Kanika Dhillon’s debut novel “Bombay Duck is a fish” is partly an autobiographical book on career in film-making. Fast paced novel set in the tinsel town of India – Mumbai – is about dreams and ambition of the film city.
The protagonist of the story “Neki Brar” chucks a cushy corporate job to follow her dream to become a film-maker alike the author of the book. Young ambitious Neki successfully lands in the Assistant Director role to a famous director Fiza but soon discovers the darker side of the film-making. Cruelties of the city and of the profession soon teach her the act of survival and she adopts to the bollywood’s way of moving up the ladder. However, her entanglement with second lead actor, Ranvir, of Fiza’s movie unfolds ugliness of true love, which brings destruction to her life. Kanika cites in the book “Test of true love is to ask oneself if one would happily be destroyed by the other person. If the answer is yes, it’s true love.” Neki’s love for Ranvir destroys her.
Kanika tells the story via filings of Neki in her diary “Nano” in a fashion similar to Annie Frank’s narration via a diary “Kitty” in “Diary of a Young Girl”. The timeframe of the story is less than a year and sometimes the reader might find the pace of the story to be unrealistic. Kanika has effectively used humor in the story and has christened the chapters creatively. The title of the novel derives its name from one of the chapters of the novel where Neki realizes that “Bombay Duck” is a misnomer and “Bombay Duck” is actually a fish. The interspersed allusion to Freudian theories and quotes from novel “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse makes the reading interesting.
Character of Neki is etched well and in parts seems to be heavily drawn from the real life of Kanika who also started out working as an assistant director in bollywood. The characters in the story are young and ambitious and the racy life of the characters presented in the story might connect with many bollywood aspirants. Kanika has been honest to writing and has presented charcters like Aslam, Minty and Ranvir giving a peek into the dark side of film-making.
Language of the book is plain. It sometimes throws film-making jargons like AD (Assistant Director), Vanity Van, location recce etc. but does not really interfere with the reading. One must not read this book for wellspring of information on movie making but for the narration. The book is fast-paced and a seven to eight hour read. The plot is bereft of surprise elements and is predictable; unfortunately the end of the story is a let down.
My verdict – Thumbs Up for narration and recommended for light readers. Must read for bollywood aspirants. A three of out of five to Kanika for the work.
Kate le Vann might just deceive many readers by offering a contemporary romance read under the disguise of a chick-lit cover page of her novel “Things I know about Love”.
Livia, the protagonist of the story – 17 year old Brit girl, has been suffering with Leukemia and is on summer holiday in Princeton when she decides to file her romantic entanglements in a private blog to make observations about love (read Livia’s observation about love in red ink below). In her blog posts, she also reflects upon her past relationships as she tries to understand how to work out love. During the four week break in Princeton she falls for Adam, which becomes the theme of the second half of the book. Livia is a strong teenage girl while Adam is a super-cool boyfriend.
1. People don't always tell you the truth about how they feel
2. Nothing that happens between two people is guaranteed to be private
3. I don't know if you ever get over having your heart broken
The author tells the story via blog posts of Livia and Adam – an out of box stuff. One might take some time to adjust to the format of the book and to the language of the book (words like blimey, sussed, woozy, yowza etc might seem strange to many). The pace of the story is quick but the story has flashes of thought provoking content and hence I am tempted to categorize the novel in the contemporary romance genre rather than in the young adult genre. The quick pace of the story often does not allow reader to connect with the emotions of the characters. The author should have invested a tad more in evolving the characters and emotions.
The story ends abruptly and is heartbreaking. Though a quick read (167 page book which one can easily read in one sitting), it is not completely a light-read as the themes of young love and loss speak to the reader’s heart.
“Ashwin Sanghvi” in his second novel “Chankya’s Chant” has offered his reader two fictional accounts of king-making, which are set in eras, separated by nearly two thousand five hundred years. A common thread of Machiavellian thinking (ends justify the means) runs through the juxtaposed stories in which the protagonist of the stories (Chankya in the older one and Pandit Gangasagar in the modern story) pull off wicked strategies to install their protégés in the corridor of power.
