Nikhil Chandwani Image Credit: Nilima Pathak/Gulf News

New Delhi: Nikhil Chandwani has just turned 21 on September 22, but his career graph is an envy of many twice his age! Chandwani has become the youngest Indian to win Conspiracy Novel of the Year award from the American Literary Forum Society, which recognises conspiracy-themed novels. He bagged the prestigious award for his book Coded Conspiracy.

Published by Rectitude Publishing House, it is the story of two Mumbai University undergraduates who like to play pranks, but find themselves as target after they uncover a major scam.

Chandwani’s flight as a poet, led him to write his first novel, I Wrote Your Name In The Sky (2012) at the age of 18. It unleashed his creative talent and his subsequent book of poetry Inked With Love (2012), won the Arab Excel Award in English Literature. He was short-listed for the UK Writers Forum Award for his critically acclaimed book of poems titled Unsung Words (2013).

Being termed as the ‘first literary all-rounder of the world’, Chandwani, who lives in Nagpur in the western state of Maharashtra, has more aces up his sleeve. He has directed travel shows for Discovery Channel. The teenager divulges many more achievements, as he speaks to Gulf News in an exclusive interview.


GULF NEWS: Did thrillers inspire you before you wrote Coded Conspiracy?

NIKHIL CHANDWANI: I loved writing thriller short stories and converted one of those into a full-fledged novel. My favourite thriller writer is nature! And what nature writes and directs cannot match any writer’s imagination and that’s what inspires me.


An engineering student at 18, how did you get into the literary field writing poetry and novels?

I found engineering very boring and during those days wrote my first book I Wrote Your Name In The Sky and luckily Power Publishers from West Bengal published it. Since my mind was set on writing, I neglected my engineering studies and began failing miserably in tests. On the other hand, within six months, my book sold half a million copies. I was in a dilemma, hiding both — poor grades in college and the success of my book, from my parents! But everything came out in the open when an Indian news channel telecast my interview. My parents were surprised as well as excited and supported me wholeheartedly. And that was the end of my career as an engineer.


With four books to your credit, do you feel writing a novel is no rocket science?

Yes, I believe so. Writing is much easier, but finding a publisher and marketing a book is a challenging task. Still, the awards and rewards that came my way helped me a great deal.


How did the transition from writing novels to making documentary films happen?

One day, I got a call from Sumeet Kumar, the CEO of Mystic Wanderer Innovative Media, who is into filmmaking. He said he enjoyed my book and enquired if I would be keen to work as his company’s creative head. I jumped at the offer and went on to work for the Hollywood project Kenya Escape Therapy as documentary writer.


Was this the documentary for which you bagged several awards in 2013?

Yes, it won the American Forum and UK Writers’ Forum awards and was appreciated worldwide. To date, it has won 30 awards and is likely to be long-listed for the Oscars next year. Its sequel Escape from Kenya, which we made this March, also received the French Merchant Forum Award and several nominations in the documentary categories. The story revolves around a rich American businessman, who runs to Kenya, but traversing through forests, ends up getting transformed into a nature and wildlife lover.


How has been the journey from an author to a filmmaker in terms of learning and earning?

My books have not earned as much as films. But I have been fortunate to earn good income by bagging projects from Hollywood and international television channels. In the process, I realised that while writing was an art of capturing beauty on a piece of paper, direction did the same on camera. I wanted to do both. And eventually directed documentaries including, Amazing Amazon, It’s Time for India, We Will Rock You and Happy Jungles in eight countries — India, US, UK, Canada, Germany, Brazil, Nepal and Sri Lanka. All this while, living in forests and showing their natural beauty to the world has been an amazing experience.


Having entered the league of young Indian authors, is there some kind of undue pressure on you, especially since winning the awards?

No, I don’t feel any kind of pressure, as I enjoy my work. In fact, under my company’s banner, I will shortly be co-producing and co-directing a Bollywood film, tentatively called Sundari. The story is based on a real-life incident that took place in West Bengal decades ago. Another Bollywood venture that I will be producing and co-directing is Dark. It’s a crime thriller, along the lines of my novel Coded Conspiracy. Apart from the two Bollywood ventures, I have been involved with Hollywood films: Meet Hyper (released in January), Spider in the Window and Saffron Skies, produced by Mystic Wanderer Innovative Media.


You are only 21, and running your own company?

Yes, I’m CEO of the company Walnut Discoveries. It deals in investments for young talent. I help and scout for energetic people who can keep pace with my work schedules.


What more is on the agenda?

I want to do a lot of hard work for another decade. Thereafter, I would like to retreat to a forest or a beach, live close to nature and write about the soulful transformation that forests and sea can provide to mankind. It is my dream to describe the beauty on paper and celluloid.