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August 23, 2012

Book Review - 90 : Thirty Year Old Virgin

Author: Ankit Uttam
Publisher: General Press

Before i actually start the review i want to ask - what does a writer wants when he write a book? Let us make it simple. As per me, a writer has a thought - mostly, interesting enough which if applied, can make way for a detailed narrative with sufficient twists and turns to keep the readers engaged. But what if you find that scenes are just lifted from popular, mainstream Bollywood and Hollywood films with no effort being made in even tinkering with the dialogues. Well, Thirty year Old Virgin is one such instance!

There is nothing wrong with being 'inspired' by movies and writing a story based on it. Most of the books which are coming out are doing the same and it can be 'forgiven' if done interestingly enough to keep the readers engaged and hooked. 'Thirty year old virgin' by Ankit Uttam does not even try to do this. All the author has managed is string events from the popular format movies, put them in a IIM-and-MNC setting and give us this piece of literature.

The first 80 odd pages of the book is set in IIM-A where the girl and the boy get into this relationship of fringe benefits. Fair enough, this concept even though cliche and exploited multiple times can be read if done interestingly. Instead what we get are the scenes and dialogues literally lifted from Will Gluck's romantic comedy starring Justin TimberLake and Mila Kunis released last year. I mean really dude, what is this?

I am going with 0.5/5 for Ankit Uttam's 'Thirty Year Old Virgin'. That half a mark for having the guts to publish such a book and hoping that no one will notice it! 

August 18, 2012

Book Review - 89 : Bala Takes The Plunge

Author: Melvin Durai
Publisher: Hachette India

Bala dreams of making Tamil films and directing his favourite actor, Rajnikanth – a dream that leads him, naturally, to study engineering in college. This earns him his dad’s approval and the opportunity to export himself to America. Well, as Director of Design at FlexIt Inc., thinking up new ways to help Americans shed the extra weight around their middles and in their wallets, he is at least some kind of director. Bala loves America, and America, it seems, loves him even more. 

He has everything he needs to be happy: a green card, a satellite dish to watch cricket, and a companion to share his home – albeit one with a very limited vocabulary. But he is now less than a year away from the big 3–0 (even closer in India with the time difference) and if he doesn't act fast, he might have to settle for whichever bride his Amma chooses. So begins Bala’s quest for romance as he meets both American and Indian women, some who are too old, others too young, and yet others just too stuck up. Will he ever find someone just right for him – and good enough to inherit his mother’s Corelle dishes?

Melvin has been a humourist blogger and columnist for a long time and if you have been aware of his writing style, you will not be surprised at the jokes by twisting the english language, making fun of the rituals and traditions of South Indian families and all the more, the crude in-your-face repartees about body parts. Does that made me laugh? Most of the times, yes. At other times, humour fall flat.

The writer takes inspiration from his own work and even though some of the lines/paragraphs are straight away lifted from his own columns, it still almost is seamlessly incorporated in the narrative. Melvin takes the universal theme of arrange marriage and set it in the context of a socially inept and sexually frustrated South Indian male. There is very little structure or a concrete story here, what keeps the book going despite of these flaws is the witty and almost, amusing dialogues.

There are cheesy lines and PJ kind of jokes butted in, but then the book is not for the purists in any case. It makes fun of homosexuality and feminists; It tickles ribs at politicians, cricketers, administrators and journalists. What brings the book down is the last 30 odd pages where it acquires strangely serious tone as Bala decides to take marriage vows. It comes out of the blue and looks unconvincing and a tad, contrived.

I am going with 3.5/5 for Melvin Durai's 'Bala takes the Plunge'. Save out for that cop-out climax, the book is a laugh riot waiting to be explored. Don't judge it by purity standards, just for the humour quotient and an intention to have hearty laughs on a lazy Sunday afternoon. 

