This book review is being written through me at the evil behest of a rogue Martian.
Otherwise Martians be good people, they be. You may understand that these words have been censored out by him, these too and these too……. Focus, you earthling!
Warning : This whole review is a spoiler. Go buy the book and read it first to get the head or tail of this review written by this very incapable earthling. Regards, Martians.
Why I read the book
One fateful day, when I was doubling over in pain due to a kidney stone….I noticed Sorabh Pant’s tweet about Westland Books bestsellers. The agony on my face made way for worry as I realised that the Mayan Apocalypse may not be a rumour afterall; since @hankypanty had tweeted without a tinge of humour, sarcasm or pun! I had realised that it might be a PR kinda thing, ‘cos people do so when they write a book. Had he written a book too? *Lord save us!* I asked him about it, as I saw Martians landing….and in turn, managed the feat of getting
@amisht, @ashwinsanghi and him form a very adorable mutual admiration society. I love that kinda thing! *sniff* Little did I know that I was the target of this sharp marketing strategy devised by the Martians who are outsourced by Ms. Recliws, who has ghost written(no pun intended) The Wednesday Soul. They tactfully bombarded me with pictures and media bits about the book and at a sleepy moment, under the influence of a 400mg Spasmoproxyvon, took over my brain too and made me sign-up at Blogadda for the copy. *I was wearing normal zero glasses then, should’ve worn sunglasses to escape* Over the days, they made me read the book, not once but twice (once with Wren and Martin’s souls) ; bribing and coercing me at times.
* here’s the real reason *
Most of the books I am picking up these days are when I am skeptical about their overnight success or the way the author might have handled the plot. I have been following Sorabh’s tweets for quite some time. He can be very witty at times and sometimes, I do not like his tweets at all. I found myself shaking my head all through the description of the book and thought, it seems whacky,…..but still it might have a Comedy Circus kinda humour maybe. I can’t stand sick jokes in the show. I have high regard for stand-up comedy, but I like them when they are not nasty in an insulting way, each line has an underlying wit to it and most importantly, it is not cheap. This book, written by a stand-up artist, seemed to have some elements which made me skeptical about the praise it was garnering; but at the same time it was not cheap. I could say that without reading by seeing it’s price tag – Rs.250!
Why you should read the book
Okay it’s not cheap. So you can drop that reason. It doesn’t have an emotional touch. The prerequisites are an IQ above 130 and to keep the logical side of that genius brain (yes, I have one of that kind too :P) aside to appreciate the beauty of the writing. So, don’t buy the book. *tap on the head by Martian wielding an electric taser* Err….you should buy the book for it’s humour quotient. You’ll find yourself sucked into the world created by Ms. Recliws…err…Sorabh and not find it out of the blue at all! You’ll fall in love with the lunacy out-folding itself right from the author’s intro, preface to the last page! If you like Govinda movies and Steve Martin movies alike, this one is for you! You’ll meet lotsa celebrities from the geek world, your college idols (Pythagoras, Gauss…. Che Guevara), Attila the Hun(who tries to pass off as Hagar the horrible but fails when he tries to joke using hun err… pun). I read it for Guru Dutt, yes I was one of the disappointed Guru Dutt fans when… *tap on the head again… “No spoilers, earthling”. “Alright, I got a little carried away. Keep the taser away please, I have a review to write”*
Recliws wanted it to be a philosophical title, but Sorabh titled it The Wednesday Soul, to cash in on the hit A Wednesday and the Chicken Soup series which always ends in soul. The cover has been designed by a secret symbologist, so that it has Greek letters hiding in the font of the title. It gives it a Dan Brownish feel. The word Sunglasses is written in different colors to combine sun and glasses which play a major role in the story. There is liberal use of Feng Shui eye symbols to keep it from the evil eyes of self proclaimed critics and book reviewers, but they don’t work on me 😛 I even got this through the Martian standing on my head!
