“The perfect crime lies not in the execution, but in the cover-up.”
It’ll take all of a few clicks on the Internet to acquaint oneself with the Neeraj Grover murder case. But devil lies in details, and it suffices to say that author Meenal Baghel has pulled the devil out right by its horns. Simply put, one early morning of May 2008, a jealous Emile Jerome snuffed out Neeraj Grover, who he suspected of having an affair with his fiancée Maria Susairaj. The body was soon cut up, stuffed into a bag and set to flames.
The “cast of characters” includes the charming Neeraj, who was a small time employee in television production house Balaji Telefilms, beautiful and petite Maria, a hopeful export to Mumbai’s thriving TV industry, and the handsome Emile, a much-loved Naval office posted in Kochi.
Death in Mumbai though, is not a simple chronological story of crime and subsequent arrest of the murderers. Rather, it is a heady psychological thriller. The resultant of Meenal’s copious note-taking is entire chapters dedicated to people associated with the very premise of the crime, those who understand the world of Neeraj, Maria and Emile, and cops who solve the crime.
Meenal is currently the Editor-in-Chief of city’s top tabloid Mumbai Mirror and there couldn’t be a better author for this sensational subject. Using her excellent reporting and researching skills, she interviews a number of people related to the star cast of this thriller and peppers the book with words unfamiliar to me, at every three sentences. The writing is sharp, time zones overlap nicely, and insiders’ accounts, plentiful.
Meenal speaks extensively with the superstitious Ekta Kapoor, who understands the world of television actors and their trappings only too well.
Ram Goal Varma is the Chetan Bhagat of the film industry – the audience loves to hate him. RVG, as is common knowledge by now, loves to explore the darker side of crime, especially when those of passion are in question. Meenal meets this man who declares that he’s quite forthright about things of love and passion. “I’d rather have sex with you than conversation,” he confesses having said to some women.
Moon Das is a model-cum-dancer who was lucky enough to have escaped the hysteria that had overcome her boyfriend, who, in a fit of rage, ended up shooting her mother and uncle dead, before checking himself out of the world too. What makes these girls (such as Moon and Maria) suffer pushy and disastrous relationships and what are their trappings, is what Meenal tries to decode, over several cups of coffee with Moon.
The best part of Death in Mumbai is, of course, about how the Mumbai police team, lead by Rakesh Maria, then Joint Commissioner of Mumbai Crime branch, cracks the case. Inspector Satish Raorane plays a lion’s part in the madness that was of narrowing down suspects and finally interrogating the tough Maria Susairaj to a vulnerable point, when she eventually confessed about the gruesome incident. The tedious procedure which the police implement, the infinite patience they posses, the number of people they have to deal with before laying hands on the criminal – all this, as recollected by friends of Neeraj, Maria and Emile, not the policemen themselves.
Death in Mumbai is a hard-hitting, riveting read, and I suggest you pick it up just for Meenal’s writing, if the mystery of the case fails to excite you. The book was released at the recently held Times Literary Carnival where Meenal, after a discussion on the book, was also signing copies. This was the first time I got my book signed by an author, and I was quite thrilled, for I do admire the lady.
By the end of this unputdownable book, one also suspects that Meenal has a soft spot for Rakesh Maria, who currently heads the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad. But oh well, given his reputation for cracking cases and coming down hard on criminals, who wouldn’t!
Title: Death in Mumbai
Author: Meenal Baghel
Pages: 231 | Price: Rs 299