Monday, January 23, 2017

The legend of Lakshmi Prasad by Twinkle Khanna

Years ago, I was waiting at the Le Meridian hotel, Kochi to interview one of the guests who had come to participate in a conference. All the while, there was a man with nondescript features sitting beside me, giving occasional smiles. Other than smiling back at him, I did not attempt to ask his role in the conference. If I had asked, I would not have missed one of the best stories – the story of the ‘ Sanitary Man’ – Arunachalam Muruganantham . 

It was this feeling of ‘ sheer loss’ that made me go for Twinkle Khanna’s second book, but first work of fiction – The legend of Lakshmi Prasad as one of her stories in the book featured him.

Speaking about the book, the author’s intention was good. The ideas were perfect, but unfortunately, it failed to strike the right chord. To be precise, the tempo of emotions were fluctuating.

 For instance, the first story, after which the book was named talk at length on women empowerment and how a young girl made an entire village stand up for women’s rights. But even after the story ended on a positive note, the reader was left wanting for that single spark of revolution. Though feminism was the all pervading element in the story, sadly it could not be felt.  

With least expectation when you move on to the second one – ‘Salaam, Noni Appa’, there comes a barrage of emotions which could leave you longing for many things. This one was my favourite – a beautiful story of two Ismail sisters straight from the heart. It talks about a woman in her sixties who found love at the fag-end of her life.

When the tempo of your expectation was at its zenith, the author takes us to a dark story - the story of a Malayali woman who did not have a goal of her own. Contrary to the author’s claim  “ Here lies Eliza, she briefly belongs to many, but truly to herself, I think the woman just went with the flow of life. Though belonged to a privileged family, she did not even raise a finger to straighten out the mess, she had made of her life.There exist many people like Elisa. But I am just wondering how her lack of commitment and running away from life could be regarded as finding herself.

The story of the Sanitary man was the longest and last in the list. Sadly to say, there are many areas in the story which made the book a little dragging which was otherwise a light read. Long and short, I felt the stories were short of emotions.

Most of the time, the narration had shifted to a non- fiction mode. The systematic style – intro, content and conclusion squashed the creativity out of them. If the author had not rushed and shifted to a more creative style, all these stories could have been beautiful.

Though intermittently, her streak of humour popped its head in the story, she was trying hard to shackle them. If she had unleashed it, the stories would have left an indelible impact on the readers. ( That's just opinion)for I believe when thinks presented with humour can hit the bull's eye.

But I think I like the book primarily for Noni Appa’s story and also that I did not leave it half – way.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

“ I never can stand seeing people pleased with themselves,” said Joanna. “ It arouses all my worst instincts.”

“ Mr Dane Calthrop is a very remarkable woman, you know. She is nearly always right,” said Miss Marple. It makes her rather alarming,’ I said. ‘ Sincerity has that effect,’ said Miss Marple.

As Miss Marple rightly said in the story – “ Most crimes, you see, was absurdly simple. This one was.” Anyone could have easily guessed who the murderer was. But Agatha Christie had crafted it in such a way that the reader’s attention hardly fell on the murderer.

Though this is a Miss Marple story, she enters the scene only in the last few pages. It could have dampened the interest of the reader if he/she is a Miss Marple fan. But the protagonist, Mr Jerry Burton had done an outstanding job all through. The story starts with his narration. He comes to a placid village called Lymstock to recuperate as he got hurt in a flying accident. Jerry along with her sister Joanna moves to this village and starts living in an Emily Barton’s house.

After a few days, Jerry receives an anonymous letter accusing him of an incestuous relationship between him and her sister, Joanna. Though both ignored it as a silly mail, the other residents of Lymstock receive similar vicious letters. But it causes only a minor stir until one of the recipients commits suicide for she receives one such mail. The real twist comes when a young girl is murdered.

More than the suspense, I enjoyed the countryside portrayed in the book, the characters especially Joanna and Meghan. Both are original and never fails to call, a spade a spade. Apart from the mounting suspense, Agatha also weaves a beautiful love story.

Agatha has a knack of throwing in a surprise element during the climax of her stories. For instance ‘Murder on the Orient Express’. I am sure, many of her readers could not have guessed the climax in the wildest of their dreams. But ‘ The Moving Finger’ do not fall into the above-mentioned category. But it is a good book in its own way.

Agatha Christie considers this book as one of her bests.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Interviewing Mayur Patel, the author of Scarlet Nights

Barring, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay whose detective character Byomkesh Bakshi outshone its creator, no other writer who delved into the genre of crime and thrillers or their characters could leave an indelible impression in the psyche of Indian readers. We love whodunnits and thrillers by Western authors but the readership for such genres written by the Indian authors is yet to take an upward trend.

But it seems things are changing for the better with the arrival of books like Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, Witness the night by Kishwar Desai, Lalli series by Kalpana Swaminathan.

Going by the rave reviews garnered, it seems ‘Scarlet Nights’ by Mayur Patel is on its way to get itself included in the above mentioned list.

Scarlet Nights is a psychological thriller.   Let’s ask Mayur what makes it a thriller ?

There has been thousands and thousands of thrillers all over the world in more than hundred languages. More than 90 percent of them are a blend of villains, crimes, money, power, lust and love etc. Very few times have we come across a novel which deals with inner demons. Something that is unseen, something that is hard to perceive, and something that is... well, even one more word will give out the suspense of ‘Scarlet Nights’. The uniqueness of this novel is what I am hiding.

