Book Review: HiFi in Bollywood by Rishi Vohra

HiFi in Bollywood by Rishi VohraWhenever  an author comes out with his/her second offering it intrigues me. It means something definitely went right for the author the first time round and also that the author would have matured more since his first book and would also be able to see things better from readers’ perspective as well.

HiFi in Bollywood by Rishi Vohra is the second book by the author. Apparently his first book Once upon the tracks of Mumbai which I read and reviewed sometime last year became a best seller. The cover design is definitely an improvement from his last book and I was expecting something similar inside the book too.

Rating

★★ (2 out of 5)

The Storyline

Rayhan Arora is doing a finance degree in the USA but his long cherished dream is to become a director in Bollywood. As a single parent child he has lot of respect or ‘darr’ of his father and is trying to live his father’s dream of studying in US and getting a good corporate job and settling there.

But when his father tells him to marry an Indian girl, the daughter of his long time friend in the US, Rayhan gets agitated and decides to try his luck in Bollywood aka Hindi Film Industry (HiFi). He takes off from Berkeley and lands in Mumbai without telling his father and gets a job as an assistant director in a big banner film directed by a big time director Saajan B with big star cast.

He meets different characters during this journey, a friend who hooked him up for the job, another one whose sexual appetite is voracious, his long time maid and her daughter who also has dreams to make it big in HiFi.

Also on the sets he meets the love of his life Viola whom he falls deeply in love with after having some arguments initially.

As the book progresses Rayhan understands how the film industry works & compromises one has to do here and how it all depends on the moods of superstars like Tarina and Jahaan khan. Its an uneasy ride for him from that point.

How Rayhan fits into the HiFi and how he handles issues at his personal end, is he able to make it big in the industry, does he gets the love of Viola is covered in the remaining book.

What I Think

Sometime last year I have reviewed the debut novel by the author Once upon the Tracks of Mumbai which although not too brilliant but did read promising and I had thought that the author would improve upon what he dished out the first time. And when I picked up this book I expected something of that sort.

To my utter dismay the book is a total let down, reads like a rip-off of a Bollywood movie, very mediocre writing and a total downer in every sense.

At some levels the book is inspired by the author’s own life and he has tried to weave a story around it but unsuccessfully. I think not all the stories that happen in one’s life are worth telling, certainly not in the manner in which Vohra did in this novel.

In his first novel at least the characters that were written were good but in this book the characters are very loose, they evoke no emotion good or bad. He couldn’t even depict Mumbai in a good manner this time around.

There is nothing new that you will learn about Bollywood (except may be that film industry people like to call it HiFi) or direction or any film making process except for the things that you already keep on reading in tabloids such as casting couch, homosexuality, star tantrums. Even if you replace the protagonist’s dream of becoming a filmmaker with any other profession it would not make a difference to story line.

If you ask me if there is anything good in this book, I will have to think  really hard and then also I can’t come back with anything worth mentioning. May be that one line from Jim Carrey about doing what you love that he quotes in the beginning and end of the novel.

Last Words

Now you might think that I am a bit exaggerating in my criticism of this book and I might agree up to an extent because this criticism is fueled not only by the worthless book that is written and published but by my disappointment towards the way new-gen Indian author treats the readers of today.

Unfortunately the formula to make a hit Bollywood movie is also being applied on the books it seems. Sell something cheap, short, with a cheesy title, easy to read (Hinglish) so that reader has a satisfaction that they have ‘read a book’ and the author can revels in the glory of the so called ‘bestseller’.

So yes don’t go by what I am saying, there will still be a reader base for such types of books and you might still find HiFi in Bollywood in the ‘bestseller’ list in the coming days. But its definitely not for people like me.

 

PS: Thanks to the author for providing the copy. You can get more info about the book at http://rishivohra.com/

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Book Review: Kamadeva The God of Desire by Anuja Chandramouli

kamadevaThere are books which you pick up by their cover design and Kamadeva The God of Desire by Anuja Chandramouli is one such book. First the title is interesting, I haven’t really seen any books on Kamadeva and then the cover design is very nice.

