Anuja Chauhan has scored a sixer with her debut novel, The Zoya Factor, a generous smattering of romance and cricket. She went to school in Meerut, Delhi and Australia and has worked in advertising for over fourteen years. She has created many popular ad campaigns, including 'Nothing Official About it', 'Yeh Dil Maange More' and 'Oye Bubbly' for cola giant Pepsi. She is currently the Executive Creative Director and Vice-President at J Walter Thompson Advertising.
IBNLive: What is the inspiration for The Zoya Factor?
Anuja Chauhan: A sense of escapism was one of the main reasons. There was a strong urge for breaking out. Coming from an advertising background where the use of words is judicious, I wanted to write freely, without any constraints. And I was very clear that I wanted to write a romance. Being a romantic person, I was sure that I would not write a regular boy-meets-girl love story. My love story had to be grand, and it really can’t be grander than the captain of the Indian cricket team.
IBNLive: Who is Nikhil Khoda based on? The resemblance to Dhoni is uncanny…
Anuja Chauhan: Nah (dismisses it completely). Nikhil Khoda is not Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He is, in fact, completely a figment of my imagination. Frankly, I didn’t have anyone in mind while fleshing out his character His character is completely original. Khoda is more like a young, unspoilt Rahul Dravid 10 years back.
IBNLive: Are you a cricket buff?
Anuja Chauhan: No. I am not a jingoistic cricket watcher. I am tuned in only when India is playing.
IBNLive: Then, how did you manage to base your debut novel around cricket?
Anuja Chauhan: In 13 years of advertising, I handled three World Cup campaigns for Pepsi. That gave me enough learning experience about the game. In India, the game commands fanatical respect.
IBNLive: Did you hang out with Dhoni and his boys?
Anuja Chauhan: No, I didn’t hang out with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the team per se. I anyway met Dhoni much later after I had carved Nikhil Khoda in my mind.
IBNLive: Is the Indian Premier League the next big thing?
Anuja Chauhan: Absolutely! Glitz, glamour, energy, TRPs, happy advertisers –IPL is all of this and more entertainment, instant style. Although purists may have problems, it is undeniable that the IPL has changed the course of the game. And made it easier for non-cricketing fans like me to enjoy the game. Whoosh, finished in 3 hours flat!
IBNLive: What next on the cards? Any scripts for Bollywood?
Anuja Chauhan: I can’t reveal much but my next offering is a romance – it’s about a girl in a big bad world. As for Bollywood, not now. I have received a couple of film offers for The Zoya Factor, am yet to finalise.
IBNLive: What is your take on the new genre of chick lit(erature)?
Anuja Chauhan: Frankly, if you ask me, am a little wary of genres and being buttonholed into a particular category. It reduces the scope. But it is good to see so much of energy and a whole breed of young woman writers coming up. Reading has to become a bad habit among the swelling middle-class India. That is the only way we can produce good writing and writers.
IBNLive: What are you reading at the moment?
Anuja Chauhan: Am reading A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth all over again. This is one book which I find completely unputdownable.