Tamasha In Bandargaon

Published: Fri, 06/22/2012 - 09:28 Updated: Fri, 06/22/2012 - 09:57

Book: Tamasha in Bandargaon
Author:
Navneet Jagannathan
Publisher: Tranquebar Press
Pages: 324
Price: Rs 295
Year: 2011

The back leaf of the book quite boldly claims to be ‘reminiscent of R. K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days’. With such an assertion, Navneet Jagannathan has quite large shoes to fill
Aditi Agrawal Delhi

The novel, or rather collection of stories, centres on people living in the ‘ficitonal suburb of Bandargqaon’. The thirteen chapters/stories are interlinked but not very efficiently. Unlike Narayan’s Swami who effortlessly weaves the incidents in Malgudi Days together, in Tamasha in Bandargaon, there is a certain disjunction.

Quite often it seems as if Jagannathan blatantly tries to replicate Narayan’s writing style with his Raju-esque, rakish protagonist, Chagan who, despite all his vices (which are numerous) has this  “innate goodness” that is difficult for him to shake off and with its aid, like the quintessential over-the-top Bollywood hero, he sorts out everybody’s lives saving his own for the last. Unlike Narayan’s Raju and Rosie, Chagan and Shalini fail to keep you entranced in their quest to unite as a socially accepted married couple.

Sarcasm laden moments are sparse but efficient. (SPOILER ALERT!) A political party’s formal apology to a buffalo for mistakenly tranquilising it works on two levels: firstly, it adds humour to the situation and secondly, it exposes the power mechanisms between the journalists, the politicians and the common people. The one thing that Jagannathan does really well in this book is exactly this. He reveals the toxic but symbiotic relation that exists between the crooked politicians, the desperate common man and the fickle media and elucidates how these very relations maintain the status quo and lead to the degeneracy and stagnancy of the society, a fact that is quite clearly reflected in the physical, tangible world as well.

There is no shortage of characters in this book. In almost every chapter, a few new characters are introduced and soon enough, it becomes difficult to keep a track of who is doing what

The use of digressive narration keeps you hooked for some period of time but the lackadaisical storyline acts as a detriment. Frequently you wish for the droning narration to end. I don’t understand that why do Indian authors feel that unless their book is a thick 300 pages tome, nobody will read it? This verbosity renders the text overbearing and monotonous as has happened in this case as well. At certain places (especially when the star-crossed lovers’ tale of woe unfold in instalments), you feel like abandoning the book altogether but a faint expectation of Sitaram Sajjanpur’s “action-packed” moments compel you to trudge on.

There is no shortage of characters in this book. In almost every chapter, a few new characters are introduced and soon enough, it becomes difficult to keep a track of who is doing what. The reader fails to sympathise or empathise with the characters and that is the biggest difference between Narayan and a Narayan-hopeful.

Although the plot(s) are placed in suburban Mumbai, it is tough to imagine a commonplace chaiwallah bossing the apartment owners around. Too much creative liberty while contextualising the characters and their lives makes this text slightly annoying and a tad bit too whimsical.

The book does manage to genuinely engross the reader at a few points but when it hits a low-point, it hits an abyss. If you can manage to ignore the initial over-ambitious claim, you can enjoy and appreciate it but if you can’t do that, the over-zealous statement damns the reading experience of this book from its very beginning.

The back leaf of the book quite boldly claims to be ‘reminiscent of R. K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days’. With such an assertion, Navneet Jagannathan has quite large shoes to fill
Aditi Agrawal Delhi

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