A doctor sentenced to life for internet pornography-related crimes has reinvented himself from jail as a prolific writer of pulp fiction.
A little while ago, I was rootling through a pile of books discarded by the literary editor of the magazine where I worked. Amid the dusty necropolis where self-published poetry, obscure sarkari almanacs and desi chick-lit had come to rest, something caught my eye: a cheap paperback entitled Maybach Maiden. Its cover depicted, in deft watercolour strokes, a pink-cheeked sylph wearing a large hat, gold hoop earrings and a pink bustier, her hips frozen mid-sway. Looming above her was a hero with an unruly 1970s Amitabh hairdo, and a rifle resting against his chin, while below her, a swarthy lunkhead glowered, resting a curled fist atop a seemingly copied and pasted yellow Lamborghini Murciélago. I thumbed through some pages. A few lines leapt out: “He patted her inviting glutei…” “Alicia’s brains were as substantial as her tits.” “He was indeed lucky to have found a buxom and dishy babe like her. Her ran his huge paws over her delicious curves and said, ‘Well honey! Don’t take too long…’ ”
I eagerly flipped the book over. Beneath a blurb that described the book as “a riveting adventure drama with a finger chewing climax” was the author’s bio, which read: “Amongst other things, Dr. L. Prakash has been an orthopedic surgeon, a magician, an adventurer, hunter, inventor, scientist, and an industrialist. He is presently serving a life imprisonment in an internet pornography case and scribbles away pages in the Puzhal Prison on the outskirts of Chennai, Tamilnadu, India. He claims to be innocent and […] expects an honorable acquittal from the higher courts […].” The author photo at the corner of the book showed a grinning man with a brushy, black moustache, wavy greying hair, a burgundy shirt, and a polka-dotted blue tie, rakishly askew.
I was intrigued. I’d never seen a pulp novel whose author bio surpassed it in salacious immoderation. The whole thing sounded like one “buxom and dishy” matryoshka doll; art imitating life within life imitating art.
The doll’s obverse – a racy reality that veered thrillingly close to racy pulp fiction – electrified reporters and shocked Chennai residents in December 2001, when Prakash was arrested, and jailed. Overnight, locals, who’d only known him as a successful knee and hip replacement expert and a gregarious fixture at swanky hotel bars, found him frequenting front-page headlines in the form of a metonym of rapidly deepening notoriety: “the L Prakash case.” The “horrific and gruesome details” of the L Prakash case, the police announced, came to light when a young man from Pondicherry filed a complaint in a Chennai police station, stating that he’d been shocked to find that porn videos he’d acted in had surfaced online. The doctor, their dissipated auteur, had promised they wouldn’t.
Prison seems to have only occasioned a change of medium. In the ten years since his arrest, Prakash has written profusely and perennially, knocking out 111 books (“26 million words,” he likes to point out) in various genres, including detective, crime, and legal thrillers, “sensual erotica,” science fiction, (exceedingly) graphic novels, mythological works, and even self-help books. In 2007, G Asokan, a veteran publisher of Tamil pulp, stumbled on his work, found it promising and “something different,” and went on to translate and publish a few. A number of them, including Maybach Maiden, come adorned with deliciously lurid cover art by Tamil pulp legend Shyam. Since then, Prakash has become renowned – both in prison and outside it – for the pulpiest of his crime novels, particularly those that are considered to reflect his lubricious past.
Glimpses into Prakash’s lively past lie on a foundered Tripod site he created in the summer of 2000. Though the site mentions his “lovely wife Latha” and his “little genious (sic) of a 5 year old daughter,” it’s mostly dedicated to chronicling his flashy taste and fast life. He lists the things he loves: “islands, deep sea fishing, jetskiing, speed boating, antiques, cigars, four wheel drives, adventure, photography, computers and lots of reading.” Triple triptychs of yellowing photos show him sporting suspenders and a lavender shirt in his office; striking a jaunty pose next to a black jeep, and then seated inside it; spotted in a sailboat, and then in a speedboat; beaming next to a dead boar, holding a rifle aloft, and finally, leaning back with a contented grin, with an idyllic island view in the background. In each, he wears an identical expression of wide-eyed, self-enamoured delight.