Tuesday, January 29, 2013

RIP - Book Review

Try as I might, I cannot help but read the title of the latest thriller from Mukul Deva as Rest In Peace. Forgive me my blunder but now that I have finished reading the book, I have restructured my slip to mean RIP, corruption. (Hah! Take that you evil problem eating away at the country’s progress.) When you decide to read RIP, there is only a very slim chance that you would want to take a break anywhere along the way. The book races forward at such pace, I wouldn’t be surprised if it leaves behind a few disheveled heads in its wake. 

Mukul Deva’s RIP is a huge what-if. It tells the story of the vexation that a group of ex-Army men arrive at, post their brush with the corrupt democracy that reigns over the country. Set in present day India, the book introduces to us the Resurgent Indian Patriots or the K-Team, led by Col. Krishna, comprising his comrades out of service, all bearing names that begin with the letter K. Krishna and his team operate based on loyalty and commitment which apparently is absent when it comes to how politicians run the government. After a sour encounter with corruption revolving around a personal loss, Krishna and team decide to shake the system up a bit, in a bid to support the efforts of one Mr. Hazarika, who has taken it upon himself to wage a war against the problem. This results in a series of calculated and well planned assassinations that the team has no difficulty executing.

Threatened by the fear of death and of losing face, the Home Minister hires, Ragav, a rogue and corrupt ex-Army man to hunt down the RIP team. Caught in the middle of this crossfire is Reena, a reporter with the NDTV and also to be ex-wife of Ragav, who takes to the widower Krishna. In an edge of the seat climax, the K-Team decides to deliver one final and deep blow. You find out in the last chapter if they succeed and what happens thereafter. That said, let me get down to my analysis.

What Worked for Me:

1 – The pace of the story, which was nothing short of terrific. The story does not halt anywhere. It’s a rollercoaster ride from start to finish that will leave you exhilarated.
2 – Certain scenes that were cleverly set and thoroughly enjoyable, like for example this point where Krishna, Ragav, Reena and Vinod, the cop out to get the RIP, are all travelling on the same plane within calling distance of each other. The hunter, prey and predator all together!
3 – Narration that was easy and fluid. There was nothing pretentious about the text and no prose trying falsely to sound intelligent.

What Did Not Work for Me:

1 – At the beginning of the book, when the K-Team knocks off a couple of people, we have a few characters making some clich├ęd predictions as to the identities of the killers. This sounded forced to me, as if the author was in a hurry to let the cops assume certain things to save a few pages of print.
2 – On the same note, I felt the romance between Krishna and Reena, though developing nicely toward the end, started off on a contrived note. It ended up coming across as a love story hurriedly stuffed into an action movie. Case in point : Reena recognizes the perfume that Krishna wears as the same one that Ragav used to wear. In the very next scene, Krishna’s son tells his father that Reena aunty wears the same perfume as his dead mother. The author could’ve taken some time to think the romance through. Case 2 in point : Krishna’s sister Payal as a matchmaker. It was almost as if the author wrote down a formula and fitted people into it.
3 – Certain actions or the absence of them were not justified. For example, in the entire climax sequence Vinod, does not call his team for backup and follows the killers on his own. This is mentioned as a slip initially citing the excitement of the moment. But the same happens thrice in total within the next few minutes, which does not tally. The same goes for the security officer at a VIP target’s house not informing her of an impending assassination attempt. Why he does not get to it is explained with very silly reasons. The intent behind these slips was probably to isolate the required characters into the final act, but without justification, they just came across deflated.
4 – The very weak attempt to fictionalize the current Indian political scenario with characters in the book. Or was it an attempt? I felt it would’ve worked better if the names had been fictional as well. A little more imagination, like Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel. I still grin over ‘Comea’ for ‘Goa’.

Verdict:

RIP is well written, unpretentious, racy and engaging. The plot will address the ‘if only’ that makes your blood boil everytime a fight against corruption fizzles out. Definitely top of my list amongst recent contemporary works in the commercial genre.

Rating: 4/5


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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Close Shave!


