Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Trust Me Not - Ankita Verma Datta

Ankita Verma Datta's debut novel 'Trust Me Not' delivers what it promises - a riveting, fast paced political thriller - set in Mumbai. The novel begins in an advertising agency, a familiar setting for Ankita, who has been an ad professional for a decade. Among the other interesting things Ankita does are - curating antique Portugal houses in Goa, hobby breeding exotic Tibetan mastiffs and indulging herself in another love of hers, nature.
Jaico Books, 375 p, Rs. 450
Reeva Rai, the beautiful, spunky protagonist of the novel, is offered a high ranking position in a PR Agency, a spin off of the advertising firm she is part of. She has to handle the political campaign of a major political party JBP, whose top man, Rishi Uttur is on the verge of winning the upcoming elections. She also has to deal with the attractive and dashing Kunaal Kaabi who is rich, handsome, has many skills and businesses, and who is also part of the PR firm, helping the political party gain points with the electorate. On the other side is young Nihaal, the handsome Creative Director of the Advertising Firm and Shalini who has stepped in to help with the PR arm. If working in a high pressure and volatile political environment is tough, things get doubly tougher when two high profile businessmen Thapar and Jaiswal get involved in the game for their own interests. The stakes rise.

Reputation, power, money and real estate are at stake for the bigger players while the smaller pawns have to deal with simpler issues like plain surviving. Some are battling for their lives, some for their homes and some for their love. Equations are made and broken, professional players brought in to gain an advantage and no inch is given easily. There is media capitalising on the situation, NGOs at the forefront and diabolical schemes that go way beyond what might be obvious. Obviously everyone is not what they appear to be and we find several masks falling off, lives being sacrificed until a startling truth is revealed in the end. The pace really picks up as the book draws to a close.

I liked the fact that Ankita set the story in familiar territory - advertising, Mumbai, political arena. She easily and credibly creates a world of high profile, power hungry and rich lives and it is easy to visualise all the settings she sets her story in. There are several twists and turns in the story right till the very end and she leaves it deliciously open ended. The pace is fast, characters credible, setting believable. The book leaves several images in the mind much after you read the book and I as the reader certainly empathised enough with the main characters to root for them. A couple of issues (or rather, one), perhaps deliberately left open by the author, keeping the end she had devised in mind, bothered me, but they are not really relevant as the story ends, in a most unexpected manner.

'Trust Me Not' is a promising debut in an interesting genre, socio-political thrillers, one which Ankita says she will stick to, and one in which not many writers are comfortable. Ankita can write, and undoubtedly will get better and better as she writes more and more books. I would not be too surprised if someone picks up 'Trust Me Not' and makes a movie out of it - there is a lot of action and drama happening to interesting characters. Madhur Bhandarkar for one, whose name appears on the cover with a comment.   

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