Khushboo Ranka

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year and six months

Historically, the origin of pulp fiction in India can be traced back to the Urdu magazine, Jasoosi Panja, published in Allahabad during the 1950s. Khushboo Ranka’s documentary, Guns and Bosoms, focuses on Hindi pulp fiction, which began a few years later. It will trace the journey of a writer through the system that enables the publishing and distribution of pulp fiction, illustrating, in the process, the milieu and travails of the world that produces such ‘low art’. Khusboo is approaching the film through an exploration of the interplay of processes that chronologically form the workflow of the pulp fiction industry. The documentary will follow the entire process of creating pulp fiction, starting from the writing processes of two writers in two cities (Delhi and Meerut), delving into their struggles of making creative choices for the heroes and villains; to the publisher giving directions for suggestive cover designs; to machines printing the books; and finally the vendors receiving their copies at shabby stalls and footpaths.           

With the arrival of television, pulp fiction received a serious blow that was as sudden as it was unanticipated.  As the industry started to wind down, the writers and their creations steadily evaporated from print as well as from the memories of people.  Even the holy trinity of pulp fiction, Pathak, Nanda and Ved Prakash, couldn't salvage it. Since the regional channels and social media have in many ways replaced the need for pulp fiction, the industry and the indigenous cultural nuances associated with the genre are placed at a critical juncture. The very attempt of this film will be to depict this very particular moment – an equanimous industry in continuous transition and the existential drama of those who occupy it. The city will play a very significant role in the film. 

Khushboo has been able to speak to very few pulp fiction writers up to this point. To her surprise, the insecurity felt by the writers of getting exposed, and the fear of the publishers of their writers being poached by rival publishing houses, have acted as hurdles. They even suspected her of posing as a filmmaker to get contacts of writers. So while Khushboo has been able to obtain verbal constent from Ved Prakash Sharma and his son to appear in the film, it has been very difficult for her and her research team to establish contacts with new writers. Khushboo is now trying to obtain more contacts with lesser known writers who are struggling to make a mark in the world of pulp fiction. Khusboo has already identified the locations and begun shooting for the film with few of the writers that she has met.

The outcome of this project will be a ‘transmedia interactive documentary’ film. In transmedia storytelling various elements of the narrative in multiple media formats is provided to the viewer through a website, with each element making distinctive contributions to a viewer's understanding of the story. It thus creates multiple entry and exit points in the story for the viewer to experiment with. While this form of documentary is new in India, it will also allow for wider viewing and distribution. The film is co-funded by Recylewala Films Pvt. LTD, Mumbai.