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December 28, 2013

RIP Farookh Sheikh

Did not logged online since morning as the weekend started but the news of sudden demise of one of the most underrated and charming actors in Bollywood - Farookh Sahab hit hard. Very few actors, and you can literally count them on your fingertips, has the persona of bringing inherent goodness with their acting. You don't have to meet the person but you can feel it in his acting.

Most favourite of his movies in the late-70s and early 80s were indeed Chashme badoor (which was half-baked remade earlier this year by David Dhawan) and Hare-Tortoise fable based Katha. Dikhai Diye from Bazaar and Seene mein Jaalan from Gaman remain some of the cherished songs off his movies.

In recent times, he did got back doing more work that he did in passing years.  His two scene cameo in this year's Yeh Jawani hain Diwani with Ranbir Kapoor is testimony to the old cliche that length of the role hardly matters. One does not have to look beyond to know the true value of his craft as confrontation scene with Abhay Deol in Shanghai which was taken beyond notches by Farookh's pitch perfect expressions. I will try and get my hands on watching Listen...Amaya, his last notable performance even though Club 60 released just couple of weeks ago.

One of my main regrets was that even though running for over 20 years, i never got myself to watch Tumhari Amrita live as a stage performance. This was a man who did less work but will be remembered more. He was the aam aadmi of Hindi cinema. RIP.

December 20, 2013

Dhoom 3 - No fire, all cracked up

Dhoom -3 is going to go down as a big blemish on Aamir Khan's career. It is such a botched up film you got to wonder about the "so famous' skills of it's lead actor of choosing the right script. Don't get me wrong, i have been a fan of earlier Dhoom films and even though D:2 also had its own share of cheerful lack of logic, those potholes of logical loopholes got weighed down by the screen persona of Hrithik Roshan.

The loopholes are mind numbing : Why Chicago police or Bank of Chicago call 2 cops all the way from India? How a stammering Samar sing songs? Why Jackie Shroff did not pay installments by just selling the big circus and start small? You don't go into a Dhoom movie looking for logic, but this is so weird and so frustrating to see the talent, money and time being spent in not even working on the basics of a script.

Not withstanding that the central plot (if there is any, to speak of) is a clear rip off from Nolan's 'The Prestige', the sheer melodrama of the second half involving Aaaliya's character is an assault on the senses. To top of it, what is it with AK's furrowed expression all through the movie. I mean, come on you can't be THAT serious doing a Dhoom movie. The twitches, the snarls, the burrows, it's all so excruciating. God Forbid, he even does that tap dance with a smug. Grow up, old man!

PS: Katrina gets a whopping Rs. 5 crore for speaking 14 dialogues in Dhoom 3. That makes it Rs. 0.357 crore for one dialogue. You Wish!

December 18, 2013

Book Review - 146 : When you became my life

Author : Anshul Sharma
Publisher : Srishti Publishers and Distributors

The novel is story of Neev whose life is marked by catastrophes; after losing his parents and almost everything he owned, he finds refude with his friend in Aadi in Agra. Living with an old friend in a new house, bust with a new job in a new environment revives him till he encounters Aashi - girl with larger than life aspirations and a novel dream.

The most basic issue (of many) in this book is that it is devoid of any thrill and written in a one-tone, monotonous style with hardly any efforts to pique readers interest. Bouncing off a vibrant book cover, the novel is full of abundant cliches, annoying stereotypes and yawn inducing conversations. You never get a feel of these characters neither their motivations. I don't expect any emotional depth in such kind of surface level romances but not even concentrating on providing them even a base to explore any thrill in their lives is surely disappointing. Only 180 odd pages long, it won't take much time to read but that is primarily because you hardly stay invested in these characters.

I am going with 1/5 for 'When you became my life' by Anshul Sharma. Even if you are a fan of these romances, it will be difficult to feel good about this one. Read at your own peril!

December 14, 2013

Ask me Anything

There are times to introspect and talk, think and talk and simply talk.

Ask me anything anonymously here and will be happy to answer:

Look forward to it.

December 11, 2013

Book Review - 145 : Destroyed by Ishq

Author : Mr. Invisible
Publisher : Srishti Publishers & Distributors

On a cold February morning, activity freezes at IIT when one of the topper is found hanging inside a room which is locked from outside. A day later, in a fit of anxiety, his best friend erases his suicide note from his laptop (yes, it's THAT crazy!), thereby destroying the piece of evidence which could help anyone remotely associated with the incident to understand what the fuss was all about.

Rather than making this an interesting premise of a romantic thriller genre, the author (who has decided to me invisible rather than work under a pseudonym, another of those weird things about the book) throws in a hopeless romantic story end of which you can guess from the title of the book itself. The plot is unnecessarily confabulated, lines overwritten, short hand language most irritating and defies logic at every crucial juncture. It does not even gather enough emotional quotient for the readers to feel anything remotely connected with the story.

Not only the content, but the editing is terribly disappointing. Excessive usage of punctuation marks and unnecessary change of fonts without any change in tone kills little excitement you can feel for the characters or their purpose in life. A book which fails on many accounts, story being the prime of it. I am going with 1/5 for 'Destroyed by Ishq'. As a reader, one can clearly feel destroyed by this book.

December 1, 2013

Book Review - 144 : Where the Rainbow ends

Author : Anurag Anand
Publisher : Sristhi Publishers & Distributors

Where the Rainbow ends by Anurag Anand traces the graph of three individuals - Rahul, Avantika and Shalini. Rahul had everything going his way a soaring career, a happy family and all else a man his age could yearn for. And then suddenly his life began to crumble all around him, disintegrating element after precious element, leaving him to watch in helpless horror. Where had he gone wrong? Was there still hope for redemption, even a solitary ray that he could cling on to?

Avantika, a pretty, vivacious girl who had come into Rahuls life by pure accident, literally, has suddenly gone missing. Just like that, without as much as a trace. Where is Avantika? Will Rahul be able to find her? Is it her own past that has come back to consume her or is it something even more vicious and sinister?

