What I read last week (Reviews of Sons of Sita; Paperback Original; The Perks of being a Wallflower)
I’ve been reading well lately and feel pretty good about it. Here are short reviews about the books I read last week.
Sons of Sita by Ashok Banker
This book serves as the eighth and the final in the Ramayana Series by Banker, although it’s independent and you can follow the book even if you haven’t read the first seven. It traces the story of Luv and Kush, Rama and Sita’s twins, how the 10-year olds capture the sacred stallion of the Ashwamedh Yagna, hereby challenging Emperor Rama’s army. With their unbelievable talent in archery and a little help from bhramaan, they win the battle, of course.
Sons of Sita, as most other books by Banker, is a tedious read and seems overtly descriptive. But if you’re used to reading him, then it’s interesting, and toward the end, disappointing. He describes Rama to have become the embodiment of cruelty, but does not offer a reason as to why that happens. I was looking forward to an interesting explanation, but only a feeble one was offered in a paragraph.
Pick up the book only if you’ve read his other ones.
Title: Sons of Sita | Published by: Wisdom Tree | Price: Rs 260 approx | Number of pages: 388
Paperback Original by Will Rhode
I had an absolute blast reading this one, and it’s now among my few favourites. It’s written in first person, where Josh King is a British traveller in India. Not the fancy white traveller, more the hippe ones you find in the basement restaurants of Old Manali and streets by the creek in Goa. The ones who live in cheap guesthouses in the Himalayas and socialise by passing each other the chillum. They’re the ones who’ve sold their passports years ago and have been living in India since a few decades. Some of them also sport dredlocks.
Josh bums around India and wants to write a bestseller to make money. He realises that he cannot be a passive observer but will need to participate actively in the plot for it to go anywhere. And all hell breaks loose when he gets involved with the beautiful Yasmin, crack dealers, a former Bollywood star, the Mumbai mafia and the Pakistanis. Yes, it’s quite a plot. More than the plot thought, I loved the book because of the fabulously insightful way in which Rhode’s written it. It’s obvious to a reader that Rhode has indeed experienced everything he mentions in the book, and not just hashed details off the Internet. Brilliant are the parts where he describes one of the times when he and a friend share the chillum with a couple of travellers and when he embarks on a ride on a Royal Enfield.
Because of my recent months spent living in Goa and interacting with several travellers like Josh, I enjoyed the novel even more. Some of gems from the book:
Josh is thinking about selling his passport, but realises that, “Half the attraction of coming to India is the ability to leave it.” Appalling to me as an Indian reader, but so true! He’s sitting at a tea stall and watching two young boys trying to get their car started. There’s a whole bunch of passersby looking at them also. “Watching other people with public problems was always a good way to waste time in India,” he observes.
Well, I did love the book and every time I sat to read it, I kept a pencil handy, to underline sentences I identified with or found intriguing. I think I must continue the habit with other books too.
If there’s a flower child in you, you’ll love the book; if you believe the hipsters are just wannabes, even then you’ll love it, for Rhode is often sarcastic. What luck! Go buy the book.
Title: Paperback Original (In some editions, title is changed to Paperback Raita.) | Published by: Riverhead Books| Price: Rs 670 approx | Number of pages: 455
The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I’ll admit I got on to this book pretty late. It’s about a socially awkward American teenage boy who narrates episodes of his life at home, school and with friends, by way of writing ‘dear diary’ type letters to a friend. I found this style boring and after a couple of chapters, was ready to leave the book unfinished. But then, it’s a short read and I ended up completing it, in the hope that something exciting happens. Well, nothing did.
This novel simply recounts all the stereotypes of an American family that we’ve seen enough times in sitcoms such as The Wonder Years. It’s the same old stuff – classmates labelling the nerd as a freak, sport-playing elder brother, mother doesn’t interfere when father is talking, drunk members at hated family reunions on Thanksgiving and Christmas, death of a close friend, parents of friends divorcing, friends smoking and doing drugs and the works.
What made it even more boring is that it is narrated by the teenager. Now, I really wouldn’t listen to any geeky teenager talk at such length about his boring life. Seriously. The film adaptation of this book has Emma Watson; perhaps then you can bear the wallflower!
Title: The Perks of being a Wallflower | Published by: Simon & Schuster India | Price: Rs 290 approx | Number of pages: 213
Have you read any of these books? Liked them? Which ones are you currently reading?
