Author: Ankita Chadda
Publisher: Cedar Books
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Shewali Singh is a simple, sweet and appealing girl who cares for family and its values. She has just moved to Bangalore to head a project. Always engaged in work, somewhere she has imagined a list of qualities her guy should have. But as her fate would have it, she bumps into a guy who works in the same office as hers. And not only that, he's a flirt, a prankster, who calls himself 'the' Avi Malhotra, who not only misfits the list, but also manages to get a rise out of the generally very easy going Shewali. What follows is, daily fights, gradual friendship, sudden likeness, and then - all the rules of the artist's sketch of their better half are thus broken.
If i am given one word to describe this book, it will be - Bollywood. I cannot think of any other debut novel in recent times which packs in so many plot points from Hindi movies as this one does. Sample these - There is a bride running scene from Na tum Jano Na Hum, there is an Achla Sachdev type dadi moment from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge, there is a Mohnish Behl-Salman Khan marriage confusion between brothers scenario from Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, there is a fake proposal scene at the airport from Hadh Kar Di aapne and there is a midnight dinner scene from...well, you got the drift, right!
It is unpretentious in its approach, a kind of book which makes no bones about the kind of environment it is setting itself into or even minutely flinching away from its target audience. The chemistry between the two main leads - Avi and Shewali is undeniably good, it oozes warmth and affection. However, the basic flaw here is that author can't seem to decide the tone in the book. So characters either over react on simple situations or does not react in complex situations, making things worse and giving us predictable twists and turns based solely on misunderstandings in relationships. The conflicts are superficial in nature because there is no issue in the narrative which can't be solved if people give a few seconds to explain their point of view. It's the kind of screenplay in which every obstacle in the characters' lives could be overcome by having one sensible conversation which for some strange reason, they never have since everyone here is ready to snap at each other at the drop of a hat.
One plot point which i particularly found offensive is the background of a corporate world, which is far away from the reality. There are files being stolen under the eye, boss accuse you of theft without any proof, women are being arm-twisted and verbally attacked, employees being accused of incompetence without giving a chance to explain themselves and sexual accusations thrown in like a routine event. All these bewildering acts make up for some pretty unconvincing reading and leave you unattached to the pain of the characters.
The book would have still worked better if it was a short, breezy read. But at 300 odd pages, it is long to the point of boredom. There are too many reference of the Avi and the teacher; too many falling-in-the-arms and twisting-the-arm moments. All this cumulatively leads to emotional repetitiveness and chaos, which does the book more harm than good. In the end, what is left with you are few tender moments between the characters which the author has created with craft. Unfortunately, these moments are few are far in between but nevertheless, makes you smile once in a while.
I am going with 2/5 for Ankita Chadda's debut novel, Anything else but love. There is a sincerity attached to each of the characters, but there is very little originality in any of the plot points or the story as in whole. Ironical it may sound, and quite anti-spirit to the theme of this blog but i guess i am getting a little old for these bubble-gum romances. This book, however, is strictly for the die-hard romantics!