Shalini, Rahuls first love and a girl accustomed to leading life on her own terms. Hailing from a family that exerts considerable influence in the galleries of politics and power, she certainly has the wherewithal to impact a lot of things. Even lives. Is Shalini fostering a grudge that could displace not one but many lives? Could she be the one behind Avantikas mysterious disappearance?

There are multiple threads which ultimately ends up in a thrilling climax. This is my first read of the author and he does impress with his intensity, pace and sincerity of telling a story. He writes about relationships with a warm which silently will remind you of Cecelia Ahern who incidentally has written a book by the same title. The author takes a story of common people and lap them up in difficult circumstances. The writing is sublime, but it lacks finesse in transitions and there are multiple awkward moments which comes off too contrived in character lives. At this moment, you will feel disappointed as a reader.

I am going with 3/5 for Anurag Anand's 'Where the Rainbow Ends'. It is a heart warming portrait of three individuals trapped in difficult circumstances. Even though one of the main character is ill-conceived and another provides a cheap redemption in the end, it is still a one time quick read. Much better than your normal run-of-the-mill romances you read these days.

November 30, 2013

Book Review - 143 : English Bites

Publisher : Penguin India
Author : Manish Gupta

Confession : I took up the book review thinking as fiction of English-language-background-misadventures but it turned out to be more of an academic book.

English Bites! - My fullproof English Learning formula by Manish Gupta is the story of a man who goes from being tongue-tied in school to becoming a smooth talking banker. Hilarious illustrations, anecdotes and the way things have been planned up in the book give a whole new dimension to it. Through a series of hilarious personal adventures and misadventures, Gupta provides easy solutions to problems faced by language learners. So, whether you’re a vernacular speaker, a GRE/ GMAT/CAT/XAT aspirant or just a language nut, English Bites! will expand your vocabulary and improve your verbal ability. It may even help you love the English language a little more!

The path of learning English is full of interesting anecdotes and we all must have had our share of embarrassing moments of wrong English, written or spoken and this book provides a funny picture of quite a lot on them. There is learning and unlearning at the same time, though this definitely has a very niche audience and definitely not for every reader. But if you can somehow resist the temptation of looking at the footnotes every time, there is some fun in reading this as a fiction book.

I am going with 3/5 for Manish Gupta's 'English Bites'. It is learning vocabulary and nuances of English in a fun way and definitely a big help for anyone preparing for those competitive examinations. Read for what it actually stands for and you will not be disappointed at all.

November 22, 2013

Random Notes on a book about Buddhism and travel

Author : Aruna Deshpande
Publisher : Jaico books

Rating : 3.5 / 5

India is the guardian of a rich and ancient culture, and the seat of Buddhism. Mystic monasteries on Himalayan slopes, richly carved stupas amid lush gardens, cavernous dwellings with exquisite paintings –India is home to all these and more. In Buddhist India rediscovered, her seventh book, respected historian Aruna Deshpande travels the length and breadth of the country to track down the imprints of Buddhism. Never before has any historian presented every major Buddhist site located in India in one book.

Here are the architectural gems of Lumbini, the lesser known Tawang Monastery of Arunachal Pradesh, the unparalleled Bodh Gaya and a reliable guide to visiting all these places. A boon to pilgrims, travelers and armchair explorers alike, Buddhist India Rediscovered will fire the imagination and carry you on a memorable journey.

Punched into short chapters about sites in various states of India and complimented with beautiful photographs, it collates into a competent travel book with sprinkling of Buddhism in it. A must for travel junkies and also will pique interest for anyone looking into insights of Buddhism unfolding across various states of India.  Read as you travel and i am sure, you will like it more!

November 4, 2013

Book Review - 142 : Baramulla Bomber

Author : Clark Prasad
Publisher : Niyogi Books

The story begins with three prominent characters - Adolf Silfverskiold, a Swedish intelligence officer, Aahana Yajurvedi, a mountaineer and girlfriend of one Mansur Haider, who is a cricketer from Kashmir and a prime suspect being tracked by multiple intelligence agencies and Agastya Rathore, the then Indian Home Minister – all jump off a bomber plane to destroy what is called the Ancient Biblical-Vedic weapon. And slowly are we introduced to the different people of the story as we turn the pages.

The story kicks off after a mysterious earthquake struck Shaksgam Valley. But is it an earthquake? Or was a biblical weapon tested in there? There’s probabilty of Indo-China war breaking out? But why? Why is Mansur Haider important? Is there a solution to the Kashmir crisis? Can destiny be controlled? Does a cosmic religion exist?

The author creates solid illustrations to tell the story and i found the narrative device compelling. The pace is brisk and there is very little dwelling on some of the ridiculous and illogical actions scenes which follows. The editing is tight and even though author manages to catch your attention with detailing, it ultimately lets to its downfall by pouring in too much of unnecessary jargon and unrelated plot points. All of this in total drags the narrative and even though at times you feel the pace picking up and things getting back on track, the narrative hinges and makes you weary.

The book is left with a little something about the Svastik Trilogy. The series of three books – Eka, the Baramulla Bomber, Dvitiya – The Consultant and the third book or Tritiya (Yet to be titled) are all concerned with a question – What is the power behind the creation of Universe and human origins? The main protagonists of the first two books are different – you can start with either one or two, but the culmination of the story will happen in the third one.

I am going with 3/5 for Clark Prasad's 'Baramulla Bomber'. The length needs to be shortened and plot had to be less convoluted. Otherwise, it is a quick espionage thriller which deserves more of your time in the future with other books in the series about to come.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

November 3, 2013

Book Review -141 : The Guardian Angels

Publisher : Grapevine
Author : Rohit Gore

“The Guardian Angels” is a tale of two star-crossed lovers, Adi Mehta and Radha Deodhar. Their lives seem to be woven through delicate strings together; always pulling them towards each other. Hailing from strikingly different worlds, they find themselves drawn to each other; often saving the other from dire circumstances or situations.

