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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. 

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