Wednesday 7 October 2009

Maximum City



Truly Maximum a city... Bombay, the city MNS (Motive Nuisance Sena) claims to be Mumbai...

Suketu Mehta has written the book brilliantly... focusing on every aspect we recognise as complete Bambaiyaa... be it the Shiv Sena and its overwhelming embarrassing influence on every Bombayite, the underworld and the constant fear the entire city lives in, the glitz and glamour of the film city, the finance capital of India, its post-riot-brutal injuries, the best-after-Scotland Yard police fo(a)rce of Bombay, the slums, the vadapao, the lack of even foot-space and yet the thousands disembarking in the city every single day, they call it sapno ka shahar...

The book is non-fiction, and we embark on the discovery of this city as the Amrikkan Desi babu lands from New York to the city he spent a part of his childhood in. The used-to-New-York author finds it difficult to face the No-city, as he describes it. Then he learns to pull strings, Bombay-style!

Suketu visits plenty of bigwigs... from Bal Thackrey to Vinod Chopra to Sanjay Dutt and even seeks audience with the Chotta Shakeel, and finally gets a phone conversation with the don after travelling to Dubai. Suketu meets gang boys, hears professional killers recounting murders, meets a girl who dances in the bars... and another,who dresses up as one... Suketu crudely observes sentiments of the injured communities of Hindus and Muslims, post '93 riots. Shiv Sainiks who claim to be saviors of the Hindus and Muslims who claim they were innocent! And Muslims who still seek revenge...

Suketu meets a police officer, Ajay, one of the only honest men left in the police force... a tough cop, tossed around like a ball at whims of seniors. He witnesses third-degree, first hand; watches the bomb blasts rocking the city, sees the police force struggling to prevent another set of major riots, watches the city that never sleeps, and even ends up co-writing the script for Mission Kashmir...

The entire description is breathtaking, the book unputdownable, the events ibid, and most importantly, confirm every impression the city has ever had on me...

The only thing that struck me as odd, was that Suketu is able to seek and obtain interviews with a huge variety of people, from small thugs to professional shooters, to politicians and even the don himself. How many strings did he have to pull to achieve it, or is it that the lure of an American writer putting their story in a Bollywood flick (as he promised them) is so strong that they're ready to move out into the open and share their lives with him...

Whatever the means, the end is an absolutely fascinating book about the city, I call Bombay... to hell with MNS!



24 comments:

akanksha said...

Well Well, the book seems to be nice!

I loved the ast line. Seriously, to hell with MNS.

Strong post!

Shaunak said...

Nice post!! I do hope the MNS guys aren't too much into Google Analytics :P

Abhinav said...

errr.. its Mumbai.. officially..! Why do you want to use the British names? Britishers are long gone.. its a pity that we still speak english.. what can be done.. half of the world does so..

Anyways.. getting back to the comment...

This review is quite nice.. looks like I might have to go for this next time I look for a book..!

MNS? That's why I love India... err.. Bharat... err Hindustan?

sumit Das said...

Co-incidentally I am reading the book now, have finished around 420 pages. I have never been to Mumbai and the narrative is so lucid and vivid that I forget the fact that I have never been to the maximum city.I think you missed to stress the effects of certain punch lines such as the one at the end of the chapter black-collar workers and several others. I also felt that the second half is not as riveting as the first , but may be one is more inclined to hear about Chota Shakeel than Chopra just coz he is Chota Shakeel. In short one of the best narrative reporting I have ever read

sumit Das said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sumit Das said...

P.S-
I read somewhere Henin has decided to return from retirement . Now that is delightful.Isn't it?

Thousif Raza said...

hmm seems a nice one i gotta read, and akansha sirf thank you bolne se kaam nahi chaelga, kya yaar ek baar bhi blog par nazar nahi dali....., mai itna bura bhi nahi likhta bhai....... hope to c ya there soon :)

take care and keep writing..........

Anurag said...

lol at shaunak's comment ..and he's actually right...ur posts are not titled aptly really ..if u see in the point of view of a person doing a google search and landing up in your page :P

but u r right in this instance...gotta read it :)

Akansha Agrawal said...

@akanksha
Hehe, dil se likhi thi... dhanyawaad :D

Akansha Agrawal said...

@Shaunak
I seriously doubt Thackrey has itna dimaag... frankly, even if he does... we'll sue him for using "foren" services... *evil laughter* hehe ;)

Akansha Agrawal said...

@Abhinav
I'll answer facts ke saath gtalk par... :)

Haanji... should I gift it to you? :)

Akansha Agrawal said...

@Sumit
Yeah I kept the review short. The book has LOTS more, but lets not spoil the fun for other people... nahi? I found both parts equally good, maybe first hand experience helps?

If Henin is returning... \:D/ \:D/ Women's Tennis just got a lot more interesting... :D

Akansha Agrawal said...

@Thousif
Sure :)

Akansha Agrawal said...

@Anurag
Achha... toh you suggest an apt title na... buddhu, hez referring to the fact that if MNS were to do Google analytics, they'll reach the blog page and FYI, it doesn't matter where the words are in a post, Google (or search engines in gen) fish them out anyway...

Haan ji... do read it! :D

aZoed said...

hmm.. I saw it on the stand the other day at Churchgate... used one.. should have bought it. Seems like a nice read... though I hate reading about others's viewpoints about places - I get biased forming one of my own. MNS rocks - it should be stoned! a unch of attention seeking [beeps]

ain't that bad a title - I got to know 'twas about Mumbai the sec ur blog loaded... nice review... how do u go about writing one? :P

Karthik said...

Bombay city has always fascinated me. Now the book seems to be very interesting.
By the way, your blog is fabulous. Going through the posts one by one... :)

Asit Dhal said...

The book looks like a nice and fascinating !! I will buy this book...

Akansha Agrawal said...

@aZoed
Yeah, you should've bought it :P Hmm... maybe after you've seen a bit of Mumbai,you'll prob accept his viewpoints without any arguments ;)

For the title thingy, thanks ;)

Err.. to write a review, you have to read a book, you know... :P :P

Akansha Agrawal said...

@Karthik
Thanks :)

I went through your blog too :) Interesting one there...

Akansha Agrawal said...

@Asit
It is... :)

Parth Dave said...

Superb review! Now it seems I've gottta read this book...

...Yet another wonderful write-up from a wonderful writer!

Great! Keep it up!

Samadrita said...
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Samadrita said...

Hmm sounds like an interesting read.

Mahesh Sindbandge said...

You seem to write a review for a lot of books :) I hardly manage myself to do that :)

Review seemed sensible to me :) The interesting part is author/Suketu meeting different people and finding out the realities was something a journalist typo job.

Good one :)

See you around :)