Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Review: Basic Law by J Sydney Jones

Cold war is just over. Expat American journalist Sam Kramer, stationed in Vienna arrives for his ex-girlfriend Reneta Muller's funeral. Police is certain Reni's death is a suicide. Sam is named in her will as her literary executer. He suspects foul play when the manuscript of her memoir, which the publisher claims is a political time bomb is nowhere to be found.

His investigation to find out the memoir and eventually unveil the mystery of the death takes him to the center of a whirlpool of conspiracies involving politicians, Neo-Nazis, business men and corrupt policemen. The only key to get himself out is in their shared past.

Basic Law written by J Sydney Jones is a decent historical mystery set in post-cold war Vienna. It is an engrossing read with lots of twists and turns in its plot. The suspence is well guarded. Sam Kramer, the protagonist is a well sketched character. The writer does a commendable job in building up the atmosphere. It contributed a lot to the reading experience.

I felt at some point towards the end, that the narrative was meandering a bit. It seems the author got carried away while writing about a journey that the protagonist undertakes in the novel. Though well written, I feel it failed to do justice to the otherwise fast pace. But otherwise Basic Law is a good thriller, well worthy of the time spent reading it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

100 Days of Love...

100 never-ending, over long, tiring, immensely boring, overstretched days of unimpressive, cliche ridden, overtly melodramatic, nausea inducing, terribly artless, uninspiringly acted, unimaginatively scripted, cluelessly directed, horribly messy, totally creepy, repetitive, inconsistent, snail-paced, sloppy, mushy, cheesy, cringe worthy, love.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

HiFi in Bollywood: On Realizing Dreams

I had loved Rishi Vohra's previous book, Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai, which was an easy read, with its story set on the railway tracks of suburban Mumbai. Naturally I was delighted when he was good enough to send me a review copy of his next one, titled HiFi in Bollywood. As the name indicates, the plot of this novel is set in the big, bad world of Hindi movies- Bollywood, or as the author prefers, HiFi, short for Hindi Film Industry. That I believe explains the title.

Hindi Film Industry based in Mumbai is the stuff dreams are made of, good dreams and nightmares alike. From decades, several aspirants have appeared in Mumbai, seeking the glitz and glamour of HiFi, from around the world. A few went on to become legends, some settled for less glamorous careers within the industry, many found alternative livelihoods in the city and lot of persons were lost in the torrent of life without realizing their dreams. HiFi has told many stories through the dazzling movies that it churned out, but the untold human interest stories that it contains within itself is numerous. Rishi Vohra tries to tell one such story, one that is partly based on his life within HiFi, with much passion and enthusiasm. 

HiFi in Bollywood is the tale of Rayhan Arora, whose dominant father pressures him to pursue a financial career in USA and to marry Vanitha, a medical student there. Rayhan, who is brought up on a diet of Hindi masala movies has a dream of becoming a director. Skipping the meeting arranged by his father with his prospective bride, he return to India and becomes an Assistant Director in Bollywood. He does this secretly without informing his strict father. HiFi in Bollywood follows Rayhan through his life in Mumbai, trying to realize his dream of becoming a Director of movies. On the way, we are acquainted with a bunch of colorful characters, who plays their role in Rayhan's path to self-discovery. 

I should really appreciate the cover design that gives the reader a clear picture of what to expect inside it. The pastel colors and the illustration of busy Mumbai street is apt for the novel. I am happy that Vohra has improved tremendously from his debut novel. The prose is much more polished, the narrative is crispier and characterization is believable and natural. It is evident that the novelist knows the inside of the world of HiFi and that comfort level shows in the result. The reader gets a peek into the psychs of stars, directors, producers and aspirants of HiFi. Author touches so many aspects of life in Mumbai, but like a master juggler manages to assemble them seamlessly into the main plot. I also loved that the writer withholds himself from being judgmental about the whole thing and abstain himself from over-sentimentality that usually plagues such plots. 

HiFi in Bollywood is an interesting, feel good novel. It succeeds in telling a simple story about realizing one's dreams against odds. 

...And as a bonus, it has a cameo by Salman Khan, if that interests you!

Book Source: Author

Friday, March 13, 2015

If Intentions Could Make Classics...

This review of three books are pending from some time. I received them at least a month back, after replying to the mail from Mr Santosh Avvannavar, requesting an objective review. All three are very short reads, the longest one falling short of 130 pages. My first impulse was to go for three consecutive review posts, one for each book. But after reading all three, I felt it would be well to make a single post. All three books has many similar characteristics, that even if one combine the three into one book, the effect will be much the same.

I would begin with the best of the three. Black, Grey and White has an intriguing title and a pretty great cover. The book, co-written by Santosh Avvannavar and Santosh I Biradar, claims to be written for the purpose of spreading awareness on AIDS, thereby creating an opportunity for public to unite in fighting against it. The title alludes to three ages of human life- young, middle and old, and that nobody is spared by this menace. The book contains five fictional stories, the base of which are obviously true accounts. The first story Shahid- The Martyr, is about the spread of myths and superstitions in society related to curing of AIDS and how innocents fall prey for it. The second story Chintu; The Earth Is Round is about the plight of innocent orphan kids affected by AIDS, due to their parents and the outlook of society towards them. A Game of Life, Lust and Death is about a model who uses her disease to exact revenge on the sex racket who spoiled her sister. Highway Sex a story about rampant spread of AIDS through highway drivers and the effect on their families. Last story Abram & His Prodigal Son is a take on the biblical story into modern times.

The second book Title is Untitled, co-authored by Santosh Avvannavar, Kundan Srivastava and Raghunath Babu Are, takes on some important social issues plaguing our society- rape, trafficking, child marriage and such. The unusual title of the book has a reason- it points out how the victims always lose their titles and eventually becomes untitled entities. Compared to the first book, the premise of the stories and their tone has good variation in this volume. It has eleven stories, each one pinpointing one social evil. Each of the stories work as case studies and provides some insight for the reader.

Third book Surrogate Author, co-authored by Santosh Avvannavar and Shilpa Patil, is intended as a satire. It is a parody of the classic romance Devdas. It is the story of Authdas, an aspiring writer struggling to complete his first book Paru. His failure, caused due to the pressure for pursuing a career in Engineering, exerted by his parents,
results in heartbreak and his meeting with poet- prostitute Chandramukhi. Surrogate Author is thankfully a very short book, just 30 pages, though even in its shortness it is drag. It terribly fails to convey anything worthy to the readers who invests their time on it and in turn adds to their confusion.

I liked the first two books for their intention- a very noble one indeed, of making readers aware of several evils in society. But in general, I feel they deserved much better writing. I am afraid to say that I did not like the playbook like conversational structure in them that fails totally in building premise and character to stories. A regular story structure could be much more effective, as is seen in the story about Chintu. Severe grammatical and spelling errors hampers the reading pleasure. Also playing spoilsport is several repetitions- of words, phrases, total sentences and even situations in the narratives. These books are to be edited seriously..!

I appreciate the intention behind the books- it is a commendable effort. But for it to be effective and worthwhile, I feel some serious correction work is due. Because only good intentions never make classics.