Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Two recent book reviews for Sunday Deccan Herald

This is the second time that I  have reviewed a Shobhan Bantwal book. The Unexpected Son was released in in India in August 2013.

Here is my review  :


And here is Shobhan Bantwal's  homepage:  http://www.shobhanbantwal.com/

The prolific  Canadian writer Margaret Atwood has recently come out with 'Maddaddam', the third and final installment of her science fiction trilogy.

More about the book and its predecessors, here :  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MaddAddam

And here is my review of Maddaddam :  http://www.deccanherald.com/content/367973/apocalypse-amp-after.html

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Book Review of Jump Cut

Jump Cut
Krishna Shastri Devulapalli
Harper Collins Publishers India
Pages: 293
Price: Rs.299/-


The  link above leads to my  review in the New Indian Express.It is a slightly shorter version of the original piece   -- which I am sharing here, below, on my blog.

                              Ray Raman and Friends (to say nothing of Dog Raj)

With apologies to Jerome K Jerome (author of a comic classic) and Krishna Shastri Devulapalli (Chennai-based author of his second book Jump Cut), -- the title of this review is my own contributory header to a book that  has charmed me as much as KSD’s first (the hilarious Ice Boys in Bell Bottoms, 2011).

 Set in India’s bustling Tamil film industry, Jump Cut is ironically reminiscent of a favourite film, Khosla ka Ghosla (a 2006 Hindi film comedy on real-estate scamming). Both relate tales of exploiters getting their comeuppance, sport an irreverent air, and speak up for the underdog.

 In main Jump Cut (a film-editing term) is a seriocomic credit-heist caper dealing with the familiar subject of credit-theft in our various film-industry ‘woods’. Plenty of mediaspace has been devoted to the perennial problem of intellectual property rights violations, and stealing sans compensation. But whilst the thieves win mostly, occasionally a Ram Sampath wins too – and here, in fiction, a son avenges his cheated father.

And so you have the tale of the US-based Ray (full name Satyajit Ray Raman, son of film- scriptwriter and veteran cineaste Raman), in India to attend on his hospitalized dad. Post-funeral, Ray discovers that professional heartbreak is the root cause of his father’s untimely heart-attack and quick demise. Raman’s diaries, scripts and conscientious associates reveal to the son, the father’s unhappy and unsuccessful professional life.

The villain is revealed soon enough – Raman’s associate-employer Rajarajan, the non-entity turned hugely successful writer-director. Ray soon   becomes aware of the perfidy his film buff  father was subjected to, the numerous ideas and scripts stolen without a thought. After an initial attempt to appeal to Rajarajan’s non-existent conscience, Ray employs the help of friends and sympathetic helpmeets (including Raman’s dog Dog Raj, so named since ‘anyone who is anyone in Tamil films is a Raj’) -- and thus begins a bizarre revenge-revel, that’s enjoyable to read even as one wonders whether such an elaborate prank could actually be pulled off. Incidentally, the book is a visual read, much like a film script.

Ray’s first meeting with the loathsome but savvy Rajarajan is a scene straight out of a satirical film on the movie industry. A tad exaggerated maybe, but effective enough. One begins to root for Ray and read on to understand how the impossible is achieved, how an ordinary man (with a little help from friends, faithful workers and said dog) is able to turn the tables on somebody who seems infallible and untouchable despite being a crook.

The novel plots and zips along to a satisfying ‘gotcha’ culmination. Concurrently, there are passing hilarious asides on the local film scenario –‘first-name-only demigods’ uniquely southern, the politico-cinema world of TN, language chauvinism and attendant hypocrisies….thus you have the fictional Tamil lyricist Chentamizh Chelvan (native of Tadepalligudem, AP).

There's a  bit of magic realism mixed up  with all the filmi shenanigans and revenge-plans. The late father makes sudden appearances.... a few instances seem inexplicable, while one early incident has a hilarious explanation.

  A rich cast of characters (including some quirky and liberated Chennai-ites) livens up the book -- but changing adaptable Chennai is an important character too. ‘The city had grown aimlessly, bringing white-collar folk to shirtless areas’.

 Locals rule with their unapologetically expressed Tamil slang.  An auto driver expects ‘untime’ extra fare for a midnight ride. 
KSD’s language often delights: ‘The car let out a smoker’s cough and died.’

Ultimately, there is satisfying closure; in love too.

An empathetic, insightful, fun read, Jump Cut works. And if you enjoy  watching films and reading film related writing, do give this book a chance.