This is the second book by the author, I read and reviewed the first one around a year back titled Arjuna Sagar of a Pandava  Warrior-Prince.

Rating

★★★★ (4 out of 5)

The Storyline

The story is about Kamadeva who is considered the god of desire in Hindu Mythology. It traces the incidents  where Bramha’s lust gives birth to Kamadeva and upon his birth itself how he is cursed to meet his death by the destroyer, Shiva.

He is wielding the sugarcane bow and flower-tipped arrows and he is powerful enough to create desire in any human or deva’s heart. He is supported in his adventures by his insanely beautiful wife Rati. Together they stay in Amravati and learn and later teach different art forms like dance, love-making, sword fight etc. The relationship of Kamadeva with his dad Bramha is not so cool. However his bonding with Indra is great and both have good time in Amravati with booze, music and hot girls (aka apsaras). However destiny plays its part, the curse takes effect and Kamadeva is reduced to ashes by Shiva when he tries to create desire in his heart for Parvati.

Kamadeva is reborn in human form as Krishna’s son Pradumnya and Rati as Mayawati the wife of an Asura king. Both meet again after several adventures and sexual revelries and many such other adventures follows during his life time.

What I Think

The story of Kamadeva is one that I haven’t really heard in any mythology circles so I was intrigued. The story starts well and gives details of how the god of desire was born and what was he really like. Different traits of the protagonist are very well explained by the author. The difference between him and his father Bramha, he wanting to do something worthwhile with his life rather than just being a ‘pimp’, his undying love towards Rati, his deep-rooted friendship with Indra and Vasant and many other facets of his character.

Author Anuja Chandramouli’s writing has blossomed a lot more since her last book Arjuna. The writing is so good and so different that you will wonder that is this really the second book by the author. In her first book also I liked the writing a lot but this time around it is even better and so much more different which brings a freshness to the entire story telling.The author tells the story in the contemporary English rather than trying to burden it with unnecessary heavy and arcane words that take the juice out of the story.

The friendship between Indra and Kamadeva, his love for Rati, the lust of Bramha, Shambara’s love for Maya, the son and father tension between Bramha and Kamdeva, and so many more relationships and situations are so beautifully written. And while the story progresses it also deals with many issues such as females being used as a commodity by the male kind and more. However she also manages to keep the story witty.

At so many places in the book the author uses, to what it may look like to some ‘crude’ language but never crosses the boundary. It appeared to me at certain places that the author is trying to test the limits, challenge our society and its deep-rooted beliefs in our gods and goddesses.

She puts them on equal platform to and in some cases worse than the mortals. Lust, deceit, debauchery, extra marital affairs, polygamy, adultery, friendship all the colors can be seen in this story and if you are a logical person you might start to question the actions of gods and goddesses whom you worship (which I always do whenever I read more about our gods and goddesses, but that’s another discussion for another day).

The biggest problem in the book is that there are just so many stories within one story of Kamadeva so much that many a times you just lose track of the main story. So many characters, devas, asuras, trinity, rishis, etc. cloud the entire story.

The story reads good in the first half but in the second half when Kamadeva is reborn as Pradumnya the story just drags on with so many subplots and sub-stories that it really gets boring. The book I think is 100 pages too long. Either the story had to be succinct to be covered within 250 pages or should have been broken into two volumes.

Including the stories of Krishna, Shiva, Indra, Kamsa, Jarasandh, Pandavas et al. is a little too much to chew in one book even if you devote 2 lines to each and moreover no one wants to read about them any more.

But that’s the only complain I have with this book other than that as I mentioned earlier the author has done a fantastic job with the topic, research and specially the writing.

Last Words

Anuja Chandramouli is slowly climbing up the ladder in my favorite Indian authors list. The style in which she has written this book, I just want to say Bravo!.

If you are a mythology fan I would very much recommend you to read you Kamadeva The God of Desire with a caveat that you should have the patience to read through some of the stories that you have already read umpteen times.

With her writing skills, some day I would very much like to see the author writing a work of fiction.

You can buy this book at low price from Amazon.in

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Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

I got introduced to Atul Gawande’s writing some time last year when I read an excellent column regarding “Slow Ideas” in the new yorker in which he described at length why some ideas spread fast however some take a long time.

