Book review – Mumbaistan

Book review - Mumbaistan

There aren't too many instances of a filmmaker turning into a novelist. Well, at least when it comes to Bollywood. However Piyush Jha (Sikandar, King of Bollywood, Chalo America) does exactly that as he spins three crime tales in one single book (Mumbaistan). Frankly, the very title of the book, though unique, still makes one wonder whether this would be a pulp fiction in the offering? Or would this be about a political tale? Or whether this would be yet another saga of terrorists?

However with Ekta Kapoor's claim on the cover page advocating 'Mumbaistan' to be all about 'entertainment, entertainment and entertainment' ends up intriguing you to a fair degree. What one gets to read are three stories (roughly around 80 pages each in this 250 page book) – Bomb Bay, Injectionwala and Coma Man – each of which succeeds, though at different levels, in turning out to be really interesting reads.

What stays on to be a common element in each of these stories is the human element. 'Bomb Day' has a post 26/11 set up to it with Pakistani intruders in Mumbai. However it has a strong love story in the middle of it all. 'Injectionwala' is about a kidney racket in the deep by-lanes of Mumbai but has a strong element of past, present and future of a protagonist embedded into it. And then the best of them all, 'Coma Man' is as thrilling as it gets, what with a man finding himself on the mean roads of Mumbai even as politicians, gangsters and his own love encounter him at various junctures.

Here is how the three stories stand.

Bomb Day
Rating: ***1/2
Boasting of a fantastic beginning, it does get into the informer and cop zone. With terrorists, prostitutes, goons, killings all around and a helpless protagonist getting embroiled in it all, 'Bomb Day' has a filmy feel to it. However you don't quite mind that as there are surprises galore. Unfolding at a frantic pace and deep rooted into the core of Mumbai, 'Bomb Day' is more than what the title may suggest.

Though one would have assumed, especially after the first few pages, that the novella is just about an informer being used for the benefit of those on the right side of law, 'Bomb Day' has a lot more to offer. In the middle of it all is a love story which holds the entire thriller together. Frankly, the way Piyush Jha spins the tale, it is impossible to keep this very element of a love story out. Also, without this, even the terrorist tale of Pakistanis would have lost its edge, or perhaps not even existed in the life of the protagonist.
While the start is good and the middle portions are attention grabbing, what makes 'Bomb Day' the story that it eventually is the stunning climax that one simply can't see coming. At the cost of even a hint turning out to be a spoiler, I would suggest you just go ahead and read the tale in one go.

Injectionwala
Rating: * * *

This one begins with a killing, has ample sex, turns into a medical thriller, involves quite a few confessions, spins a social awakening tale as well, has more murders in it and eventually turns into a pulp fiction affair. With doctors finding them on other sides of ethics, one trying to save the world by killing those involved in malpractices and other who is pretty much involved in that (kidney selling racket), 'Injectionwala' is saved from turning into a boring affair by Piyush Jha as he includes various thrilling elements to interest a reader.

In the process of doing so he does take help of the sex element time and again, none of which is erotic though but attention grabbing nonetheless. Meanwhile, even as the core plot is interesting, there are some sub plots (involving a cop) that don't really hold as interesting in the overall scheme of affairs. Also, after a while, the twists and turns in the tale not just start becoming a little predictable, they also seem a way too convenient, what with quite a few liberties being taken en route to the 'raaz' being revealed.
Still, where it scores to a decent extent is the fact that you are never bored and want to know till the very end about the culmination of 'Injectionwala'.

Coma Man
Rating: * * * *
Simply the best of the lot! A thriller that deserves to have a screen adaptation for itself, it's rights need to be procured by a film producer pronto. This one has everything, right from suspense, drama, action, love, sex and 'dhokha'. Moreover, the novella unfolds at a rapid pace and you are pretty much in the journey of the central protagonist, the 'Coma Man', who has woken up after 20 years and is trying to find what unfolded that fateful night when he found himself into the dark world.

Well, if that fateful night was bad enough, the day that follows after his awakening is no less eventful. A story that unfolds in the course of a single day, it has a lot happening practically every 30 minutes, what with the protagonist finding himself being pursued by a Municipal Councillor with a gun, a couple of smugglers on a highway, a gangster who is protected by a big 'bhai' in Mumbai, a bunch of cops and to top it all, his own past. In the middle of this all he comes across a helpful drug addict, an elderly lady who perhaps holds a key to his past, a 'paan waala' who has a story to tell to and a few corpses all around all him.

Meanwhile there are quite a few flashes from the past that Piyush Jha incorporates wonderfully well right through the tale. In fact that only keeps the reader interested enough to keep turning around the pages. Yes, the culmination is a little on the expected lines and isn't as shocking as 'Bomb Day'. However it's the journey till this point which is extremely engaging, what with every character justifying his/her presence.
Price: Rs. 195
Overall rating: * * * 1/2

Article written by staff at Bollywood Hungama. Read more

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