Saturday, November 28, 2015

Book Review: Mumbai Avengers

Thrillers or crime fiction as a genre has its own dedicated and faithful clientele that happily ignores other genres with scant remorse. I must confess that though I don’t really ignore the other genres, my addiction to crime fiction is worth worrying. 

While growing up, the only English thrillers available were predominantly by British or American authors. In that era of cold war, the villains were obviously rogue rascals (read communists), who wanted to dominate the world. Cold war ended and terrorism became the omnipresent and omnipotent villain. But just as ‘terrorism’ doesn’t have any specific identity, it doesn’t have any readymade villains. Some authors tried to paint Saddam (or some such desert lords) as villain, but it didn’t create much impact. India started facing the brunt of global (globally connected) terrorism from the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. But there were no credible or readable thrillers with India as a background. 

S Hussain Zaidi, an author who has painstakingly put together and beautifully presented the sordid underworld of Mumbai, has come up with ‘Mumbai Avengers’. I have already been a huge fan of his books (Dongri to Dubai, Byculla to Bangkok, Mafia Queens of Mumbai among others). So I started reading his novel ‘Mumbai Avengers’ with a lot of expectations. There is a co-author (Gabriel Khan), but I ignored that. The start is quite interesting. All the major characters are Indians. The villains are Pakistanis. Seems clichéd, but understandable. The effort to achieve a mixture of Forsyth and Higgins is very apparent. The plot is simple – Mumbai terror attacks of 26th November 2008 are to be avenged. And not by an official team, but by a voluntary, non-official team put together by people from RAW, Indian Army etc. The team starts avenging. But after an interesting start, the grip starts loosening. Instead of a Forsyth-Higgins cocktail, we are force-fed a Manmohan DesaiDavid Dhawan cocktail. The team is built and functions in such a clichéd way that after a while, it stops taxing your mind and starts tiring your eyes. In short, ‘Mumbai Avengers’ beats most of the C-grade Hindi thrillers effortlessly. Quite naturally, a Hindi Film (Phantom) was made out of this novel. I haven’t seen the film, but now I am wise. 

One keeps wondering – isn’t there a single decent soul in the entire India who can avoid the fatal attraction of stereo-typing and grow just a teeny weeny little bit above of infantile intelligence levels? Mr. Zaidi, you have wiped out your balance; the balance that you had painstakingly built through your excellent books till now. Please get back to some meaningful writing, or declare a ‘sanyas’. We would like to remember you for the right reasons, not as a nightmare.

Publisher – Harper Collins Publishers India
First Edition – 2015
Price – INR 199

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