Winning a Mills and Boon contest means our senior correspondent may write a novel in the series, says Poorva Rajaram
DURING HER DAY JOB, SHE grills those eating popcorn at prize fights or hunts for leads on Aditya Thackeray’s doings, but Aastha Atray Banan, senior correspondent at TEHELKA, has found a way to dispel the morbidity of a battered world: she is going to write a Mills and Boon. Her short story, The Poor Rich Girl and the Man with the Menacing Grin (the title is a homage to Stieg Larsson), was chosen by Mills and Boon India as the winner of their online competition ‘Passions: Aspiring Author Auditions’. Her story follows Amrita, an heiress who falls for the hunky Mehtab — a managing director in her father’s company. Mills and Boon novels are adhesively hitched to Indian middle-class reading habits and Aastha says she didn’t have to look far for the scrumptious Mills and Boon recipe. “If you have grown up on Bollywood, you know the formula,” she says. Last year, Milan Vohra’s The Love Asana inaugurated Mills and Boon’s India collection. The company, which is three years old in India, sifted through 700 entries to shortlist five. Then, an online vote was conducted and the top three candidates were invited to an announcement ceremony on 17 February in Mumbai. “Chick-lit is quite unexplored in India. As a writer, you might realise Mills and Boon is more your genre than Philip Roth. Journalists often fall prey to prescriptive notions of what we ‘should’ be reading or writing,” says Aastha.