The story starts with Aditya Mehta, the introvert and the son of a billionaire. Adi is a recluse and despite wanting to socialize he forces himself to stay alone. He then meets Radha Deodhar at school. Radha is the exact opposite of what Adi is. She is very smart and proactive and is brought up by her father who believes in socialism. They instantly become friends in school; they help each other walk through the troubles at school, college and in real life. Later in their life, having known each other for almost two decades, they still struggle to find the right name for their relationship.

Gore introduces characters to the T and maintains a brisk pace through out. Length has been a problem with Gore's earlier novels and this one is no exception. But that's overcome with the sincerity and non-convoluted conversations between the lead characters. Both Adi and Radha, even though resorting to unnecessary melodrama at times, still evokes sympathy and concern. There are heartfelt situations and multiple instances

I am going with 3/5 for Rohit Gore's 'The Guardian Angels'. A little shorter and better edited would have been more rewarding, but in its current form this is a quick Sunday read worth your time.

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

October 25, 2013

Book Review - 140 : Wise Enough To be Foolish

Author : Gauri Jayaram
Publisher : Jaico Books

Wise Enough to be Foolish is a fictionalized memoir of Gauri Jayaram that traces the journey of an Indian girl's life, with all its challenges and surprises, as she blossoms from an insecure child into a confident young woman. This roller-coaster ride is filled with adventure, laughter and heartache, as she balances her love life with her struggle for independence.

Gauri Jayaram is behind the world's largest escorted touring company for adventure trips across the continents - The Active Holiday company [Correction : The author is employed with the company, not founded as was my initial impression]. With due respect to the author, i found the story neither extra ordinary nor engrossing. The narrative is brisk and editing by Divya Dubey of Gyaana books is exceptional, but it does not have the zing one would expect in a memoir like this.

One very basic flaw is that it hardly provides point of view of various people in her life. Jayaram nails it when it comes to telling about her own life, citing every small and minute detail but does not do the same when it comes to other characters. So her journey remains unclear, unmotivated and in the end, simply quite boring. I was also disappointed that her actual escalation of founding The Active Holiday Company hardly get any mention which I was most interested in knowing. [Correction : The company was founded in 2013 only]

Even if you disregard the one-tone nature of this story, it is difficult not to cringe at the overwritten lines and trite dialogues. How such an happening life can be converted into a boring novel is a mystery i have no answer to. One the plausible reason is that Jayaram takes pride in leading an independent life in the early 90s which may be difficult, but not impossible. If you have decided on a particular lifestyle and you are hell bent on following it, then you take the pinch with the salt. You cannot complain about it later on seeing/facing the repercussions of your actions.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Gauri Jayaram's 'Wise Enough to be foolish'. It is well written, neatly edited and nicely packaged. But somehow it just fails to touch chord owing to flat tone narrative and bland dialogues. An wasted opportunity!

October 23, 2013

Mythical Notes on 'Classic Tales from Mystic India'

Author : Kamla K. Kapur
Publisher : Jaico Books

Rating : 2.5 / 5

How much you enjoy 'Classic tales from Mystic India' is directly proportional to how much you have been interested in Indian mythology and how much you have read before. The concept is not new - it is a collection of 24 short stories of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha and Krishna and from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Divided into 7 sections - Each section starts with an introduction to the stories which sets a concise background to the God and His story and nature and set of duties.

The book establishes the theory about the illusion of life and how the cycle of birth and death is essential to keep the continuity of Life going on and also the fact that one has a separate set of duties in a particular life. It also establishes the theory of destruction and evolution and finally culminates into telling stories about the two famous texts of India.

Stories of how Ganesha got the elephant head or Hanuman bares all to Ram after the war are done and dusted kind. So as the story of Narada trying to beat a Vishnu follower or the one in which Ganesha accepts the lunch invitation from Kuber. There are couple of stories from the Mahabharata - one involving Arjun and a bird just after hearing the Gita from Krishna and another one involving Gandhari's pangs of hunger just before she curses Krishna which provides different point of view than the usual.

The writing is lucid and editing water tight. The illustrations in the book don't necessarily always go with the story but the tone is brisk and always eager to provide something different than the usual. All in all, a book which can be more "fresh and new" to the younger generation who are less exposed to the Indian mythology. For me, it was a one time read to freshen up the usual stories i have been hearing and reading all these years.

October 22, 2013

Book Review - 139 : The Jadoo of your love

Author : S.R.Saha
Publisher : Srishti Publishers and Distributors

The Jadoo of your love!....yes, why can't we fall in love again? is one of the most ironic title you will come across in a long time mainly because there is very little chance that you will fall in love with this book once, forget again. Pulling off twists and turns in a novel does not mean we need to abandon logic in the narrative but that's exactly what the author manages to do. Changing your profession every alternate year without having any idea of financial security is idiotic to say the least, but somehow our hero of the novel manages to do that very well and successfully too!

In the final year of college, Anurag's life was falling apart - he vowed never to see Aditya, his best friend of many years again. His love, Urmi too get married to someone else the day unemployed Anurag got the job of a flight purser in an airline company. The narrative from there hops on from one plot point to another without providing any logical sense or explanations and as a reader, there is very little you can sympathise with what is going on in the pages.

Earlier portions are actually filled with Anurag's friendship with Aditya which has very little relevance till that point to the main protagonist. I guess the intention was to show their strong bond, but it comes off looking contrived and manipulative towards the middle of the book. I did not found the transition by Anurag from an airline job to a film maker at all funny and it shows the lightness with which author has treated this material.

I am going with 1.5/5 for S.R.Saha 'The Jadoo of your love'. There is some humour portions which are to be enjoyed in this book but those portions are far and few in between. The 'Jadoo' is certainly missing from this one!

