by Akash Verma
‘Low-caste’ boy, ‘high-caste’ girl, zaalim zamana! Overkill of the cliché-d Bollywood masala.. It’s only fitting that the Bollywood and Mumbai do end up in the story..
“A broken man”’s protagonist is indeed broken- a successful Bollywood scriptwriter and lyricist, but also a lonely, broken man! His past- a ‘lowborn’, shoved into the ‘royal’ city of Lucknow.
The setting of the story in the dusk of 1990s hurls Krishna Kumar (yet to be “KK”) right into the eye of the Mandal anti-reservation storm- which hadn’t quiet quieted, in spite of almost a decade-wide gap between 1989 and 1999.
Here’s where the author starts to disappoint- just like the mainstream Bollywood, all the “evil upper castes” gather together to commit hate crimes against the “poor, downtrodden child”, from the ‘deprived caste’.
And the ‘saintly’ Krishna quietly takes it all- even when he is occasionally incensed to retaliate, his good old “hero ka dost” Shiv stops him, reminding him of “who they were”- until Krishna met her!!
In yet-another B-town spin, first Krishna is filled with caste-based hatred for her, then saves her form her political rivals (conveniently belonging to fictional counter-part of BJP, which seems to seems to be miles from winning the hearts of English speaking ‘intellectuals’ of this country) and falls for her after the all-too-familiar “Oh my God! The good princess of the evil (casteist) lords ate and drank with me- a commoner!”. Predictably, she says yes, a couple of kisses, one-time sex and OK-from-Hero-ki-Ma-NOT-OK-from-Heroine-ke-pappa, and boom! They’re separated!
But here’s where the story does pick up the pace– even though still predictable, it starts drawing the reader in.
Krishna, after an initial struggle, manages to find a strong foothold in the advertising industry and later gains recognition in advertising world, before being catapulted into script writing, followed by snowballing success!!
But the wounds in his heart do not heal; his love, and commitment to his Chhavi never waivers- not even for a minute.
It’s a good book, overall. Though definitely not something “out of the world”, it does have its moments of clarity, terse story flow and Mumbai and Bihar- though appearing briefly- have been captured far more effectively than Lucknow.
DO READ: If Lucknow University’s politics means anything to you, if you’re sympathetic to “the Dalit cause”!
DON’T READ: If you’re hoping to get any “kicks”- of any sorts- after reading!!