David, directed by Bejoy Nambiar, is a terrific film, with the exception of a couple of things. Using three different time and place zones, David shows the stories of Neil Nitin Mukesh, Vinay Virmani and Chiyaan Vikram, the three titular characters. Neil is a right hand of a gangster Ghani in 1975 London, Vinay’s plays a dreadlocked guitarist Bandra boy in 1999 Mumbai and Vikram’s the perpetual drunk in a 2008 Goa.
A major event is about to occur into the lives of these three men, changing their disposition to life forever. Neil’s entire story is shot in black and white, and is it some brilliant shooting or what! Throughout the film, we see some good frame compositions, fresh take on angles and a generally intense feel is achieved.
Tabu is her usual unassuming self, Isha Sharvani and Lara Dutta have smaller roles, Saurabh Shukla may seem entertaining to many, to me he was a tad bit too repulsive, Nasser is convincing as the local Father and Milind Soman appears super hot in his few scenes. The only miscast is Monica Dogra. If Bejoy really wanted a tall, long-faced girl who delivers her dialogue poorly, and that too, in accented Hindi, then he could’ve gone for Katrina Kaif, but I think Monica’s his friend. Speaking of friends, Nikhil Chinappa plays a cameo, all muscular and Hulk-like. That felt weird, after years of seeing an easy on the eye, lanky DJ. Prahlad Kakkar may be an excellent ad-man, but he’s terrible to look at on screen, but he too makes an appearance. Singer Shweta Pandit plays Vinay’s younger sister.I absolutely loved watching Neil in his shots; for his stride and overall appeal are extremely stylish. Vikram is my newest crush. He’s a seasoned actor, so the act is well in place and endearing, and I loved his styling too. Vinay’s dreadlocks are shown perfectly well, with a bit tied up in the right fashion.
David has several songs, but only a couple of them are with separate video space. Rest others are used as themes or background. My favourite thus far is Rekha Bhardwaj’s version of the Sindhi folk song Mast Kalandar, originally sung by Abida Parveen. David has in interesting mix of singers and composers. Yun hi re is composed by Anirudh; he’s the Kolaveri di guy. Independent musicians such as Ankur Tiwari and Indian bands such as Modern Mafia also offer their talent to the soundtracks. Remo D’Souza comes back after a few years to gives us the Goan classic, Maria Pitache.
Released in Feb 2013.
I thoroughly enjoyed this bestseller of a novel and more or less, finished it in a day; it was that unputdownable for me. The voice of the book is strong, it serves a concrete plot, and chief characters are charming. Categorised under fantasy, The Hunger Games is narrated by the protagonist, the plucky 16-year old Katniss Everdeen. (Let us overlook the fact here that I also took to adore her because I absolutely love her name.)
The story, roughly, is how the said Katniss and 23 other young participants are picked out by a lottery and forced to compete in the annual Hunger Games, thanks to their whip-cracking government. Probably Darwin’s delight, this is a pure game of survival of the fittest, and true to the rule of nature, participants actually begin to lose lives, until there’s just one winner left. A large, enclosed terrain of mountains, snow, forest and alike is created, where the participants are let lose to confront or hide from one another. They are compelled to murder each other until one emerges victorious. Oh, and did I mention, the entire drama is televised live, for the entire nation to see.
Much like our reality shows.
The best aspect about the book, according to me, is Collins’ writing. Nowhere does it bore, be redundant or lapse. Narration is from Katniss’ point of view and that’s crucial, because this way, you don’t know what the other participants are doing, unless Katniss get to know. You only see what Katniss sees, and along with her, you’re also dragged into the forest of suspense and anxiety.
When I figured the premise of the story, I thought it was quite appalling, and unbelievable. How could the entire nation simply watch the gruesome killings of their own children? And then it stuck me. Of course they can! If we can, in today’s date and time, watch and pray for contestants on kids’ reality talent shows – then by the post-apocalyptic world where the novel is set – can definitely enjoy the killer games. We too, after all, crush hopes and damage the very psyches of god-only-knows how many little singers, comedians and dancers who appear on our reality shows. Only one child receives the trophy, and rest all are shunned into oblivion, until perhaps when they bag a role on another channel. It’s probably not long until some Raghu Ram-inspired producer decides to televise Hunger Games – with real murders – for Indian audiences.
Oh, and of course, The Hunger Games uses the formula that everyone loves: Against all odds, poor girl emerges victorious. I think I enjoyed it doubly because I’m a girl. A girl who loves stories of first kisses, and this book does offer me a good one. For all the boys, I suggest that you borrow a friend’s copy of the book and read a couple of chapters. If Collins manages to have you hooked, read on!
Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Fantasy/ Young Adult | Pages: 374 | Price: Rs 299