October 21, 2013

Book Review - 138 : The Storm in my Mind

Author : Ayaan Basu
Publisher : Srishti Publishers and Distributors

The Storm in my mind....Ami, Kolkata and Confessions is a collective narrative of events, habits, stereotypes and idiosyncrasies revolving around the contemporary society of Kolkata as narrated by Aryan Roy, central protagonist of our story. It is a story of his love, hatred, passion, friendship, trust, misunderstandings, nostalgia and a boy's incomparable love for his city.

Narrated in the first person, the book delves straight away into the love story of Aryan who works at a call centre. I initially enjoyed their telephonic conversations and their first blind date is written with lot of sincerity and tongue-in-cheek humour. But soon the "Shut-up" punchline and "bodyguard" jokes become repetitive and the monotony sets in. With chapter titles such as "Short review of the next 8 months", this seems like a technical document and very less a novel. 

I also could not understand why so much stress on Kolkata in this novel - when actually half of the story is set in Delhi and Mumbai and is very quick to point out flaws of these two cities. Even when talking about Kolkata, the author take half-shots at portraying culture of the city rather he bombards us into Wikipedia type of entries of places he usually visits with his lady love. Really, can this be qualified as "incomparable love" for the city? If yes, then I am sorry I missed it completely.

I am going with 2/5 for Ayaan Basu's 'The Storm in my Mind". Bouncing off a nice cover, the novel needs to be more detailed to make strong case for the love of city or the novel. In its present form, it is a half-hearted one time read.

October 20, 2013

Book Review - 137 : The Curse of that Night

Author : Rochak Bhatnagar
Publisher : General Press

Good intentions don't necessarily make into good books and that is quite evident from The Curse of that night...she lived forever which is a sincere but amateurish attempt to create the horror of Dec 16 Gang-rape of a physiotherapist student while travelling in a private bus with a male friend. Biggest problem in the book is that it treats rape as a "separate entity" rather than weaving it into the narrative seamlessly to provide a solid story. Instead what we get bursting on its seam, 'Google-based' information of the cultural-physical-sociological aftermath of rape. All these portions stood out like a sore thumb because they do not portray the pain of the protagonist in any manner but provided to the reader as FYI slots.

Abhijeet Raichand, is the highest paid lawyer in Delhi who has sole intention to make money (though he always seems to be doing his own chores including in one scene, setting up table for his date despite being so rich!). Rohan Raichand, a bookie and a drug dealer can't see eye to eye with Abhijeet but has no qualms of taking money from him. As the case in such novels, Abhijeet obviously do not have any iota of clue regarding the intentions of Rohit to kill him. Malvika Singh, Abhijeet's secretary turned fiancee who is opposed and then supported by Abhijeet once the rape case becomes high profile. Darsh, an orphan saves life of Abhijeet and Malvika in a freak incident and it is rape of his sister which we witness, making this a Damini like situation.

There are abundant logical loopholes in the narrative and once the case becomes high profile, there is very little brain cell usage by any of the characters in the moment of crisis. Every one seems to think from the heart including Abhijeet leaving a trail of clues to be exposed as a lawyer. I also could not understand the significance of back (love) story of the prime witness to the rape case. I guess intention was to provide some sort of connection between Ananya and Rishi, central protagonists of Bhatnagar's  earlier two novels but that idea fails miserably.

In the end, what you can admire in the book is the sincerity with which author has penned down this book giving us an idea about how bad rape victims in India are treated and what their life has become? The editing is somewhat better than you would expect in such books and the narrative does maintain a brisk pace. I also particularly liked the way Malvika and Abhijeet relationship progressed even though there is lot of filminess to it.

I am going with 2/5 for Rochak Bhatnagar's 'The Curse of that Night'. It has got its heart in the right place, but all other body parts scattered all over. Not a bad book by any means, but just not good enough to make any sort of strong impression on you.

October 17, 2013

Book Review - 136 : I refused to Bribe

Author : Gireesh Sharma
Publisher : General Press

Jitesh, a senior bank clerk, rejects a business loan to an influential industrialist, Satish. The latter seeks intervention from a senior bank officer named Arora who conspires to get Jitesh removed. A few days later at the bank, Jitesh helps an unknown customer, who claims to be illiterate, to fill his withdrawal form. The customer is later identified as a conman who fraudulently withdraws money from someone else’s account. Arora manipulates the situation and on charges of abetting a crime, Jitesh is named in the chargsheet.

Jitesh is suspended and faces a judicial inquiry which lasts for 14 long and painful years. At every step he gets the opportunity to pay a bribe and get reprieve, but he adamantly refuses to give a bribe. His plea for innocence falls on deaf ears of vigilance officers, bank officials, CID officers, court clerks and even the judge. Does Jitesh succeed to overcome adversity and his adversaries or does he succumb to all kinds of pressures?

Author makes a brave effort in portraying corruption across generations starting from 1950. Sharma nicely builds up the characters including Jitesh's parents, his wife and children. He provides a back up human story to even the wrong ones - namely Arora and Satish. Even though it fails to portray bribery in today's world as the story ends in early 90s, it does ring a bell how tough it can be for an honest man to survive the clutches of dishonest men all around him?

The biggest problem of the book is its daunting length of 300 odd pages which is way too much for paper thin material like this. The narrative is ultimately saved by author's attention to detail. From the banks hierarchy to the changing social norms across decades to the changing economic preferences of children, author makes a valiant effort to showcase the pain of the central protagonist.

I am going with 3/5 for Gireesh Sharma's 'I refuse to bribe'. It has sincere intentions and a competent writing style. I wish it was much shorter to make a better impact on the readers. In its current form, it's a one time read for any one who feels strongly about bribery and corruption in India.