Gawande himself is a Surgeon and also writes for NY Times and New Yorker and this is his third book.

Based on that experience I picked up Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande and my respect for his writing moved up a few notches.

Rating

★★★★ (4 out of 5)

The Storyline

With every passing day the world around us is becoming more complex. There is so much information around us in every field and we strive to master all of it. Yet on many occasions we commit grievous errors which can result in monetary loss to even someone losing his life.

Gawande finds out that one simple way of countering this is the checklist.

Checklist has been used in aviation industry since a long time. They have a checklist for before starting the engine, after starting the engine, take off, landing and hundreds of other scenarios. And they follow it in a disciplined manner. That is how we don’t see many accidents. Gawande finds the precedent of using checklist in construction industry too, where they have checklist for different project phases that is how hundreds of people work towards one vision.

Gawande narrates a fascinating story out of Austria, where a little girl could be saved even after being half an hour underwater. He narrates several other stories where a checklist saved from millions of dollars to several lives. Based on this understanding he develops a checklist for WHO, to be applied worldwide during surgery and it produced excellent results.

He demonstrates through many examples that a simple and stupid looking checklist can actually help avert many big problems.

What I Think

Gawande is one such non-fiction writer whom I hold in high regard with the likes of Malcom Gladwell. He keeps the topic very interesting although mainly he focuses on medical examples. However he draws parallel in other fields. As in this book he illustrated in a very clear manner that the checklist could be used in any field to get things right. Be it an investment banker, aviation industry, medicine or even in everyday tasks.

And not every writer has that knack. If it would have been written by another medical professional, probably it would have become a boring read for people of other industries.

The book is short with 200 odd pages and to the point. The author doesn’t drag any story beyond necessary. And by the end of the book I am sure you will start to think how can you implement a checklist in your work or your personal life.

Last Words

This book in many sorts is ground breaking. Although we all have used checklist many times in our lives but we fail to recognize the bigger role it can play in whatever line of work we are in.

I can personally vouch for the checklist because I’m a checklist guy and for sure it works for me. The only problem is that a checklist appears such a simple and stupid concept that we often ignore it or people with inflated egos (mostly experts) feel it’s below them to use something this simple.

Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right is a book not to be missed in whichever field you are. And I would even suggest implementing a few in your every day life.

 

You can buy this book at low price from Amazon.in

 

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Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo's Calling

Since her last book The Casual Vacancy I had been waiting for Rowling’s new book. I like her writing beyond the Harry Potter series as well . So I was pretty excited by The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (A.K.A. J.K. Rowling)  even more so because it’s a crime thriller and I was going to read her after a long time.

Rating

★★★★ (4 out of 5)

The Storyline

Detective Cormoran Strike who is also a war veteran lands a high profile case of  model Lula Landry’s suicide, which her brother John Bristow believes to be a murder.  The model and her brother has been adopted and she lived a  very troubled life in a mansion in Kentirgen garden. She falls to death from the mayfair balcony on a snowy night. Her acquaintances, neighbor and family are all investigated but police concludes it to be a suicide. However when Strike starts investigating the case with her temporary secretary Robin, he starts uncovering dirty secrets of the society of which Landry was a part.

Strike himself is going through troubled time in his private life after breakup from his long time girlfriend and his struggling finances. But this case gives a lease of life for his finances as well as stability in his life. From investigating Landry’s designer to her friends and family, Strike starts to realize that its definitely a murder and the killer is going to kill again.

Things get darker and dangerous as the story progresses and at one point Strike finds himself entangled in this web. It’s important for Strike to find the killer soon before he/she strikes again.

Review

Even if JK Rowling’s authorship revelation didn’t happen, still this book would have been a success (not such a big hit off course) because it takes you back to good old crime thrillers which portrays an ordinary looking detective who can solve cases.

The story telling of Rowling is impeccable and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable detective novel. The character of detective Cormoran Strike has been painstakingly elaborated and the author tries to garner sympathy for him at many instances (War Veteran, Lost one leg, Financially broke, broke up a long term relationship, etc.). This is where I thought the character was little overdone. And no sympathy or revulsion occur for Strike’s character. Another missing link was his transition from Military Police to detective due to which his authority as a detective couldn’t be established.