I have tried to maintain secrecy about the story. When I go through the review of my book, my eyes are always conscious about the spoilers. I requested many reviewers to remove the spoilers from their reviews, and they have so sportingly accepted the request. Thanks to all who did that. ‘Scarlet Nights’ is a psychological thriller about a fight against your inner demons.
What and How, the reader better find out himself.”   

Your debut novel “ Vivek and I” was a love story. But in your second novel, you took a detour. Why so?

I have always been in love with this genre ‘Thriller’. I love secrets and mystery and that kind of stuff. It gives me immense pleasure to unsolve a mystery. Though an out-an-out love story, ‘Vivek and I’ too had the elements of mystery. The book had characters that were hiding things, and that is what makes it an intriguing read. It’s not a boy-meets-a-girl-and-they-fall-in-love kind of typical love story. Such stuff bore me. I wrote ‘Vivek and I’ because I believed in that story. With ‘Scarlet Nights’ I have not ‘shifted’, I would say, I have returned to my original genre which is thriller.

One of the reviewers said the Sydney Sheldon’s fans would definitely like Scarlet Nights. Do you have any favourite authors when it comes to thrillers?

I very much agree with this statement that Sydney Sheldon fan would definitely like ‘Scarlet Nights’. Talking about my favourite authors, I love Mr Sheldon’s work. I like the mysteries by the great Agatha Christie. In Gujarati, my favourite novelists are, no surprises because they are everyone’s favourite, Harkisan Mehta and Ashwini Bhatt.  
Though the characters and backdrop of Scarlet Nights are Indian, do you think your book can cater to the Western audience?

The theme of ‘Scarlet Nights’ has got a universal appeal. What happens with the characters of the novel can happen with anybody in the world, and for this reason I do think that western audience will for sure relate to this book.

Tell us about your debut novel “Vivek and I”. It deals with homosexuality, right? Since the situation prevailing in the country is not favourable to the homosexuals?

I wouldn’t say ‘Vivek and I’ was a story about same-sex relationships. Rather, it’s a story about a young man who happens to be homosexual. It’s about his life, his struggle in his career, his conflicts with his family and his fight against odd situations. His being Gay is only one aspect of his personality. Other than that, he is a loving, caring person and has great relationships with his mother, neighbours and colleagues.     
I didn’t write ‘Vivek and I’ to preach homophobes or to bring some change in the orthodox Indian society. It’s just that I believed that this story should be told. The situation for the LGBT people is not easy in the country, but I have a hope that things will change.
The scenario must change because everybody has a right to live with the sexual orientation of his/her choice. It’ll be an honour if ‘Vivek and I’ will be of any help regarding this.  

Tell us about your struggle to get your first break? I mean how you approached the publishers and what was their response?

Getting ‘Vivek and I’ published was an ordeal. More than 8 publishers had turned it down. Then Penguin Books India found it interesting and said YES. I will always be thankful to the Penguin Editor Vaishali Mathur for showing interest in V&I. Back in 2010, most publishers were not positive about publishing an LGBT-centric novel. The scenario has changed now. There have been many such books since V&I.

What was that feeling when your first book was published?

I was so so so SO happy that my book was being published by none other than Penguin books India. It was an emotional journey. I learned how the editing, cover designing and many other things related to book publishing goes, and it was fun. It’s informative and educational. I won’t hesitate to admit that I DID cry the day I held the physical copy of my book. It’s like bearing a child. It’s like the happy moment that one goes through while holding his/her child for the first time.

After writing a thriller and a love story, which genre you would like to pursue in future?
There are many genres that fascinate me as a reader and writer. In English, I am writing an Epic Fantasy Saga which is a mixture of Fantasy, Indian Mythology and Science Fiction. Loaded with action, it’ll have interesting subplots and a lot of characters. I have plans to write an Erotica and an out-an-out Sci-fi thriller someday.

Now let’s move on to my favourite sections of questions. There is a huge chance that these may appear frivolous. But I can’t resist myself from asking it.

Do you have a library in your home? If yes, how many books are there? Have you ever thought of opening up your library for the readers?

I do have a library and a beautiful one I must say. I haven’t counted ever but the number of books should be somewhere around 200. Lately I have been getting latest releases as gifts, which is great! (Who doesn’t like gifts!?) I like to buy books online and in book stores, too. Coming to the point about sharing my library with others, I wouldn’t be much positive. I am very possessive about my books and wouldn’t want anyone even touch them without my permission. If one wants to read it, he/she can go through it while sitting in my room. I won’t permit them out of my room with my books. They are like a treasure for me hence I am very protective about them.

Your 10 favourite books and movies

As stated earlier, I like most of Sydney Sheldon’s work. Of them, my most favourites are ‘the best laid plans’ and ‘the sky is falling’. I would love to translate ‘the best laid plans’ into Gujarati, my mother tongue someday. I love Agatha Christie’s ‘and then there were none’. Such an incredible mystery it is! Arundhati Roy’s booker prize winner ‘god of small things’ is a masterpiece.  And then, there is
‘Scarlet nights’ which I love so very much. In movies, my favourites are ‘The Others’, ‘Chicago’, ‘Titanic’, ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’, ‘Inception’ ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’, ‘Lagaan’, ‘Guide’ and ‘Mother India’.

  About Mayur
Mayur lives in Valsad, a small town in Gujarat. Currently, he is associating with a media firm in Surat, Gujarat. His debut novel ‘ Vivek and I’ was published by Penguin Books, India. He writes novels and columns in Gujarati, his mother tongue. His first Gujarati novel ‘TarpanYatra’ will be published on January 17. Mayur says he is free-spirited, liberal person who believes in doing
everything with the utmost passion.