting to pile up and honk behind him. There was no option; Pari quickly lowered herself into the plush low seat of the heavenly warm car and its lemony interior.
‘Where to?’ ‘RK Puram. Sector 12, just behind Sangam Cinema, please,’ Pari said, pointedly polite. ‘I hope I am not taking you out of the way.’ Vivan replied with the merest shake of his head as he looked ahead, making Pari all the more aware of his overwhelming masculinity.
His slim hands on the gears and the steering wheel, she couldn’t help but notice, were as large and sensuous as she had thought they would be. His fingers were long and she could imagine them caressing an instrument with masterful ease. The same ease with which they would slowly caress a woman’s body…
Although 45-year-old Milan Vohra’s Love Asana did not go down well with fussy critics who felt that the mount was ‘cringe worthy and unintentionally hilarious’, it worked rather well for the young janta it was actually meant for. Vohra’s effort was meant to expand Mills & Boons base and it scored pretty well in that category. The ‘first-ever-Indian-theme-with-Indian names’ concept sold like hotcakes. In no time, Love Asana was in business and the publishers were well on their way to enhance the desi connect.
It all started with an initiative of Mills and Boon India, way back in 2009. Aptly titled Passions — Aspiring Author Auditions, the publishers zeroed in on India’s very first writer — Vohra, a Bangalore-based mother of three.
Manish Singh, country head Mills and Boon India, is satisfied by the response: “We had a strong conviction that India’s writing talent would churn out books of great quality and so we committed ourselves to promoting aspiring writers through a unique platform, the Passions — Aspiring Author Audition. It ongoing talent hunt gives the writers a chance to fulfill their dream of being authors. We strive to give our readers something new to look forward to,” Singh adds.
The hunt doesn’t stop with writers. M&B India next went on a nationwide hunt for a adorn the cover. “The company organised a contest to choose, for the very first time, Indian faces for M&B covers. The novel titled His Monsoon Wedding by Aastha Atray which hit the Indian market in 2011 had models Rohit Raghav and Saumya on the cover,” Singh tells you.
The models are on cloud nine. Twentyfive-year-old Raghav, who had earlier done some modeling assignments for OCM, Airtel and the Kurkure advertisement with Juhi Chawla, can’t stop thanking sheer luck that he landed this coveted project. “My friend, who was Googling, told me about the contest. I applied and won, it was truly amazing to know that I would be the first Indian face on an M&B. It is something to tell my grandchildren,” Raghav says.
He tells you how the shoot for the cover was a cakewalk for him — he had read M&Bs when he was growing up. His friends would talk about M&Bs which made him curious and he started reading them. However, his leading lady on the cover, Saumya, was not as comfortable. She tells you how nervous she was even though she had had a taste of the glamour world when she was in her teens.
“I had done a few assignments when I was around 14 but nothing very high profile. It was more for fun than anything else. So when I came across the M&B website announcing that it was looking for Indian faces for its cover, I mailed my pictures to them. A couple of months later, I got a call telling me that I had won. It was amazing. My mother, an M&B fan who has been reading these books since teenage, could not believe that I would be on the cover of her favourite series. My father extended his support by coming to the set on Day 1 to wish me luck,” Saumya says.
All her fears notwithstanding, Saumya was happy that the photographer walked her through what was expected. After 10-15 shoots, she began to relax. In fact, she recalled how one particular shot made her laugh so much that it took many re-takes. “In one particular shot, Raghav had to come up from behind and put his hands around me. But every time he moved closer, I would burst out laughing. It was really funny,” Saumya recounts.
The fact that she is on the cover of the world’s best known romantic series fills her with pride and joy. She doesn’t mind becoming some man’s fantasy. On his part, Raghav says, it would be an honour to be any girl’s fantasy. “As long as it doesn’t turn into an obsessive kind of fantasy and I am not stalked, I would love it if I can make them fantasise,” he adds.
Some Indian writers and models later, the M&B company is now all set to make the first global release of Indian author Shoma Narayanan in July 2012. The yet-to-be-titled romance in the yet-to-be-categorised series is to be published simultaneously in North America, the UK and India.
But what was the reason that made the company introduce not just Indian authors but also Indian models? “Mills & Boon has been available in India over the last six decades and has a huge reader-base. Given that most of our authors have been avid M&B readers, it was natural to capitalise on this unique strength and have authors who could infuse their reading passion into characters to spin a story that Indian audiences could relate to. Our endeavour to connect with readers and have Indian models on the cover is a natural move. This is a unique initiative implemented in the country. In many ways, it represents the global appeal Indians enjoy today,” Singh explains.
Atray agrees and says that M&Bs by Indian authors and showcasing Indian models will be an instant hit because the reader is able to connect with the characters. “My book is set in modern Mumbai. Mumbaikars who read it will instantly identify the places and landmarks mentioned in the book. It is this realism that will attract the Indian eyeballs,” Atray says.
A huge fan of Haruki Murakami, an acclaimed fiction and non-fiction writer, Atray, an English Honours student from Miranda House, always wanted to be a writer.
She took to journalism and worked with Tehelka, DNA and Asian Age. In December 2010, when she was working with Open magazine assistant editor, the opportunity to finally realise her dream presented itself.
Let’s hope this Indian tadka is well taken in by readers not just in India but all those TDH obssessors all over the world.