There’s not much of a story…… *looks around with frightened eyes trying to spot any approaching antennae with tasers* The story is a classic romance panning not across years, eras but incarnations after incarnations – the standard Bollywood masala. Nyra dies in a freak accident to discover that there is a world of the dead, where they term us the real ghosts! When she dies, she is denied the right of living happily ever after with the love of her life – the burly hero of the story, who is a classic mysterious lead. What angers her more is that she was a victim of an evil conspiracy by the classic Bollywood villain (who I guess had possessed Ajit, Pran and Prem Chopra during their shoots that led to many masterpieces in the Hindi Cinema). Now this villain, who goes by the name of Kutsa is actually…. *”Alright! Keep that away. Sigh….”*
Anyway, the story is awesome. It has references to history, politics, science, astronomy, and what not! You will read every chapter with delight at finding new laws of the world of death. Two stories run parallel, the live world and the dead world. Some characters move effortlessly from one to another and lead to an awesome finish of the murder mystery. *Keep it consistent Earthling, you said it’s a comedy, then changed to romance and now to murder mystery? Ms. Recliws said it’s about finding your innerself and that Coelho soul searching stuff….I haven’t dared read the book you know…..after seeing your state….*
Nyra, is a no-nonsense urbane vigilante, who roams around like a Ninja avenging the gory crimes against women. She has her flaws too. Like she drinks, and goes out on Delhi roads….alone! She thinks from the heart. She is spunky and does not even heed Gods when it comes to following her instincts. She is err…how shall I put it delicately, a little on the wrong side of normal weight(read fat), but totally in love with herself………that is what I liked.
The hero of the story, Chitr, has a mythological parallel and is very cute as the amnesiac Head of some important department in the world of dead. He is just perfect, if he just didn’t have that paunch. He really needs to lose some weight. Hence, he is a perfect match for Nyra. See the deep thinking?
Kutsa – Now this name really got to me you know! He is a very nasty villain inspiring awe from even the people he tortures. He is the epitome of vileness. One good thing came off it. I was haunted by the name, thinking I had heard it somewhere and then realised that it is very similar to my gotra…..maybe the rishi influenced the ideology of my ancestors and read a lot about my descent and Kutsa rishi, to realise with relief that this is just a work of fiction by the author. He was not like that at all! And I got to know much about my origins too 🙂 Win win 😀
There are so many supporting characters like I said. You’ll recognise some of them instantly from your textbooks, iPod lists, fiction books and if you know some Nobel Prize Winners. I haven’t mentioned any from the parallel story but they are totally ROFL material. A hyper Northeast Indian doctor and a Delhi cop with no sense of grammar or tense priding himself on speaking chaste English, make the parallel leads.
Being a stand-up artist, Sorabh writes like one. Witty, ladden with puns and contextual jokes. I read along swiftly till the first 2-3 chapters appreciating the quirky style, but was immediately held up by typos which keep appearing to the eye which is gifted with spotting “typo- score” like the “eye-score” mentioned in the book. Westland should really have had better editors and diligent proof reading before giving the book to print. This I say because the book is surely on its way to the bestseller list. Urban India has an appetite for books which tickle their grey cells and I give full credit to Sorabh for respecting his readers’ intelligence to digest such a whacky story! All this in a debut novel – which is not his forte – considering he is temporarily retired from scripting TV shows (psst…not getting any writing work or so the grapevine says…. *the Martian was on a tea-break 😉 *)
me likey……..me dislikey 🙂
Thumbs up for the innovative plot, flow of writing and respect for readers. I really felt the editing was lax….I think a book published by Westland should have been a little carefully proofread.
In a nutshell!!!!!!!!!!
Picking this one up is compulsory! Not to flaunt your IQ score, but to enjoy a thought provoking journey to the Universe of the Dead and Alive. You’ll surely come out wiser and happier from it. Also I can use some peers to discuss the amazing conspiracy theories discovered and allusion spotting done by me. In order to convince you that this is not sarcasm and I really liked the book, I give it a rating of 3/5. 🙂
Go read it and come back to the review 🙂 You’ll like it all the more.
Disclaimer : Typos in this post, if any, are purely unintentional. I haven’t got my payment from the Martians yet 😥 Please feel free to point them out, though I won’t correct them….it takes me eons to write a post and will take another era to correct them. Just wear your sunglasses, the typos disappear then 😉
The female of the species is deadlier than the male.
Not dark, a bit gritty and evoking interest without getting judgmental……….. Mafia Queens is a book that strikes a perfect balance between fiction and non-fiction in the art of storytelling.
