Published: Verve Magazine, May 2014
Photograph by Manpreet Singh
She is as vibrant as her novels, and as sharp as her characters. Anuja Chauhan remains unaffected at the best of times
“I identify with every character I write, not just the girls. The heroes, the villains, the sleazy people. They’re all culled from people I know, have observed and am fond of.”
It is as if 43-year-old Anuja Chauhan has come of age early, while retaining a level of humour, innocence and vivacity about her, with her trademark witticism. Growing up, she thought being a Rajput and an army kid was the best thing in the world to be. “It was a big part of my identity and thinking. It still is, though I now realise there is a difference between being foolhardy and being brave, and that in an increasingly shrinking world, the concepts of ‘country’ and ‘nationality’ are rather overrated.”
She ended up in advertising after she read a book her husband (then boyfriend) gave her. Finding it interesting, she did the rounds of the Delhi agencies and took some copy tests. “Getting a job as a copywriter is the easiest thing in the world. Keeping
that job is another thing entirely!” She worked in the ad agency, JWT India, for over 17 years, eventually becoming vice president and executive creative director, before resigning in 2010 to pursue a full-time literary career. Over the years she worked with brands like Pepsi, Kurkure, Mountain Dew and Nokia, creating Pepsi’s Nothing official about it campaign and advertising slogans such as Pepsi’s Yeh Dil Maange More and Oye Bubbly, and Darr ke Aagey Jeet Hai for Mountain Dew. She believes that the biggest milestone for her was growing up, learning teamwork, mentoring and learning to listen.
Now she’s the best-selling author of three literary fiction novels. “Copywriting
is telling somebody else’s story. Essentially, I felt like I wanted to stretch out and write my own stories.” She started writing her first novel, The Zoya Factor, in her spare time while still working. The novel was originally optioned for a film by Red Chillies Entertainment and then resold to Pooja Shetty Deora’s Walkwater Films. The film rights to her second novel, The Battle for Bittora, are with Anil Kapoor Film Company, as she herself moves into writing screenplays for cinema. “Again, it happened very naturally. Filmmakers approached me for the movie rights
to my books – so I sold them, and then people who I couldn’t sell them to, said, ‘Write us a screenplay instead’. So I wrote. But again, it’s a collaborative process. Writing books is still the best thing. You have total control there.”
Married to television presenter and producer, Niret Alva, with three children, Anuja Chauhan has a full life. “Well, the babies are all personal milestones. Their births, the times they’ve done well, the times they’ve gotten ill. Those are the times one grows as a person, learns patience, discipline and humility and gets spiritual.” Her wish for the future is simple: “I just want my children to be healthy and happy and self-sufficient. And I want to spend quality time with my husband.”
Her style quotient consists of three things: comfort, colour and individuality. “My mum had this one jadau sone-ka-haar, which got cut up into four pieces as all her daughters wanted it. I love my bit of it.” Dressing up is wearing a sari. “Or simple clothes and big earrings and lashings of kohl and lipstick.” Inspirations are “all the
people I meet and the conversations I overhear (shamelessly!)” and success is nothing more or less than “peace of mind”.