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The million rupee book

Vishwas Patil, known historian and famed novelist (Panipat, Zadazadti, remember?), who is currently researching Subhas Chandra Bose's life, has set the Marathi literary scene afire.

With crisp green currency, the like it had never seen before.

Patil has been offered Rs 1 million as royalty for his forthcoming biography on Netaji. The book is expected to be completed within three months.

The author's good fortune has sent the Marathi literary world into a tizzy, siring quite a few discussions and a controversy or two. Top among these is Patil's -- he, till the other book, was a Rajhans (another publishing house) man -- unconfirmed shiftover to Mehta's who made the grant offer.

The criticism is that publishers quote 'vulgar' amounts to attract noted writers... which, of course, is going to have a negative effect on literature.

But the publishers say there is nothing wrong in this -- why not pay a writer well if his books are sure to sell? A million is not too much for a writer of Patil's calibre, they say.

“A 1,000-page book today easily sells at between Rs 400 and Rs 500. Assuming a run of 6,000 to 7,000 copies it will bring in Rs 700,000 to Rs 800,000," says Rajhan's Dilip Majgoanker, "A one-time payment of Rs 1 million is not very unprofessional from the business point of view."

Publishers say that noted writers like Ranjit Desai, Babasaheb Parandare and Shivaji Sawant are already well over the Rs 100,000 royalty mark. Their books sell off the stands like hot cakes and run into many editions -- when the royalty to be paid on each copy is calculated, the amount easily crosses a million. So, they argue, it is cheaper to make a one-time payment.

“Vishwas Patil is a rising star," says Anil Mehta, Patil's might-be new publisher, "If Arundhati Roy can get Rs 30 million, why can’t a Marathi writer make a million or two?"

Mehta feels that he can easily sell 20,000 copies at Rs 200 each. "So it is no big deal paying one million in royalty."

Patil's Bose bio, all publishers agree, will be well worth the money -- the quality of research itself makes it so. He has been working on the project since 1986 and, in his own words, has "spent eight precious years of my youth to research it." Besides the mega project, Patil has translated 22 Bengali books on Bose into Marathi.

The author, for the time being, is keeping a close mouth about his publisher -- whether it will be Mehta or his old favourite Rajhans remains to be seen. But whoever, Patil won't be the loser -- that's for sure.

Compiled by Prasanna D Zore from the Marathi media

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