When the banker takes centrestage

Sep 14, 2013, 08:37 IST | Fiona Fernandez

He's been called The John Grisham of Banking by Wall Street Journal and has bagged countless popular book awards for his racy thrillers centred on the wheelings and dealings in the world of investment banking. Ravi Subramanian's latest, Bankerupt, is another insight into this labyrinthine maze of deceit, ethics and relationships, as he reveals in an exclusive interview with Fiona Fernandez

Gun control, Andhra Pradesh, Boston, MIT, Mumbai, Massachusetts -- the lens seems to have widened. What triggered off the plot and thought process for Bankerupt?
My books have centred on financial crime. There is a thrill around it. At some point, I felt I needed to grow as an author and move out of banking -- which is my comfort zone.

I needed to evolve as an author, and secondly, widen my leadership base. Being a genre that one owns, it was risky to leave it entirely; so, you will come across banking but there are twists to the plot. In 2012, I had a chance meeting with a professor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Ravi Subramanian

He spoke about how three factors lead to staff (professor/lecturer) being blacklisted across universities in the US: Stealing from grants, sleeping with students and plagiarism or fudging of research. This was unlike anything that happens in India. Secondly, the gun control issue had increasingly taken over the landscape in the US. These two factors were crucial to Bankerupt’s plot. (The US saw as many as 16 mass shootings in 2012)

Since you were treading onto somewhat new terrain, did the end result please you?
I’ve attempted a huge, complex canvas. However, while the subplots within are intense, the core theme is simple. I’ve looked at relationships and ethics. With this attempt, the intent was to break into international territory, and hence, we worked on two versions 00 we introduced subtle changes to references, to suit the Indian and global market, respectively.

Your style is racy, there are mentions and interludes of current events and your characters are believable; is this a conscious decision?
There are two-three things that creep up unintentionally -- multiple stories are juxtaposed together. This helps, because parts of the story might tend to slow down the reader and by ensuring that the story jumps plot lines, I ensure that the reader doesn’t get bored. I try to build current plot lines in the story, so you will find that I have been inspired from reality with issues like gun control, real-life shootings and the shoe scam finding their way.

Relatability is very high in my novels. Amid this, I’ve ensured that the banking core is intact. There are no superheroes or intelligent detectives in my books. Instead, ordinary people do extraordinary deeds -- they stumble upon clues, are immensely motivated individuals and solve problems on their own. I might reduce the ‘banking’ core in my books at some point but to borrow from the popular adage: ‘You can take Ravi Subramanian out of banking but you can’t take banking out of Ravi Subramanian.’

Your books are bestsellers; have filmmakers approached you so far?
Talks are underway for, If God was a Banker and The Incredible Banker. Personally, I’d prefer if The Bankster was made into a film, because it is the most movie-friendly. With the other two, I am keen to see how they create a similar scenario for a movie that can relate to this kind of story. 

Bankerupt, Ravi Subramanian, Penguin India, Rs 299. Book releases on September 20, 7 pm, Crossword, Kemps Corner.

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