By Vishal Gulati
Manali, Sep 5 (IANS) Senior journalist Aditya Kants crime thriller novel ‘High on Kasol’, which uncovers the controversial subject of the mysterious disappearance of foreigners and the changing trends of drug trafficking and consumption in Himachal Pradeshs picturesque Kullu Valley, has created a buzz in Bollywood.
Several celebrities, including leading actress Kangana Ranaut, have expressed curiosity and praised the content of Kant’s debut novel, which has figured amongst the top new hot releases amongst the Indian writers at Amazon.
In her message to the author, which went viral on social media, ‘Dhaakad’ girl Kangana Ranaut mentioned that the idea of the mystery in the backdrop of Kasol was not only unique but also looked exciting.
The whodunnit mystery, which is written in the backdrop of Kasol — a small town on the Parvati river that has gained notoriety with ‘easy availability of drugs and rave parties’ and is dubbed as a Mini Israel — has already figured amongst the top hot releases in the Indian writing category at Amazon, soon after it went live for sale last month.
Admiring the author and his work, the leading actress of critically acclaimed movie ‘Lunchbox’ and Akshay Kumar starrer ‘Airlift’, Nimrat Kaur too acknowledged that ‘High on Kasol’ had great potential.
The unputdownable suspense thriller has also generated curiosity among the leading actors from TV and OTT platforms.
Famous TV and Bollywood actor Namit Das of ‘Sumit Sambhal Lega’ fame said, “I found the book very interesting as it deals with the conflicts which locals face with the outsiders and most importantly the drug problem the youth is facing in that area ( Kullu Valley).”
‘High on Kasol’ is a murder mystery in which the story unfolds with the mysterious disappearance of an Israeli woman, who gets entrapped in a web of the drug syndicate in the valley.
The crime thriller also delves into various reasons which could have led to the disappearance of foreigners from the valley. More than 20 foreigners have gone missing from the valley in the last as many years.
Actor Sumit Vyas, who was hooked to the racy plot of the novel, said, “The novel looks very exciting and unique and makes a fantastic read.”
Vyas, who has carved a niche for himself through supporting roles in ‘Veere Di Wedding’ and ‘English Vinglish’ predicted that the book would do well as it would draw a huge readership.
About the novel’s catchy title, ‘High on Kasol’, Chandigarh-based journalist Aditya Kant explains to IANS, “It is a play on the traditional agriculture of psychedelic plants in the far-flung areas of small hamlets in the Himalayas, and the cruel aberrations in its trade.”
“It takes you to the Magic Valley and the cannabis fields which have been famous for world class Magic cream or Malana cream.”
Popular TV actress Aalisha Panwar, who shot to fame with the crime thriller, ‘Ishq Mein Marjawan’, on COLOR TV and found herself hooked to the novel, said, “It’s an amazing story as far I have read it. The murder mystery in the backdrop of hills and the issue of drugs makes it an interesting read.”
The unique plot and its backdrop have caught the attention of some Bollywood producers as well.
Karuna Badwal, Producer, Red Chillies and Business Manager to Shah Rukh Khan, who was amongst the first few to have gone through the suspense thriller, while giving kudos to the debutant author in her tweet, said the book was a must-read for the lovers of a crime thriller.
The co-producer of super hits like ‘Chennai Express’ and ‘Happy New Year’ opined that the racy plot of ‘High on Kasol’ with a vivid description of cannabis fields in the mysterious Magic valley had all the ingredients one looks for adaptation into a motion picture or a web series.
‘High on Kasol’ has earlier drawn accolades from dignitaries as well, when it was unveiled more than a month ago.
The Governors of Punjab, Gujarat, and Himachal Pradesh, who released the novel in their respective states last month, have praised the author for the book which they acknowledged has a strong social message.
Former state Director General of Police I.D. Bhandari, who carried out extensive operations in and around the Magic Valley in 2012, told IANS the prime reason for the disappearance of foreigners has always been their tendency to venture out on unexplored and dangerous treks, which are surrounded with tough terrain and wildlife.
“It becomes more dangerous for those who are venturing out under the influence of drugs,” he said.
According to Bhandari, the illegal trade in which synthetic drugs are now being supplied and consumed by the youth has become a cause of concern.
“These new drugs are easy to carry and easy to hide. The nexus between the foreigners and locals has protection from some influential people, a cause of worry. In fact, there is a need for a holistic approach and a well thought out sustainable campaign to curb the menace in the valley,” said Bhandari.
According to police, over 60 per cent of the poppy and cannabis produced in Himachal Pradesh is smuggled to countries such as Israel, Italy, Holland and other European countries. The rest finds its way to Nepal or Indian states like Goa, Punjab and Delhi.
They say cannabis and poppy (opium) plants are grown illegally on vast tracts of land in Kullu, Mandi, Shimla and Chamba districts. Records show that 50,000 acres in Kullu Valley alone is under cannabis cultivation.
The Kullu and Parvati valleys are heavily populated by foreign tourists, largely Israelis, not all of them fascinated by the serenity of the mountains. Some never return, they either disappear or marry local women or are later found to be involved in drug trafficking in connivance with local and international drug smugglers.
Some foreigners died of drug overdose, while others lost their lives while trekking and their deaths often go unreported, admitted a senior police official.
Nestled in the peaks of the Himalayas, the mysterious village of Malana — accessible by four hours of trekking from the motorable village of Jari that lies at the bottom of the Parvati valley — has long been notorious for cultivating the famed Malana cream hashish, a purified resinous extract of cannabis.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Vishal Gulati