October 15, 2013

Flying notes on Rishi Piparaiya's 'Aisle Be Damned'

Author : Rishi Piparaiya
Publisher : Jaico Books

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Aisle be Damned...Swaying Hips, Praying Lips and Flying tips by Rishi Piparaiya (almost a tongue twister that surname!) is a hilarious account of just about everything associated with air travel. Contrary to popular conception, this one is not really a take on how to fly better but rather how you can make your travel fun. Once you can adjust to the fact that this is primarily a non-fiction book and the one which begs not to be taken too seriously, there is lot of fun to be had.

It has everything related to travel - getting upgraded to business class, micromanaging the pilots, how to kill boredom during the 'technical snag' routine check up, strategies to attract the attention of flight attendants, ice-breaking conversations with pretty co-passengers and breezing through immigration and customs. Author does get overboard with those not-so-hilarious taglines and photographs but then as I said before, you need to adjust as a reader to the humour side of the book.

The writing is easy and even at times dealing with airline industry jargon keep it simple enough for the layman. Being a to-notch sales personnel, author has travelled the world and it does help to efficiently pay nuances to the industry and poke fun at the right pores. What it does conveniently is take all the myths associated with the airline industry and turn it on its head. But if you look beyond those funny layers, you will realise the frustrations usually associated with the air travel for the customers and the inefficiency of the airline staff.

Just over 200 pages long, it is a brisk 3-hour read and deserves a go-ahead. It is well written, jokes come flying in all directions and will leave you with a big smile. Read it during one of those air travel journey or just before taking one, and I am sure you will love the book just a bit more.

September 29, 2013

Book Review - 135 : Confessions of a Private Tutor

Author : Vikram Mathur
Publisher : Rupa Publications

Confessions of a Private tutor outlines the adventures of a young boy forced to give teaching lessons to school kids due to sudden demise of his father in order to support his family. He needs more money and the easy way out takes him to sleeping with kids' voluptuous mothers, willing to be satisfied with our tutor's charms. He starts taking more risks and his misadventures ultimately result in going buck naked (quite literally!) and start his life again.

Problem with this confession series is that it hardly provides any character building and hopping from point to point without feeling the need to stop and provide some basic facts. How the tutor is able to impress the mothers? What make him so irresistible to them? How he always gets overlooked by their husbands and other relatives? Most of these questions remain unanswered and the focus remains solely on the action between sheets. In the end, this hurt the book more than you can think of.

There are certain poignant moments in the book like the tutor struggling with getting the sister marriage finalized while busy minting money by giving sex sessions or the one in which he falls short of expectation first time he is paid for sex. But these are hardly the reasons to take pain in going through this book. I am going with 1.5/5 for Vikram Mathur's 'Confessions of a Private Tutor'. Its short but definitely not sweet or spicy.

September 28, 2013

Book Review - 134 : Confessions of a Call Centre worker

Author : Kris Yonzone
Publisher : Rupa Publications

Confession series is not a novel concept, it has been exploited multiple times more so in the West but it could have been interesting account if the author tried to concentrated more on the life of a call center but instead what we get are long and laborious passages of central protagonist's love life. If those portions was even half bit interesting, it would have made the day but unfortunately nothing of that sort happens.

It does have the intermittent dose of regular call center daily operations - frustrated bosses, angry customers, rotten food, insane workload, night shifts, usage of contraceptives, clogged toilets and drowsy eyes but does not provide anything new or groundbreaking as far as the narrative goes. Short at just around 130 pages, the writing style is too simplistic and does not get into any kind of complications you may expect.

I am going with 1.5/5 for Kris Yonzone's 'Confessions of a call centre worker'. It is boring and hardly provides anything new on call centres or about people working there. This book make Chetan Bhagat's 'One night at call centre' gold in comparison!

September 27, 2013

Book Review - 133 : Beaten by Bhagath

Author : S.V. Divvaakar
Publisher : Frog Books / Leadstart Publishing

Beaten by Bhagath! - A tale of Two writers by S.V. Divvaakar is amusing and frustrating in equal parts. Touted to be an insider and outsider look on the publishing industry in India, it portrays the trials and tribulations of an author trying to pen down his first novel. Pushed in jest by his lady boss, the central protagonist BB sets off on his quest to write a book that's better than India's greatest writer Dr. Bhagath's blockbusters. As the destiny would have it, BB and Bhagath have been classmates are friends at college only to be thrown apart with routine of career and worldly services.

Divvaakar takes us deep into the mind and histrionics of a writer right from ignoring his family to being elusive and a responsibility shrinker. He exposes the reader to the real and the fake publishers, their demands, tantrums and another round of histrionics. We realize that finding a publisher is just not enough in this age of Google. The author research in these portions is pretty evident and credit must be given to weave them in the narrative of the story which is humorous and ironic at the same time.

The writer has another round of happenings and misadventures with promoting the book right from managing a guest for the book launch to Facebook likes. We also get insights into the e-Retail stores vs. bookstores vs. chain bookstores stocking the book, the distribution maze and the real book-selling story all through BB’s adventures in the Indian publishing industry. The story after this whole roundabout sequence heads into the future with the advent and market capture of e-Books. And with it turns around BB fortunes as a wordsmith culminating into the big finale but quite unlike the one BB or his sexy boss may have imagined.

Problem is that even at just 190 odd pages, it is still long and there are few portions which could have cut down as they add very little to the story. College pranks involving BB and Bhagath does nothing more than provide a cheap redemption to each of the characters in the climax after having ignored each other for ages. The writing is witty and author maintains a decent pace but there are few portions where pace slackens when the author tries to concentrate a little too much on creating a melodramatic space between the characters. I particularly found the experiences of BB a little too over the top and considering his foolish antics, he do deserve to get the wrath he eventually endures when things go a bit wrong.

I am going with 3/5 for S.V. Divvaakar's 'Beaten by Bhagath'. It does succeed in providing an inside (and mostly correct) look into the world of Indian publishing. I wish it was a little shorter and had fewer OTT moments in its narrative. However, if you are a budding writer and planning to write your first novel, it may not be a bad idea to pick this one for your reading and get a wholesome new perspective on publishing.

