NAW Interview with Debashish Irengbam

Debashish Irengbam

Debashish Irengbam is a Mumbai based screenwriter. He has written scripts for shows that were aired on MTV and Star TV. Me, Mia, Multiple is his debut work.

NAW- Tell us about your book, Me, Mia and Multiple. How did you get the idea for it?

Well, as the by-line of the book suggests: it’s a “love story with a twist”. In essence, it talks about a unique relationship that develops between a manic depressive guy with suicidal tendencies, and a girl with Multiple Personality disorder … and the chaos that follows.

The idea first struck me when I was pursuing my scriptwriting course from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). But I had deemed it too insane to pursue at the time.

However, around a year and a half back, I was in a pretty down phase, which is when the idea visited me again. I had already attempted four novels before this and given up, so creatively I was in quite an insecure zone

Still, in a moment of madness, I decided to give it a shot, just to see if I could complete it. One line led to another (the book was written over a year between my TV writing deadlines), and much to my surprise, I was able to see it through

NAW-Tell us about the research you carried out for the book.

Well, I went through a lot of medical journals on both people with suicidal tendencies and those with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID – a more common term for Multiple Personality Disorder). My main aim was to make sure that I did justice to both the conditions and not compromise on either of their integrity for the sake of drama.

NAW-When did you decide to become a writer? Any inspirations?

I have always been an avid reader. But the turning point came for me when I read my first Harry Potter book at the age of 14 – the Prisoner Of Azkaban (it was the third in the series and I had just seen the movies till then). The manner in which the narrative, the worlds, and the plot sucked in convinced me that I wanted to do that someday. I didn’t know how, or if I was even capable of it, but I knew I wanted to try. So from that point onwards, I began filling up my father’s work diaries with handwritten short stories, plot ideas, rough chapters etc.

Pretty soon, it became an obsession. I think I must have sent out my first book proposal when I was 15.

Three- four unfinished manuscripts followed after that, until finally, I decided to take a break and pursue my graduate and post-graduate diploma in literature, followed by my screenwriting course at FTII.

NAW- How many relationships have you had? Did you borrow from your own life while writing the book?

Hahah unfortunately, life isn’t quite so dramatic. I must confess I am not a very romantic guy at heart, but yes, you can’t blame me for trying either. As far as the character traits in this book are concerned, I’d have to admit that there are inspirations from certain close people I have observed and who have affected me in many ways. The only issue is that they refuse to be acknowledged for it.

Me, Mia, Multiple

NAW- Tell us about your publishing journey. How did you find your publisher?

Once the manuscript was completed, I said to myself – ‘Now what?’ I know it sounds irrational but the truth is that it stayed dormant in my laptop for a month before I had the courage to think of sending it out. A bit of online research showed me that sending the book directly to publishers was a very long and time-taking journey. So I did an online research on literary agents in India. And that’s when I came across Kanishka Gupta of Writer’s Side Literary Agency.

I mailed the manuscript to him and two other agents. Kanishka got back to me within half an hour of receiving the proposal and told me he was interested and asked me to send him the full manuscript.

Within two days, he called me back again to tell me that he and his team loved the book and they would like to represent it in the market. I was thrilled!

Thus began the pitching session. After two weeks, we had offers from six major publishers for the book. Then, the negotiations started, until finally, we went with HarperCollins India.

NAW-Tell us about your day job?

I am working as a scriptwriter in the films and TV industry. My first feature film script, “Roshan”, which I have co-written with Anshul Vijayvargiya, has been pitched to a couple of major producers, and has received positive responses so far. We are waiting for things to get finalized. Other than that, I have also worked on TV shows like Adaalat, Aahat, Webbed, Gumrah, Dil Dosti Dance, Arjun – to name a few.

NAW- What next after the first book?

My second book, Charlie Next Door, has been commissioned by HarperCollins India too, and will be releasing in April 2016.

NAW-What do you do when you are not writing?

I read a lot, and across different genres. I have a habit of reading multiple books at once. I love watching movies, TV series, and hanging out with friends in general. It’s a pretty regular life that way.

NAW-Name your favourite writers.

J K Rowling (but of course), Lars Kepler , Matthew Quick, Manu Joseph, and Haruki Murakami.

NAW- If not a writer, what would you have been?

A university lecturer, probably. At least, that’s what my mother suggested after I completed my MA.

NAW- Your favourite food?

I love Lebanese and Italian cuisine.

South Indian, closer home.

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