The first one on Amazon’s list of best-selling horror novels is a Malayalam book – ‘Ouija Board’, followed by Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, and Stephen King’s The Shining. The writer, 24-year-old Akhil P. Dharmajan, is spellbound by the reception, five-star ratings and positive comments.
“I am in a trance; everything feels very surreal,” he says with a chuckle. Only two weeks ago did director Jude Anthany Joseph approach Akhil and buy the rights for a big screen adaptation of ‘Ouija Board’.
The novel, with 37 parts and 16 twists, first appeared in the Facebook page Katha, created by Akhil himself to post his ‘scribbles’. In no time, he had a reader’s circle, who, with bated breath, waited for each part.
“That my writing had many admirers was inspiring and fuelled my literary passion. The readers waited for each part and their responses were very encouraging. The most touching act was their crowdfunding initiative to help me publish my writings as a book,” he recalls.
Though Akhil had written the novel two years ago, a publishing house cheated him and finally, with the help of the Rs. 40,000 his readers donated, he published it under his own firm Katha Publishing House. The first copy was sent to Benyamin, his favourite writer. When Akhil’s novel came out, the most surprised were his parents — Dharmajan and Maheshwari, who had no idea about their son’s talent. Akhil explains, “I had been writing in secret since childhood. All I wrote was for my single fan, my classmate Abhijith, since class VII. No one else knew about it. Once, we had to hunt every scrap shop in Pathirappally to locate my handwritten novel, which was sold off along with old books.” While ‘Ouija Board’ is based in his hometown Alappuzha, his next novel ‘Mercury Island’ is set against the backdrop of California.
“It’s about a journey to the notorious Bermuda Triangle. I did a lot of research and it took me seven years to complete the novel,” he reveals, adding that he hasn’t set foot even on an airplane. After securing a diploma in mechanical engineering and a degree in literature, Akhil joined a filmmaking course in Chennai, which unveiled more surprises. His short story ‘Kanniyathra’ was adapted into a feature film by his film institute friend Tamil Deva; the movie – Backseat – will hit the screens next month. He is working on the script of its Malayalam remake. Also in the pipeline are an autobiographical work ‘Chennai Diaries’, part-II of ‘Ouija Board’, a few short stories and film scripts. Akhil is glad to have done his part to inculcate the reading habit in many non-readers. “I am not a good writer; I don’t use flowery phrases. My writings are like a movie compiled into a book. I just let my imagination run wild,” he says....