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February 17, 2012

Book Review - 71 : Tamasha in Bandargaon

 Publisher: Tranquebar Press
Author: Navneet Jagaanathan

In the fictional suburb of Bandargaon, tucked away in Bombay, there's never a quit moment. Dreams erupt, hopes shatter, in the heaving Sunrise Apartments, by a rickety tea-cart-Jinias Chai Hause, inside a seedy Jaanam Desi, and by the dilapidated Purana Qila. Chagan, the dashing hero, who shines like a film-star, spends hours wooing a beauteous Shalini. Shalini, ever fickle, oscillates between him and a pining Vinayak. Vinayak, in turn, tries desperately to win the favour of Shalini's mother, Lakshmibai. Elsewhere, the local politician, Sajjanpur, tries winning an impossible election; Miranda, a sullen mortician, seeks answers from an ailing priest; and Sultan, the irascible grocer contents with an overfriend dog.

Tamasha in Bandargaon has brought R. K. Narayan-esque humour back.
The residents of this town go through a mad medley of emotions that test every inch of their moral fiber. The troubles and travails of the people in the slum, the strange quirks and stupidities of the people in the apartment, the never say die spirit of the folks who run the gambling den and the tea stall; all this add up to a pacy narrative which is touching and makes you think about life and its eccentricities. The author touches every chord of the regular people like me and you - be their social, personal, professional, financial or emotional lives.

Jagannathan is wise in touching upon varied subjects, like politics — in the form of the firebrand politician Sitaram Sajjanpur of the National Workers Party whose sole aim is to be voted to power — to personal loss, like that faced by Lakshmibai’s childhood friend Geeta who did not have the gumption to take her romance with the temple pujari to the next level.

Of course, the book is all about people and a a whole gamut of emotions - jealousy, politics, joys and sorrows, ups and downs and trials and tribulations, it all adds up. The story proceeds with the plots woven somewhat detached, yet connected and completely coherent. There is a constant presence of the element of humour all through the book, that is simple, yet powerful. The novel essentially is a collection of stories on characters that belong to the same milieu, it does get a tad repetitive and over-the-top at some places. The 13 chapters become 13 different stories of various people in the town and the transitions between these chapters could have been more seamless. Despite this, the novel is an honest and successful attempt at highlighting our idiosyncrasies as a people.

I am going with 3.5/5 for Navneet Jagannathan's 'Tamasha in Bandargaon'
. It's a confident debut by the author and i hope to read more in this genre. Going by the climax and the potential of the story, it will be worth to create a sequel to this one. But surpassing the quality of this one will be a major challenge. Do give it a shot, it is worth your time.

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