The protagonists are portrayed as very determined, omniscient & omnipotent. The events in the stories always sway in the favor of the protagonist – which as per me is the downside of the story. The machinations of the two king-makers finally fructify with Chandragupta being coroneted as king of old Bharat while Chandini ends up taking oath as Prime Minister of India. The plots give the reader a peep into corruptive and divisive politics of India, which is akin to the greed and venality of ancient Bharat. Some of the political turn of events presented in the story seems to inspired by past and current political events & environment of India. A politically literate Indian reader can easily relate these events of the story with the real events of today’s politics.
Ashwin has deftly combined his ability of story telling with his passion for history and mythology. The work feels to be well researched. The turn of events in the two plots is broadly similar and hence the reader might feel the story in the modern day to be slightly less intriguing than the older story. The author has peppered the book with quotes borrowed from television series Yes Minister & Yes Prime Minster and from famous personalities like Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Franklin, Napolean Bonaparte etc, which made reading more interesting for me.
The author has deviated from the common storyline of the neo-literature of India (campus stories, tragedy stories about love, urban life stories and office politics stories) by foraying into writing a historical fictional and will give the audience of the neo-Indian Literature genre a much needed change. The language of the book is easily comprehendible and the plots will keep the reader riveted for majority of the time and is a light read.
One must not read the book for educative purpose but for entertainment. For the confluence of mythology, history and fictional story-telling in his work, I award Sanghvi a 3.5 out of 5 rating for “Chankya’s Chant”. You can read the sample chapter of the book here.
P.S: By publishing the book, Westland publishers seem to have hit the nail on the head this time as well – “Chankya’s Chant” has sold more than 50000 copies within 7 months of its launch. Westland publishers have published many recent best sellers like “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish by Rashmi Bansal”, “Don’t Loose Your Mind, Loose Your Weight –Rujuta Diwekar”.
Bookshops and coffee shops have been my favorite hangout places in the last few years. Little did I realize that the section devoted to the Indian authors in the book shop and the readership of these books has increased over the last few years. As has the airtime and following of the new short format of the cricket Twenty-Twenty (read Indian Premiere League, IPL). This blog aims to draw parallels between the neo-Indian literature (referred to as Aam Janata Writers) and T-20 format of the cricket on some major themes.
Success Mantra: “Short, Light and Cheap” are the success pillars of the books by the new breed of writers and of the new cricket format. The books are short and meant for light read (generally less than 250 pages), written in plain language and priced around 100 INR. Similarly the new format of cricket offers an entertainment window of 3 hours (short), peppered with hosts who speak plain English (light ascricket jargons are kept minimal) and comes at a cheap price (ticket price).
Promotion and Marketing: The marketing and promotion of the two products has contributed to their success as much as their content has. The below two paragraphs gives a peep into the marketing tactics of these products:
– The posse of new writers has tested new channels to market and sell their books. YouTube has been used to stream trailers of the book, social media channels like facebook, twitter has been used to engage with the readers directly; free samples of the book are distributed to create buzz. The neo-books are easily spotted in most of the households in towns and cities of the country.
– IPL has created buzz by bringing glamour, money and entertainment together to the gentleman’s game. IPL has revolutionized the way cricket has been marketed to the mass and has been made it a household discussion topic.
Exclusive Audience: Both the products have managed to create exclusive following for themselves.
– The readers of the neo-writers want to hear stories about themselves – story on urban office life, a call center, a love tragedy, an affair across religion. The new audience likes to read in language easy to comprehend unlike the classical way of story telling done by literary heavy-weights like Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie etc.
– IPL similarly has created a fan following which views cricket not as sport but as a medium of entertainment (recall your wife/girlfriend watching and discussing IPL games with you) as against the audience of test matches who vet their appetite to watch classic cricketing shots.
The success of the two has been astonishing but will the two new formats consume the other forms? I think Indian audience has room for both and appreciates variety. While the two forms will maintain their exclusive audience but the audience of both the forms will gain the most.
P.S: This blog has been inspired by the recent cover story of Outlook July 18 Edition – The New Aam Janata Writers. K.I.S.S in the title of the blog is the abbreviated form of Keep it Short and Simple.