[The book was received as part of Reviewers Program on The Tales Pensieve ]

September 26, 2013

Quick Notes on a book about Tantric Sex

[The book review is done on the request of Jaico Publishing House]

Rating : 3 / 5
Publisher : Jaico Publishing House
Authors : Mark A. Michaels & Patricia Johnson

Tantric Sex Made simple by Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson reveals 54 tips to deepen intimacy & heighten pleasure during the act of love. The authors have been teaching Tantra since 1999 and thus, comes with a bag full of tricks on this topic proving that Tantric lovemaking doesn't have to take hours. In this fun and mostly easy-to-use (well illustrated) beginner's guide to authentic Tantra may just take your sex life from ordinary to extraordinary. Good thing, anyone can practice these tips and are easily understood. Along with fundamental principles of Tantric sex, you can discover amazing ways to prolong arousal, satisfy your partner, maximize bliss, and reach higher states of consciousness.

Divided into 54 chapters and 9 parts, it is fun and educating in the best form of the word. I liked the fact that subtly it makes a point about sexual attitudes in today's society and strong suggestions about maintaining an healthy sex life without inhibitions or boredom. There is an engaging tone to the perspective of sex mentioned through the narrative which avoids theoretical overload and teaches the technique at the most basic level. it helps that authors maintain a fairly humorous and relaxed approach to Tantra, never overwhelming its audience with impractical suggestions.

Tantric sex has been practiced for a long time in India through spiritual gurus and religious preachers and it is sad that such a primitive form of sex rarely gets a mention in the mainstream with the focus more on hardcore stuff. Not a big fan of self-help books, this one did piqued interest in me as a reader in exploring the new form and arguably, the correct techniques for it. It also comes with real and drawn illustrations which help in understanding the authors point of view. Overall, a different way to spend your weekend with a book. Try it out!

September 23, 2013

Short Notes on 'My Beloved's MBA Plans'

[This book review is done on the request of Srishti Publishers]

Author : Disha Chhabra
Publisher : Srishti Publishers & Distributors

Rating : 2.5/5

My Beloved's MBA Plans - Crossroads of love and ambitions  by Disha Chhabra is a collection of short stories with a common thread running through all of them - How much you are willing to give to fulfill your MBA dream? Would  you be willing to give up a cushy job and start from scratch? Would you be willing to stay apart from your spouse for the duration of MBA? Would you be willing to uproot your family from a well-settled life?

With interviews conducted with fellow students of IIM-Calcutta, the book consists of short stories but based on real life people and their sacrifices to get a MBA degree. Few stories does make a strong impact - How a couple nurture a relationship when the lady discovers pregnancy during the MBA. Or how a couple gets married right at the beginning of MBA and spends an unusual honeymoon. Or how a young lady overcome the tragic loss of her father because of cancer before embarking on MBA. Most of the stories are human and does ring an emotional side to all of us. More so, since the problems are borne out of practical situations of life and genuine career decisions. 

With strong EQ stories at the core, the author does come flat at certain times specially when there is a strong reluctance to delve into the personal issues of the couple. At multiple points during these stories, there is a resistance not to divulge too much information about these couples'. I wanted to know more about them, but the writing did not provided me that and that's where one would feel a little let down. There is too much sugar coating in the relationships portrayed here and it dilutes the tension which these relationships must have faced in those critical situations. As they say, fizz is missing in the Cola. It is big on ambition but a little short on content. It flies, but never soars. Read it, if you have faced a similar situation in your career or facing currently.

Disclosure : I have studied a semester of engineering with the author.

September 21, 2013

Notes on APJ Abdul Kalam's 'My Journey'

[This book review is done on the request of Rupa Publications]

Author : APJ Abdul Kalam
Publisher : Rupa Publications

Rating : 3 / 5

My Journey - Transforming Dreams into Actions by APJ Abdul Kalam portrays a life of extraordinary determination, courage, perseverance and the desire to excel. From a small boygrowing up in Rameswaram, to becoming the country’s eleventh President, it traverses through a series of anecdotes and profiles. Dr Kalam looks back on key moments in his past—some small and some momentous—and tells the reader how each of them inspired him profoundly. With warmth and affection, he talks about the people who left a deep impression on him as he was growing up and as an adult, and the lessons he drew from his interactions with them.

He describes those who have been the closest to him—his father with his deep love of God, his mother and her great kindness, his mentors who helped shape his thoughts and outlook. There are heart-warming accounts here of his childhood years spent in a small town by the Bay of Bengal and the many struggles and sacrifices made on the path to becoming a scientist and then the President of India. Multiple incidents stood out - like the one where he found his mother to be starved when he himself ate a little too much or how he managed to  help his uncle in the newspaper business. All these small incidents portrays a slice of life and ultimately, contributed in his personality.

Dr Kalam also writes about the times when failure and dejection nearly overtook him and how he prevailed over those obstacles by drawing strength from books and spirituality. My most favourite moment is when his professor told him to rework on a project over the weekend and he pushed himself to get the work done. It shows the man's determination to his craft. Also, he was desperate to pursue a career in flying but could not because of various constraints. He still rose above these failures to be what he ultimately become and even at the age of 80+ he is still a role model to savour and respect.

What is more impressive is that he doesn't inundated his readers with complicated jargon or language, rather he keeps things simple and maintains a humble approach. Not too long at around 150 pages, it can be easily read within couple of hours and will leave you with a motivated feeling. Go for it!

September 19, 2013

Book Review - 132 : A Maverick Heart

Author : Ravindra Shukla
Publisher : Frog Books

A Maverick Heart : Between Love and Life is a difficult book to like, more so when the author maintains a narrative which is agonizingly boring and border line ridiculous. Through three characters - Rahul, Richita and Neerav, students of IIT-B the author tries to bind through their life graphs. Their problems are genuine and mostly practical, their impulsive decisions understandable and there is certain growth of characters which is appreciated as a reader.But all these subtle nuances are buried under a whopping 380 odd pages which is too long by any stretch of imagination for a story of this magnitude. It definitely needed to be short and coherent and the best bits are trapped under long stretches where nothing of significance happen in the story. 

