Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Quiet & Relaxed ...

Since a few years now, I had my eyes on her. Her voluminous figure was repulsive. Moreover her meticulously detailed and sometime philosophical talks didn’t entice many. But I had fallen for her from the time I had heard about her chaste inner beauty from a few friends who had acquainted with her. For 3 long years, I tried many a times to get together with her but couldn’t succeed. But finally, our destinies converged a few weeks back; I saw her leaning prettily over a shelf at a bookstore. She was a bit overweight alright; but her striking face accentuated with hues of red was entrancing. I simply walked up to her, held her hand and got out of the store and the rest as they say is history ...

Okay, okay, gals don’t get upset or jealous!! I am just talking about a book here. I still am very much single and available :). Now, this is the first time I am writing a review of sorts for a book. Earlier I have recommended a couple of books as passing notes in my posts. But this entire post belongs to the book I just finished reading and which still has me under its binding spell.

In today’s fast paced world of short sophisticated stories, succinct narratives and innovative fictions, a 930+ pages epic based on a real life story might sound like a boring proposition. I guess I too would not pick up such a book unless I hoped to use it as a pillow (both literally and figuratively). But I had heard and read so much about this literary masterpiece that I had been itching badly to subject myself to the torture. And glad I am, that I did that to me.

Well, Shantaram is a real life inspired but fictitious account of memoirs of the author – Gregory David Roberts, an Australian fugitive who lands into Mumbai after escaping from a prison back home. Once into Mumbai he just falls in love with this city where he makes many friends, lives in Mumbai slums, deals in drugs, runs a first-aid clinic for the poor slum dwellers, finds a father figure in Mumbai's mafia, finds a few friends who could die for him and vice versa, makes a few enemies who entrap him, has near death experiences in Mumbai jail, joins the Mujahideen war in Afghanistan, becomes an important part of the mafia gang in Mumbai and zillion other things ... and did I say learns Hindi and Marathi?:) Okay, by now you must have at least realized that this book is a roller coaster ride of a plethora of emotions – trust, love, betrayal, respect, friendship, sympathy, blind faith, power, conviction etc etc etc

This one sure is right up there amongst the best prose (cant term is as the best since Bourne Identity is a tough competition :)) I have read. There are loads and loads of sentences and paragraphs in this gem that you would just want to engrave in your memory and quote them somewhere to impress others by its richness of literature and also some interesting philosophical focus. But the highlight of this book is the thoroughly detailed account of the writer’s adventures. Some of them are so comprehensive that you actually begin to feel the surroundings and start experiencing the feelings of the protagonist. For instance, after reading his ordeal at the Arthur Road prison in Mumbai; you will shudder even from the thought of spending a day in that jail. Similarly his depiction of the Mumbai slums and the entire south Mumbai area made me wonder sometimes whether I actually live in Mumbai or not.

This book is a must buy for book lovers, it is a captivating thriller sprinkled merrily with human emotions, interesting philosophy and descriptive writing. Mumbaikars will surely find a connection with this book owing to the scrupulous description of many of the city places with “CafĂ© Leopolds” being the prominent of all :).

On the flip side, in my view the book has two snags – firstly, it surely is HUGE, but, once you start this voluminous autobiography it starts growing on you and enchaining you in its grasps. Secondly, it has some open ends during the narration which might be a turn off. But most of them get clarified towards the end. Alas there are a couple of them still which I am wondering about (or did I just missed a few pages while reading the book in almost sleepy state)

Btw Warner Bros have bought the rights for making a film on this book in which Johnny Depp is slated to play the lead role while Amitabh Bachhan is slated to play the mafia head who becomes a father figure to the protagonist.

Lin Baba ki Jai Ho!!! :)

Ciao friends, tc,
hiren

p.s. the title of the post is the literal disintegration of the word “Shant - aaram” just in case you are still intrigued :)

p.p.s. now I have my eyes on another femme fatale and this one is not a book :)

15 comments:

Neo said...

i have been wanting to read this book...i read the opening lines of this book somewhere and fell in love...

Keshi said...

Shantaram is something I really wanted to get my hands on...but hvnt so far. ty for reminding me abt it Hiren :)

WOW u love a book like u love a lady? ;-)


Keshi.

Serendipity… said...

Have read the book & completely agree with your views. It really makes u see Bombay in a different light...
It'z voluminous... Bt itz cool..

Hope to see more book reviews coming from u...

Saumil Shah said...

Yes baby..I completely agree with you.This is my all time favorites! Though, I really interested in knowing more about your 'femme fatale'. If you love books that make you smell and touch the surroundings, I would highly recommend 'The White Tiger'.

ceedy said...

Main shanti aur aaram se thode dino me khatam kar loonga...

good review...

Hiren said...

@Neo -> dude, get ur hands on it ... this one is a must read . am sure u will like it too ...

Hiren said...

@Keshi -> hmmm ... no lady to love so am showering all my love on books right now :)

Hiren said...

@Manallii -> yep, a must read for bombay people :) hmmm lets see if any other book impresses me so much :)

Hiren said...

@Saumil -> dont get excited dude; nothing's brewing :) and yea i have the white tiger on my list ... will start it soon.

Hiren said...

@ceedy -> thanks bud! wats taking u so long to reach the end after reaching 830+ ??

ceedy said...

Something that I have been avoiding since starting the book...called work and long hours at work :)

and BTW it is still 730 - typo error....but this weekend will be NIKE

Princess Mia said...

no comments as am not into reading :( but i guess i'll grab the love story on sunday

Hiren said...

@ceedy -> 730 ... then you will now dive into interesting revelations ... njoi bud.

Hiren said...

@mia -> hmmm, love story is a nice book, hvnt read it though but hv heard that its nice read .. let me know how u find it.

ameya said...

oh!!!!u finally completed the book....calls for a celebration....