Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Girls of Mumbaistan - Piyush Jha

Three thrilling novellas of love and revenge. They are thrilling alright. Piyush maintains a hectic pace, keeps you guessing till the end and leads you on a Bendesque ride through his dear Mumbai.

The first novella, 'The Simple Girl' is naturally about a simple girl who (as simple girls do) finds herself in a situation where she needs a lot of money to get her husband treated. She gets a mysterious call and an offer to earn the money- provided she does something she should not do. She takes the offer and expectedly lands in a whole bunch of trouble. How the simple girl unravels a complex modus operandi where gullible girls like her are cheated makes for a rapid page-turning experience.

'Maid for Murder' is about a maid, a sick husband and a well-off couple who are on the verge of splitting up on not-too-happy terms. The man, a highly paid executive, is smart, the woman, his live-in, equally so, and the stakes are high. The maid finds herself caught in a delicate position - one that even a street smart operator like her cannot anticipate.

'Inspector Hijra' introduces a new character, perhaps a first in IWE, an Inspector hijra (there have been several villains as hijras, so this is a first I should think). The transgender Inspector finds a hot case landing in her lap and she trusts her gut to follow it up in the way she knows instead of waiting to go through the official process. It's a tough call, an edgy time, and we don't know if her high-risk gamble pays off or spells doom.

Piyush is an accomplished man - he directed films like 'Chalo America', 'King of Bollywood' and 'Sikandar'. He has written crime-fiction novels like 'Mumbaistan', 'Compass Box Killer', 'Anti Social Network' and 'Raakshas: India's No 1 Serial Killer'.

I liked the way Piyush kept the chapters short, the narrative tight and really took page-turning to a new level. I liked his acknowledgement of the women of Mumbai and the Hijra community - typical of Piyush - who has deep convictions of the right sort and speaks up for them. There's not an extra word and no indulgent flab in the book; the story surges ahead into rapid twists and turns until it meets a quick, unexpected end. Good stuff Piyush.

Highly talented, with many facets to him, there's a lot more to come from him for sure.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Jojo Rabbit - Movie

Back humour. Kind I like.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Parasite - Movie

A down and out family gets an opportunity to get out of their poverty - the young son gets work as a tutor in a rich man's house and earn some money. He introduces his sister as an art therapist to the rich man's young son. Then the father as a chauffeur and finally the mother as a housekeeper. They all behave as if they are unrelated. On the day the family goes out for a camping trip to celebrate the young son's birthday, the family celebrates at the rich man's house. Until the bell rings.


Once Upon a time in Hollywood - Movie

Quentin Tarantino. Leonardo DiCaprio. Brad Pitt. Hollywood backdrop in the late 1960s. Charles Manson. Murder and mayhem. The real life story of Charles Manson is crazy.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

All the Lives We Never Lived - Anuradha Roy

It's a highly acclaimed book and won many awards and much praise. The story is about Myshkin, named after the character in Dostoevsky's 'Idiot', whose free-spirited mother Gayatri or Gay runs away with another man, a free-spirited painter Mr Walter Spies, a German who relocates to Bali and paints. Now Walter Spies apparently is a real-life character who dies in a shipwreck. The book takes off at a fictitious point where Walter comes to India and meets Gay and influences her enough to run away with him and his friend Beryl de Zoete. Gay leaves her rather rigid, narrow-minded husband Nek Chand and her ten-year-old son Myshkin and flies away. She actually plans to leave with Myshkin but he gets late from school so she leaves without him.

The writing is perfect but I have problems with human behaviour. Why, if she loved Myshkin so much, did she leave him behind? What exactly is the relationship between her and Spies and de Zoete? What is Myshkin thinking - he seems to take her disappearance quite casually except for writing letters? More than the letters he receives from his mother, Myshkin unearths a bunch of letters written by his mother to her friend Lisa McNally where she explains her life in Bali, how she is making progress as a painter, how Spies is arrested and each letter ending with her love for Myshkin. She actually sets out to meet Myshkin finally and no one knows what happened to her after. Myshkin meanwhile has become a passionate horticulturist, fighting to save trees in Delhi.

Dada was an interesting character. Nek Chand too. Gay is free-spirited but what she looks for I am not sure of - love from Spies, freedom from Nek Chand. Somehow Gay never came across as a gay person to me. Myshkin is rather sad as one would expect him to be. Spies seemed like a happy character.