August 15, 2012

Book Review - 88 : Two Fates

Author: Judy Balan
Publisher: Westland Publications

Two fates follows the lives of Deepika Sundar, a Tamilian, and Rishabh Khanna, a Punjabi, who after a long courtship period gets married. Two years down the line, they are fed up of each other and looking for a divorce. Things turn interesting when their families are more bonded than they ever thought to be. It is one happy family and telling them about seperation plans is a tough nut to crack. What follows next is a mad scamper of dealing with in-laws, sorting out differences between the couple and finding that hidden love streak.

A parody on Chetan Bhagat's semi-autobiographical '2 States', the humour in the book is not the LOL-variety but enough to keep you engaged, and it helps that the author give you little time to dwell on that fact. The jokes come flying at you from all directions, and it's hard not to break into smiles when every family member participates in the silliness. Considering it is only around  200 odd pages long, it is a quick time-pass which flies but never soars.

The biggest flaw lie in its cardboard caricaturist characters, each of them straight out of those Indian soaps and none of them have even a single bone of genuine pathos. Each of them provides OTT moments and quite obviously, none of them seems to have common sense. In the spirit of parody writing, all this seems fine but when things start becoming unnecessary melodramatic and to state the most obvious, filmy, you know exactly how it will end.

There is another problem with the basic premise. The couple has a dating period of 5 years before marriage and 2 years after taking the vows. None of the qualities seems to have developed after the marriage time period, then why the sudden discontentment? In a way, that can be attributed towards boredom in marriage, but then the material and scope is too thin to delve this subject at any level of seriousness.

I am going with 3/5 for Judy Balan's 'Two Fates'. The writing is filled with tongue-in-cheek humour and there are great finishes to each chapter. But look deeply, and you will find the shallow sea waiting to be explored in terms of content.Don't read with too many expectations and probably you will not be disappointed.

August 11, 2012

Notes on Diptakirti Chaudhari's 'Kitnay Aadmi Thay?'

Author: Diptakirti Chaudhari
Publisher: Westland Publications

Kitnay Aadmi thay is like a wet dream for any Bollywood movies trivia collector. It has little structure and even lesser logic, but that’s all the more reason why it is so much fun in the first place – just like our own Hindi movies. Of course, the book is not for every literature lover but then when you can guess a Bollywood fan taste. So the narrative pretty much takes you through the last 60 odd years of movies, filling with nuggets which are hard to ignore or resist.

What was the name of the film they were shooting in Rangeela? What was the Amul hoarding when Shahenshah released? Who has the longest-winning streak in Filmfare awards? Did Johnny Walker get his name from the whiskey or was it the other way round? Who will star in Bajirao Mastani when it finally gets made?

The book gives factual, entirely useless and mostly unknown information of Bollywood. Most of this information will be not new for hard core movie buffs, but when compiled in a chapter form with examples thrown in from over 60 years of watching movies, it is unbridled joy.  Lists like Shortest and longest names of movies, movies within movies, favourite or most famous filmi pets are weird, yet reconfirms the fact why we love watching movies in the first place - to have fun. To garner interest. To live again.

There are sections for the portrayal of Parsis, Punjabis, the South Indians and the Bengalis in Bollywood movies which i immensely enjoyed in the book. There is another section for regional actors who made in big in Bollywood, and those that didn’t, followed by the lists of actors who came up on their own without filmi-backgrounds and then there are star kids who made it big and those that didn’t. You can read about the influence of a myriad of fields on Bollywood in another section and that's when you start feeling the method in the madness of this book.

You will still come across situations where you'll feel some of the lists are incomplete and that's my only concern.Having read the book, the only question which remains unsolved is how to keep the book updated in the future editions. The author does not intend to do so and insist that the readers themselves will keep adding to it. It may be a novel idea to keep the readers interested but in my view it needs to be in sync with times. That's probably the only way out to keep the book fresh and in mind of readers.

I am going with 3.5/5 for Diptakirti Chaudhari's 'Kitnay Aadmi Thay'. Read it to enjoy the fun, mad ride of Bollywood. There is a studious feel to the whole book but if you are a big Bollywood fan like me, it is highly unlikely you will be bored for a minute. As they say, let the picture begin!

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