When narrating the central theme, the author does make some pertinent points regarding racism in US work places, cultural divide, recession in early 2000s and burden of carrying an IIT tag all along the life. These portions, even though poorly edited still are the best bits in a long and convoluted novel which loses its shine and as we go along, the underlying message somewhere as well. The author eventually grapples with so many unnecessary sub-plots of NGOs, RTIs, social activism and relief operations that you feel like reading from the pages of a diary rather than a book trying to make some sense.

I can understand that this story is based out of real characters and their honest motivations, but poor editing and grammatical structure at all places absolutely mar those sincere intentions. The writing style is easy and usually maintains a brisk pace but inundated with too many details ultimately let it down.

I am going with 2/5 for Ravindra Shukla's 'A Maverick Heart'. Leaving its noble intentions apart, its a hard slog for its audience. Read it if you must.

[The following review is part of "The Reader Cosmos" book review program]

August 31, 2013

Short Notes on A BLUE BALL and why not to think about it?

[This review is done in association with the "The Reader Cosmos" Book review program]

Author : Malti Bhojwani
Publisher : OM Books International

Rating : 3 / 5

I must confess i am not a great fan of self-help books but still have been reading it over the years in the hope that i will come across some worthy books in this genre. If at all, they do provide a bit of motivation and inspiration in an otherwise routine life.

The author has divided the book into various chapters in such a way that it provides a particular theory, different point of view, examples to illustrate those points and relevant exercises to practically implement those theories. What impressed me the most that the author was not shy in divulging her personal life and most of the pertinent points/examples are actually drawn out from her life, which at times have been difficult and full of hardships.

Malti Bhojwani is the founder of Multi Coaching International, a professional certified life Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF), NIP practitioner (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and an author. She coaches using her empathetic enquiry that leads her clients to personal empowerment, fulfilled goals and consistent success. Being a life-long learner, she is also mastering Ontological Coaching with Newfield Network to hone her skills, as she still considers herself only a 'white-belter' in the field of personal transformation.

The author says right at the beginning that this book is as light as you think and as deep as it can be. I kinda agree with it. The symbolism of a blue ball can be related to anything negative in life and how we tend to focus more on them and not the positives. The narrative is full of the spirituality shrouded in life and provides utmost satisfaction when you overcome the obstacles. There is a certain calmness in her writing which rubs off on you as a person while reading it.

There are repetitions at various places, more so in explaining the same theory from different angles and could have been shorter by around 40 pages. I found the exercises a bit uninteresting and tend to skip those. In short, if you are looking for a self help book to motivate and just get a kick start again in life, not a bad way to spend time reading this one!

August 28, 2013

Book Review - 131 : Fire in the Rain

Author : Surendra Mohanty

Publisher : Future books

A serial killer is on the loose. He surfaces in one metropolis after another, leaving behind a trail of murders. He masquerades as respectable citizens in different cities – a naval officer in Mumbai and Hyderabad, a film director’s brother in Kolkata, restaurateur in Bangalore, racehorse buff in Pune – and targets single working women. ACP Kale is desperate to catch the elusive killer before he strikes again, but he has no clue except that the killer invariably strikes on an ominous day – Friday the thirteenth, and hires luxury cars to date his victims. One of his quarries, the beautiful Richa finally tames him.

It is difficult to build any excitement for a novel when through its blurb, foreword and preface; the story and climax has already been revealed. It even more criminal to do so in a serial killer thriller novel. It becomes extremely difficult to muster any courage to build suspense since you are aware exactly how this is going to end. You just wait and see how it will happen.

Book being self published is full of spelling and grammatical errors and if not for genuine noble intentions of the author and some precise research work done on serial killers, this book would have been a complete disaster. Coming off a horrible book cover, the novel maintains a brisk pace and takes the reader through various cities while committing crimes. But we never seem to catch hold of the motivations of the killer nor the sense of urgency with which ACP kale approach the criminals. It sets off on a repetitive mood on every 13th and comes off as completely contrived.

There are multiple loopholes in the narrative and revealing them will spoil the fun (if any!) of reading this book - how conveniently police moves at each location, how even being in different city at times Kale orders other police departments, how easily suspect lists are reduced to just two persons and most importantly, the motive of the murders is so amateurish, you got to demand money for time invested in this book.

The only saving grace was how author builds up the psychological profile of the killer with the help of a friend who helps ACP kale after every murder. There is some decent research being put in by the author to profile the criminal mind of a serial killer and in the end, are the best bits of an otherwise, disappointing novel.

I am going with 2/5 for Surendra Mohanty's 'Fire in the Rain'. More character development, slower pace to solve cases and building up intrigue are they key stones for a serial killer novel. The author touches them but only a superficial level. Hope things can be improved in the next edition.

August 27, 2013

Book Review - 130 : Here Sat a Keymaker

Author : Makarand Lohire
Publisher : Srishti Publishers & Distributors

Here Sat a Key Maker...Of Friendship, Love, Hate and Men grapples with different characters from various strata of society and attempts to provide a realistic version of their complicated lives. It is the story of Javed, Shashank and Preity whose simple lives are provided impetus by poverty, love and ambition. Set against the background of Mumbai, can a poor boy dream of a life with his love? Does the lure of the money drive one to betray one's own? Will fate be kind enough to fulfill their wishes? 

Problem is the narrative is hardly seamless and the Hinglish tone adopted by the author along with cheesy lines is gyrating on the nerves. There is hardly any character development and most of the dialogues have a laboured feel towards it. The author makes a sincere effort in providing a real setting for these characters to flourish but their intentions most of the time is confusing as the story progresses and their motivations flounders.