Why I read the book
This is quite a story. One fine day in 2002, I stumbled on a promo of Black Friday featuring Kay Kay Menon in the Indian Ocean song ‘Bandeh’. Two of my most favorite artists brought together by an eccentric film-maker Anurag Kashyap. I faintly remember trying to get all the information about the movie which was quite a task as Internet was not the phenomenon it is now. I got to know that it is based on the novel Black Friday by a veteran crime journalist S.Hussain Zaidi. Days went by and the movie never came. My dreams of seeing the Kay Kay movie seemed blurred but then out of the blue I got to see it in my engineering days when a heavily edited version was allowed to release. On seeing it, I realized the caution behind allowing its release.
The movie set the ground for my curiosity in the field of using crime reporting as a base for a novel. I wondered how Mr. Zaidi could go story hunting and then name dropping so fearlessly. And then in June this year, one of my reader friends went on raving about the book Mafia Queens. I decided to give reading it a shot although I was pretty skeptical about the treatment of the subject from the title. Just as the title Black Friday made a strong statement condemning the happening and labelling the fateful day as a ‘Black’ page in history, Mafia Queens was a title which seemed to unnecessarily glorify and romanticize the crimes and its femme fatale perpetrators.
When I feel that I disagree with something, I go deep into the matter and then form a definite opinion if any. When Blogadda put up the book for review, I did not miss the chance and signed up immediately.
Why you should read the book
There are many big names associated with the book. It boasts of an elegant following with the prologue written by Vishal Bharadwaj & Vikram Chandra being associated with the discovery phase and the actual drafting of the book. Mr.Zaidi weaves his stories with the utmost sincerity, dropping the names of the who’s who of the Mumbai underworld wherever necessary. The sources are very authentic with some stories like Sapna Didi’s coming straight from the horse’s mouth.
But this is not the reason why you should pick up the book. The above points are just an icing on the cake. If robbed of its starry accolades and relevance to the sensational details pertaining to the Mumbai underworld, it still makes an intriguing read for the audience panning not only India but the world at large. Jane Borges is a surprise package personifying the spunky and young reporter circle in the present day Indian media. I am secretly jealous of her getting to experience and write a work of such calibre at such a young age. The combination of Mr.Zaidi’s experience and Jane’s fresh approach makes Mafia Queen a delightful read.
The book is a collection of short stories from the era when the Mumbai underworld was at the peak of its ill-famed glory. It starts with a reference to Haji Mastan, the oldest recognized Don by the media, film-makers and people alike & ends at the present day gangsters who are a very subdued version of the ganglords who once ruled the crime scene of Mumbai. The interesting part is, they are all side characters to the actual stories which center on their female counterparts. There are 13 stories featuring each of the ‘Queens’ some from different time frames, some overlapping each other’s tenure but showing a common streak of each wanting to be a survivor. They do not want to play the victims of fate even though pushed into taking resource to criminal activities. They all show a common zeal to live life to the fullest, I could almost see a spark in their eyes as I read through the amazingly balanced accounts.
Like I said, the characters though have a common underworld background, show a remarkable variety when it comes to cunning, wit, modus operandi and appearance. Suprisingly characters like Monica Bedi, Tarannum, had no direct connection to actual crimes.The best narrated stories are that of Jenabai(gangster turned freedom fighter), Gangubai(the matriarch of Kamathipura), Sapna Didi(a hapless victim transformed into a femme fatale) and Monica Bedi(a naive girl caught into criminal quagmire by her own foolishness).
Most of the stories draw their plot from facts published in the media and insider info from relatives, informers etc. Most of the readers must have come across them in front page & page 3 news. I liked Jenabai’s cunning and philanthropic traits. I did not find her turning to bootlegging justified at all. Whereas I found Gangubai’s decision of staying back at Kamathipura totally justified. As they say, somebody has to get their hands dirty in order to clean the backyard. She saw to it that the women from Kamathipura are not exploited or maligned by the so called guardians of morality in the society. I found her outspokenness very spunky be it the conversation with Karim Lala or when she asked Jawaharlal Nehru to marry her. Monica Bedi’s story is worthy of a cinematic adaptation.