The character of Robin his secretary is however interesting, a young girl who has been proposed by her fiance and she is looking for a job in London and till then working as a temp, lands up with her long cherished job at a detective’s office.  The boldness and youthful vigor of Robin has been well written by the author and her foray into unknown territory of detective work and her excelling in such tasks is also well brought out by the author. A very interesting and charming character of a secretary/sidekick, which brings a different flavor to the book. However I do feel her role was pretty much restricted in this first book (Rowling plans to write a series).

Other characters of fashion designer Guy Some, Lula’s friend Rochelle, Ciara Porter, her junkie boyfriend Evan Duffield, etc. are all well written and felt necessary. However I would say the book with 550 pages is a tad bit lengthy. But with Rowling I don’t complain much.

The story is set in London and in winters. There isn’t a bigger role given to the city and could have been set up in any other city. But off course it’s Rowling so it had to be London.

Last Words

If you were not already convinced that Rowling can create magic even after renouncing magic or if you thought The Casual Vacancy wasn’t that good and you needed more proof, The Cuckoo’s Calling will eliminate all your doubts about Rowling’s writing ability beyond magic.

In Cormoran Strike she has created a detective whose series I am sure will run for long, much longer than Harry Potter. There are some expectations that might not be met by the character of Cormoran Strike and there is more that you will yearn from a detective novel (if you are a fan of such books) but you will enjoy it nonetheless and I am sure in the upcoming books Rowling will mature the character(s) and will thicken the plots too.

So I would say The Cuckoo’s Calling is a very good start to a series. Looking forward to next one “The Silkworm” which is released very  recently.

 

This book was sponsored by MySmartPrice

 

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Book Review: Lexicon by Max Barry

lexicon by max barry

lexicon by max barry

This book took me a long time to finish and only I am to be blamed for it not the book.

Lexicon by Max Barry is one hell of a book. A very different book from anything that I have read in the recent past.

Rating

★★★★★ (5 out of 5)

Summary

A secret society which believes that people can be compromised (instructed to do whatever) by segmenting them and uttering the right words, the elite members of this society are called Poets who have real poet names like Elliot, Woolf, Bronte, etc. Emily a street card player in San Francisco is enrolled into this school which teaches segmentation and controlling other people’s mind.

The story starts with a young man named Wil Parke who is abducted by one of the poet named Elliot. Then there is a big secret about an Australian mining town called Broken Hill, where disaster struck and thousands died and the place is no more inhabitable. Poets are searching for a ‘bareword’ and Virginia Wolf who has caused the disaster in Broken Hill. Wil Parke has a connection with Broken Hill and Wolf and he goes back to the town to find out.

Review

The plot of Lexicon is very unusual and the premise of the story that every person can be divided into segments depending upon the answers to a few standard questions and  people can be compromised through right words is a fantasy come true for the readers and writers.

Max Barry wrote this so beautifully and makes you believe that this can be possible. We all know Words carry weight but words can make people do things is surely something we readers might have fantasized about. You instruct someone to love you and they do, wouldn’t it be awesome? (ok may be not love but something else).

It’s a fast paced thriller and there is never a dull moment through out the book.The characters of Emily, Elliot and Yeats are well written and you might start liking the impatient Emily as the book progresses and her transformation into an assassin will leave you yearning for more.

Last Words

This has been a book that I fell in love with for the sheer reason that it deals with words. Liked the plot, the story and characters.  Part of the reason it took a long time to finish was probably that I didn’t want it to finish.

I strongly recommend it to anyone who loves thrillers or simply loves reading. Lexicon will not disappoint.

 

You can buy this book at low price from Amazon.in

 

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Review: The Crossover by Sunil Sandeep

the crossover

the crossover

The Crossover open heart verses, came up for a review some time back. I got intrigued because when  I read the excerpt it said the book is a collection of poems. Now I haven’t really read poems in a very long time and by a new gen Indian author probably never.

