Sunday, October 22, 2006

Iss Kahani mein Drama hain, Emotion hain, Tragedy hain...

That's how my bedside table looked for the last 21 days - as I plodded through the book @ 42.9 pages per day. Oh - but that has nothing to do with the pace of the book! Diapers and colic medicine kept me from clocking 300 pages a day! (Yes, a reader has reported completion in 3 days. But the book is not that good either.)
It is a murder mystery, love story, gossip magazine, political thriller, partition saga, bomb chase, social history of India and a Hitchhikers' Guide to Bombay - all at the price of Rs 650 minus 25% Fabmall Book Club discount minus Rs 150 Gift Vouchers minus 82 Reward Points plus Rs 25 delivery charges.
Criminalisation of religion and religionisation of crime are chronicled through the first person account of Ganesh Gaitonde's feud with Suleiman Isa and the third person of Sartaj Singh's trek within the corrupt system.

Without getting into the review which has the risk of having spoilers, let me instead list down the things I liked about the book.

No Italics or Glossary
Apradhi. Bhai. Encounter. MC. BC. G**ndu. Thoko. Bajao. Item. Kholi. Goli. All blend seamlessly into the lingo of the narrative with no apologies to the non-Indian (or for that matter, non-Hindi speaking and non-Bambaiyya) reader.
BTW, how many of you thought goli means bullet? Heh heh...

Film-songs as mood-builders
Kishore. Mukesh. Rafi. All pop up in car stereos, filmy parties, dance bars, in the background, in flashback, in nostalgia and even as examples for bhais trying to tell their shooters on how to woo women!
Gaata rahe mera dil, for example, serves as a leit motif for Sartaj Singh whenever he is happy. Now that I mention it, the film songs and film names are the only italics in the book.

Family Ties
During the story, Vikram Chandra makes passing references to his illustrious extended family. Brother-in-law Vinod Chopra's Parinda is hailed by the dons as 'best police-gangster film ever made'.
When Ganesh Gaitonde makes a film and it is universally panned by the critics, the don soundly abuses all of them - publication by publication. Interestingly, only the India Today critic is identified by female expletives. Apt, considering the film critic for the magazine at that point of time was Vikram's sister, Anupama Chopra! And, she is Vidhu Vinod's wife as well!

Reality + Fiction = Total Masala
Fictional bhais idolise real-life dons. Ganesh Gaitonde is moved by the life-story of Varadarajan Mudaliar. Imaginary locations merge with fictional landscape. Goregaon & Chembur segue into Kailashpada and Gopalmath. Filmi tales abound with directors of both kinds. Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Mahesh Bhatt inspire Manu Tiwari and Johnny Singh.
Vikram Chandra is completely impartial to having set-pieces in his narrative. When he does not have a real-life example, he invents one. And vice versa.

Peekaboo into Glamour Central
What must a Hindi film have to succeed? How do starlets go about organising cosmetic surgery? Do contestants of beauty pageants have to sleep with judges to win? How do dons influence stories of films they finance? Can Hindi cinema do without the mother figure?
Questions of such staggering importance are answered with scholarly research and seriousness. Oh - and the answer to the first question is found on page 643 - "The emotion of Mother India, the scale of Sholay, the speed of Amar Akbar Anthony. That's what we want." Simple, no?

A Requiem for Bombay
The book starts with a Dramatis Personae - but that misses out on the most important character in the novel. The City of Bombay.
Like other players, the city too wins, loses, gets abused, gets raped, fights back, mouths obscenities, kills some of it enemies, gets injured by others - and at the end of it, you don't know whether to feel sorry for them or to feel proud.
Bombay has a natural association with money, glamour and success, to win which it has had to cope with violence, overcrowding and dilapidation - and the entire country is trying to understand whether it is a fair barter or not.
As the blurb says, "To win is to lose everything. And the Game always wins."


The Comic Project said...

Will be reading the book when I visit Bombay next week. Thanks for linking me :-) and I like you a know why? because you didn't spell "loses" as "looses" hehe.

For one of the best descriptions of Bombay EVER, I recommend reading the first 2-3 pages of Shantaram. That guy loved Bombay!

And you have a nice blog too :-)'re on my Diwali bloghop

nilendu said...
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OrangeJammies said...

Have been meaning to read this for a while.. now you've renewed my interest!