*Okay spoilers over 🙂 *
One can easily identify the reporter base to the author as each story is narrated with perfect precision and literary aloofness. He has managed to keep his thoughts from mingling in the story, at the same time; evoking a sense of mystical feel to the otherwise drab media articles which state only facts. True stories are very difficult to document as they involve a lot of big names and connections who do not wish to be named. The authors have managed to do so and in turn maintained the credibility of each story. This is by far the best true story accounts I have read after Alive.
me likey……..me dislikey 🙂
I liked both the authors’ courage in sticking to the facts. I liked the way they have shown restraint from sensationalization and exercised due discretion in giving the accounts which concern the personal life of the characters. They could have resorted to ruthless romanticization of the stories in order to catch reader attention by creating controversy. According to me, the book could have been wrapped up with fewer accounts as the stories after Monica Bedi’s seem hurried up and without details.
In a nutshell!!!!!!!!!!
Overall verdict, this book is for film-makers, writers who wish to depict true accounts pertaining to news that have rocked the media for a very long time. The avid reader would like to check out this latest offering from Mr.Zaidi and Jane to enjoy an interesting tour of the dark underbelly of Mumbai.
Hey guys, I am back after a long hiatus. Was caught up in office work.
All credit to Blogadda’s Book Review program which ensured that I post within a week of getting the book.
Why I read the book
I had first heard of Ashwin Sanghi in an article which quoted that the 26/11 Mumbai attacks were eerily similar to the description in Rozabal Line. Also, comparisons to Dan Brown drew my attention to Mr. Sanghi’s work, as I am a sucker for rational interpretation of religious symbolism and rituals. After Rozabal Line, Minissha Lamba’s tweet mentioning Chanakya’s Chant as a good read came along. I am always on the lookout for fast paced political thrillers and here was the one that fitted the bill to a perfect T. I picked it up at the first opportunity I got and battled through my jam packed office routine to finish it within time. (Chanakya niti did help me there 😉 )
Why you should read the book
The story catches the reader’s attention right from the prologue where old Pandit Gangasagar refuses to die before seeing his protegee ascend the ultimate throne in the democratic hierarchy of India.(Yep President as a head of the state is a misnomer) The narration oscillates between 2 eras drawing parallels with the tale of Chanakya in ancient Magadh and Pandit Gangasagar. The resemblance between both is uncanny and keeps the reader turning the pages till the end.
The plot is mainly character driven, with the storyline highlighting events in their lives. A Brahmin called Gangasagar stumbles on an ancient scripture holding the secret to Chanakya’s power while learning wily business tricks from his mentor Agrawalji. Soon the mentee becomes the mentor as Gangasagar shifts his focus from business to politics. He ingeniously creates a party with the help of a local don and a slum-child – and manipulates them both like a master puppeteer,eventually changing the canvass of Indian politics as Chanakya did for independent and cohesive Bharat.
The character etching is so efficient that it almost seems as if Chanakya is reincarnated in the form of Gangasagar in the 20th century.He believes that even to do good through politics, one has to employ dirty methods. His strategy consists of bribing, intimidating, assassinating his opponents without letting on a whiff as to who the perpetrator is. Chandini does justice to a rags to riches heroine, the core of Chanakya’s mystical chant.She is a smug confident lady fully aware of her greater role in Indian politics when she is sent to study in a foreign university. The supporting characters also have parallels in both the tracks and are believably grey in their mindsets.
The author’s writing style is short and crisp. Amazingly that does not compromise with the fluidity of the story – almost as if you are reading a film script. The anecdotal narration style (although some are common knowledge in Indian masses) makes the reader feel as if he is a disciple attending Chanakya’s classes at Takshila.Dialogues dominate the feel of the book. I am thinking of making a compilation of the awesome one-liners by Chanakya and Gangasagar 🙂
me likey……..me dislikey 🙂
What I liked is the seamless merging of the two eras, I still don’t know which one I found more riveting. The landscapes of Kanpur and Magadh are sketched so life-like replete with the aromas dominating the paan shops, halwai dukaans and zhopadpattis! What I did not like is the romaticisation of Chandini’s life – somehow we always expect famous politicos to have an explosive background story – and yes, she is true to that stereotype. I guess it was essential to the plot 🙂
In a nutshell!!!!!!!!!!
Overall verdict, please pick it up anytime – if you are looking for a fast paced thriller, an out of the box Indian fiction,better perspective on Chanakya. You can even pick it up as a study in better business strategy, what people call ‘kootneeti’ while the genius called it ‘Chanakyaneeti’….doesn’t have to be bad always! 😀 Happy reading folks!