                She turned around in the elevator to give him a giggle and a grin. She had absolutely no regard for his embarrassment. When the doors opened, she pranced out in arrogant knowledge that he will follow, since they were both on the same floor. He stayed put and enjoyed the sweet relief of escape as the doors closed once again with the intention of carrying him up a few more floors. Up or down, he did not care. He just wanted to be transported away from her. His joy was nothing short of sadistic pleasure, at the look of disappointment on her face and he stopped himself from waving a parting goodbye to her. All said and done, he knew he was safe only until the morning break.
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                She did not relate the incident to her clique, each member hovering on terminal giggle-mania, that made them break into shrill fake laughter at the drop of a hat. Or a tube of lip balm. Or a pair of brightly colored slippers. No rhyme. No reason required. She was looking forward to micro-analyzing the twenty seconds spent walking with him through the lobby on rare occasions like that morning, when she took the same elevator as he. It was a lost cause now and she was miffed. However, she pulled her spirits together and crossed her fingers for an encounter during the morning break. That cheered her up a little as she proceeded to whine out a wheezy greeting to her fellow gigglers.
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               He was guilty. He had to admit that. He had liked her when he first laid eyes upon her. When a new project had brought him to where she was posted. He was glad he had been able to locate some refreshing eye-candy. He had no idea that she was not candy, rather a jumpy, high-energy, decked-up bottle of glitter-glue that came with a gang of its own and had the propensity to cling and cling hard. When he first met her, ironically in one of those elevator rides, she had been quietly shy. It took him only a day and twenty minutes during the morning break to understand that she was neither quiet nor shy. The first time had been an accident – they had been the only people in the elevator and she couldn’t be on the phone. Unfortunately, by the time he could detach himself from the glancing process, she had decided to cling. And from that moment he was a goner.
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              They’d had so much fun during the last month, ever since that guy had started giving her the eye. She was suddenly in and happening and she enjoyed the attention, taking the liberty to exaggerate a little here, to deny a little there, all in the spirit of being in the spotlight. If she truly believed this could go somewhere, she didn’t know it and he didn’t show it. Infact, she had the nagging doubt that he was beginning to avoid her. She chose to blow that thought away when her unruly bunch called for a break. Showtime, she smiled to herself as she quickly re-applied her lipstick.
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              He'd had to endure quite many embarrassing moments when she exercised no restraint at trying to get his attention or make contact. Added to this was the background music of laughter and encouragement her friends provided. That morning, a silent dread chose to warn him that she was going to make a move very soon. What kind of move, he didn’t know. But a move, nevertheless. He had panicked and quickly hit a button on the number pad, wishing it would somehow take him to another location if possible.                                                                            
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            The morning break confirmed her suspicions that he was trying to keep a distance. She was very careful about letting her girls in on that detail. When they questioned about his apparent boredom, she dismissed it with a bored expression of her own, meaning it was her right to be bored, not his. All the while, she knew she had to make a move. A lot of attention was at stake. She took in a deep, silent yet determined breath, eyes on the target.                                      
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           His friends were nagging him about joining them for a smoke break. He had tried to tell them subtly that he didn’t smoke and didn’t want to be anywhere near second hand smoke either. He feared one of the primary effects of smoking, deeply. Not cancer. A little below the belt and a lot primal. But he couldn’t say that without risking coming across as someone you can use an array of words to describe, none of them synonymous with fit or athletic or healthy. That day he had no choice but to tag along.
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           She was just then showing off the web page of this cosmetic product, her latest online buy when her phone rang. The delivery was here. With a shrill cry of joy, she jumped up and trudged off downstairs to collect her package.                                                    
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           They stood around making small talk, which means they were discussing girls. He laughed at a joke. His friend’s phone rang and by the look on his face, it was quite clear, the boss was calling. The guy mouthed a swear and handed a half smoked cigarette to him for safe keeping until he returned from a bout of shameless metaphorical appreciation of a few behinds. With a burning cigarette in his hand, the first one that he had ever held, he looked absolutely clueless but managed to hold his cool. In his mind, he wished his friend would return before the butt burned into a stub and singed his finger.                                          ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          She signed for her parcel and with a huge grin on her face, happily bounced on her way back. She was looking forward to the envious glances she would receive when at her desk. Suddenly she stopped dead in her tracks. She spotted him, standing with some of his regular group of buddies, at what she and her friends called the cancer zone – the smoking spot. Her face shrunk in hurt for a moment and quickly turned into a scorn. She marched up to the group resolutely, parcel in hand, a woman on a mission. ‘You smoke!’ she almost yelled at him. He stood silent, shocked from being caught in the act. ‘I hate you’ she told him very clearly and with a ‘Hmph’ she stormed away. He just stood there.
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          The guy on the phone returned from the call to take possession of his puff of high. He couldn’t understand why his friend wore a huge grin on his face and certainly did not understand why he said ‘You saved my life man!’ as he handed the cigarette back to him.                                                                                     ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
It was the first time in the history of the world, a cigarette had saved a man’s life. All in the spirit of a little drama.



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