Story of a key-maker excited me initially but it was soon fizzled out because the tone is preachy and immature. On top of it, instead of going for a straight narrative, the author over uses flashback device that it loses its novelty and the end will leave you confounded completely. Only thing which you can appreciate after reading the book is the sincerity with which author has attempted this one.

I am going with 1.5/5 for Makarand Lohire's 'Here sat a Key Maker'. Even if low brow mass fiction is your style, there are still very little chance you will like this book.

August 18, 2013

Notes on 'Kaleidoscope - Different Strokes for Different Folks'

Author : Multiple
Publisher : Parlance Publications

Rating : 2.5/5

Kaleidoscope is a collection of 25 award winning short stories, selected out of numerous stories received in the online contest organized by SpringTide. Given the short turn around time between conducting the competition and publishing the book (around three weeks in May this year), the production quality of the book has been of low standard with numerous spelling, punctuation and grammatical mistakes leaving the editing work literally to drains.

The Hunter by Vivek Banerjee, best story amongst all those submitted for the competition provides a climax which very few of us can claim to predict during the course of the story.‘The House'. By Deboshree Bhattacharjee provides an emotional core to the story while 'Tale of the knitting Yarn' by Nabanita Dhar provide a predictable but melodramatic plot to a long distance relationship. 

'Happy puppet' by Bhavya Kuashik spins a story around Angelman Syndrome giving us a story fill of irony and fate. Prasanna Rao’s ‘The Hike to the Temple’ takes the horror genre but hardly provides any scary moments. Half way through the story you can guess the climax and even the atmospherics, an essential part of building a story in this genre leaves a lot to be desired.

'The white dress' by Garima Nowal is sweet, sensitive romantic tale with a twist in the end which keeps you engrossed by its rare maturity. 'The Last Date' by Sarvana Kumar Murugan brings the effective melancholy to the short story but does not invest effectively into the climax as a result of which the feeling of the tragedy appears contrived.

Towards the end of the book, many stories have been fit in just because they are different but rarely do they impress you either with their writing or narrative style. The stories are short and crisp but poor editing at various instances mar the fun of enjoying the book further. A one time read in its present form.

July 31, 2013

Book Review - 129 : The Guardians of Karma

Publisher : Srishti Publishers & Distributors
Author : Mohan Vizhakat

Around 10500 B.C.E., with sea levels much lower than they are today, and mainland continents still largely covered with ice, the primary centres of Indian civilisation were dominated by two highly advanced nation states – Dev Lok and Daityan Empire. Spiritually-inclined Devas lived in harmony with nature, whereas Daityas believed in brute force technologies for rapid prosperity and material gratification. Steady inundation of the tropical islands created a crisis, particularly for Daityas. To fuel their hunger for material resources, the aggressive Daityas proceeded to invade other nations.

Warrior monk Hara becomes the sole hope of Dev Lok to prevent defeat and abject subjugation. However, before he can help them, Hara must undertake the ultimate journey of spirituality to pass beyond the barrier of death itself and engage with the astral personae of Lord Rudra. This action-packed mythological science fiction takes the readers through the exotic cities of Amaravati, Atalantpuri, and traces the arduous journey to Mount Kailash. The story unfolds the philosophy of Karma within the backdrop of love, passion, greed, war, tragedy and spirituality that characterised these ancient times.

Will Hara be able to check the Daityan aggression in time to correct the course of Karma? Will he be able to wield the viman ‘Pinaka’ against the central seat of Daityan power – the indestructible citadels of Tripura? Is he the one who will glorify the name of Lord Shiva as Tripurantaka – the mighty destroyer of Tripura?

Author Mohan neatly tick all the boxes of a mythology thriller. It has a wide narrative and a stream of main and associate characters punctuated by racy dialogues and an intrigue created solely on (mis)interpretation of the mythical creatures of our pre-historic times. The pace of the narrative is brisk and even though grappling with multiple characters, the author makes sure none of them is half-baked and thus, provides the required punch.

But more than anything else, it raises important and at times crucial questions about our mythology. Is it possible that many of the ancient myths within these epics do have some elements of truth behind them? Maybe an advanced civilisation with ethnic groups like Devas, Daityas, Rakshas, Manavs etc did exist during our distant past? May be the Lokas, Talas and other exotic places where they lived were actually the geographical land masses that used to exist during the ice age? Perhaps some of the legendary events described in our scriptures were interpretations of real incidents, gleaned from fragmentary cultural memories of a prehistoric era? Maybe there is a common lineage to the ancient legends of many cultures across the world? For example, is the Indian legend about the free-floating triple cities of Tripura and Greek one about Atlantis, both reconstructions of the same event?

I am going with 4/5 for Mohan Vizhakat's 'The Guardians of Karma'. There is pleasure in creating mythical world and even more fun when it is done right. This one has the right mix of emotions, adrealine pumping action sequences and a brave attempt to connect spirituality, science and philosophy. It's a must read and i look forward in reading its sequel.

July 29, 2013

Book Review - 128 : The Paperback Badshah

Publisher : Srishti Publishers & Distributors
Author : Abhay Nagarajan

The Paperback Badshah...The comical journey of a 100 Rupee' make the same mistakes while narrating the story as its protagonist fumbles all through as an author. In the end result, the story is too long, convoluted and a well intention satirical tale on the journey of publishing a mass fiction reduces to a plodding sermon, quite literally. The story flounders as and when the drama picks up but till the climax it falls apart like a pack of cards in a clunky, overblown ending which has very little justification or fun.

Things are interesting right at the start when author of the book concentrates on the central protagonist ambitions seeing another successful author cracking cheap jokes and garner publicity on a book launch. But as the story unfolds, there are long portions which have little significance to the narrative and just adds to the length of the book. There are dream sequences inserted which are genuinely funny and are the best bits in the book.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Abhay Nagarajan's 'The Paperback Badshah'. It could have been a great satire, unfortunately it squanders the potential by concentrating too much on smaller details and in turn, missing out the big picture. A one time read to be quickly consumed and forgotten in its present form.