So I had no idea what to expect from this book and have never heard of author Sunil Sandeep. But I took the plunge.

The book is a collection of poems which talks about soul, your inner voice, spirituality. The book is essentially divided into three sections “Why?”, “Reality” and “The Path”.

Unless we question things around us, life is not worth living and working towards self-consciousness, knowing yourself is a long arduous task but it has to begin with Why. The book is a collection of 50 such poems talking about these aspects.

To begin with I didn’t get much from the poems or it was a little difficult for me to understand what the author wanted to convey but slowly and gradually it grew on me. It deals with meaning of life, questioning everything we are doing, trying to find the purpose of your life, touching your soul and then suggesting you break the shackles and find the truth.

It’s a little difficult to express the writing in words as it talks about something that can be felt, understood but hard to explain. For that I give credit to the writer for attempting to do it. However I feel that he felt a little short of it. The writing is good but not very good and it sometimes become difficult for an average reader to understand what the writer wants to convey.

What I liked most are the illustrations besides every poem by Betty bileterka, very precise and imaginative.

If you have been ever confronted with the questions about life, soul and a higher realm I think you should read it and you might require reading it 2-3 times to understand it well but if you are into this materialistic world and think that all of it is BS then don’t bother.

 

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Review: The Lowland By Jhumpa Lahiri

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

I got my hands on the much talked about and critically acclaimed book of the year by the much talked about author Jhumpa Lahiri. The book title The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri is I think her 4th novel. Sometime last year I read and reviewed “The Namesake”. I loved that book and when I started The Lowland I had a few similar experiences.

The author having her roots in India, understands India and the intricacies of migration to a foreign land in such a detailed manner that I have never come across writers who can put the complexity and difficulties of such transition so beautifully.

The Lowland has some parts of this experience but essentially it’s a very different book then “The Namesake”.

Subhash and Udayan two brothers who were born around the time that India got freedom and Bengal was in turmoil with the Naxalite movement catching up and parties like CPI(M) and CPI(ML) which were leftist and pro Mao, Lenin being born in the heartland of Bengal, Calcutta. The two brothers are as much different as they are similar.

Udayan goes on to join the Naxalite movement and Subhash moves to the US for further studies and research. Udayan is killed by the police and in a turn of events Subhash marries his widowed and pregnant wife Gauri to keep her safe and takes her to the US. Gauri couldn’t continue her marriage with Subhash normally and is not very keen on bringing up her daughter Bela but she likes philosophy and she continues her studies and one fine day she leaves both of them to join a job in California.

From that point on Subhash struggles to bring up their daughter Bela who is growing up and is always confronted with the question how to tell Bela that he is not her real father.

It is a beautiful story with different shades of love and life. But at a certain level it’s also a complex story of human emotions. The writing is so beautiful that makes it easy for the reader to understand and relate to the complex emotions of the characters.

The love and hate relationship of the brothers Udayan and Subhash, the undying love of Gauri and Udayan which continues even after his death and eventually ruins her relationship with Subhash and Bela. The paradox of an intelligent woman to choose between following her aspirations or stay put with her family. The complexities of a single parent, a father handling a growing daughter. An expatriate trying to connect to his roots but at the same time being scared that he doesn’t get sucked back into it. And many more such emotions brilliantly elaborated by the author.

At the end the author doesn’t pass any judgement (which no good author should) and just brings out the innermost feelings of the characters. You end up hating no character and loving none. The book essentially says to us “It is what it is”.

The book will appeal to you, if you are into human emotions and are fine with a slow pace. At times the story runs on two tracks, one with Udayan and Naxal movement in Bengal and other with Subhash. Lives so different yet trying to draw a parallel in both at some level. There are so many aspects involved in the book that it takes a little effort on both the author’s as well as readers’ end to understand and move forward with the story.

The book is not for you, if you are looking for some fast paced story or a thriller. And though in many ways it has elements of her earlier book The Namesake, yet it is so different from it.

One thing is there which I thought certainly, that it can easily be reduced by 30 pages or so, other than that The Lowland
is a very good story.

Thanks to MySmartPrice for sponsoring this book

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