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Thursday 11 July 2013

Book review: Strike @ 36 by Aparna Pednekar

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When the book begins, the story seems to unravel at an annoying pace, then it gains momentum and drops to a well-crafted but insipid end.

Everything about the story hovers unabashedly around Mumbai, which one of the protagonists describes as “the putrid hellhole of my dream.”
It’s the titles of the chapters that keep you going. Then there is a plethora of witticisms and sarcasms, not to forget the umpteen hyperboles deployed by the characters. The characters are the best part. Their lives are deceptively simple at first and the very next moment, they aren’t. So that endears them to the reader, giving a slice of reality. Reality, amid the city of dreams.
Strike @ 36
The narration that oscillates between first person accounts of Shobhana and Udayan alternately, followed by a third-person account is the icing on the cake, for the writer remarks in the manner of an explanation, “All great incomplete love stories are best narrated in third person.” 
One of the two aspects that tend to put you off is that the text is weighed down by an invasion of a multitude of languages. Had it been just peppered with such terms, it would have been another canvas altogether. But here, an almost faint rainbow of languages- English, foreign and vernacular is painted. If you haven’t read any “lifestyle” lexicon and don’t intend to, either, then be prepared for a bombardment of jargon and gobbledygook. Another is the foul-mouthing and the variegated expletives pouring like raindrops. Initially you get away with a smirk, but at its height, you despise it. But then hey, it’s Mumbai!
Somewhere the novel echoes the likes of Chetan Bhagat or Preeti Shenoy, but as it turns out to be, it has no anathema of the former, neither any depth of the latter. It is simply a gripping account of the lives of people around the film industry: an on-the-surface plot.

Author Aparna Pednekar
The plot is commendable. In the end the lives of all characters are entangled and interwoven in the most unexpected ways. Throughout, the suspense does not break even an iota of hint which is hmmmm… rare but when it does, its unconvincing, because it vexes the protagonist Shobhana, and us, the readers, further. The story of ex-lovers who have seemingly moved on, are brought together when things have gone downhill, by the vicissitudes of circumstances. What follows is a twister ride of many stories: the political group, the writer, Shobhana and Uday’s old love story and break-up, Shobhana’s ambitions et al.
I must commend the author for creating true-to-life portraits of the protagonists as well as etching multi-hued supporting characters.
The book is rightly dedicated to contrarians, since it itself creates a real and surreal world simultaneously.
Filming the story on the palimpsest of your mind, you can see a great story being tormented at the altar of a queer background, as the characters loiter hither and thither.
Towards the end, it’s apparent that the end will not be substantial, so there’s no disappointment.

All in all, it’s an entertaining and intriguing read, rich on witty phrases, embellished with breathtaking pace, the amusement being weighed down a bit by the burden of referring to a multilingual lexicon, every now and then to decipher the expressions behind the vernacular words!

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Kritika's bookshelf: read

Angels & Demons
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A Christmas Carol
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The Time Machine
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The Da Vinci Code

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