Friday, September 28, 2007

Sacred Games

Although I wouldn’t count it among my favourite books, I quite enjoyed reading ‘Shantaram’ last year; mostly for its close-up view of the politics of the infamous-yet-awe-inspiring Mumbai underworld.

Bollywood has always glamourised tales of ‘poor-man-turned-powerful’ as well as ‘don-with-ethics’; told umpteen times in the 80s mostly with Amitabh portraying a diamond-smuggler; and lately there have been good mafia movies like Company & Sarkar. However the underworld has rarely shown up in good Indian literature (or maybe I missed those books).

Last week I borrowed Vikram Chandra’s ‘Sacred Games’ from a friend and I’m only half-way through the book now, but I already like the way the author has dealt with the theme. The food-chains in the mafia, the police force, political parties & even Bollywood are portrayed as flesh-and-blood persons. The power struggle, corruption & politics of it all make a gripping story, but they’re only secondary. The characters make this book worth reading. They all look, feel & smell like Mumbai.

PS: Have you noticed how Indian authors & movie-makers have suddenly become cool about the usage of hindi profanities? :)

18 comments:

Moi said...

hindi profanities reminds me of Omkara.....I did not understand half of them..had to consult Arka who does not speak Hindi otherwise but is conversant with all sort of invectives in Hindi!!! and Sarkar tho' well made was a complete rip off of Godfather....and I hated that!!!! I trusted Ram Gopal Varma with a tad more originality than that!!!! I enjoyed Company. Mira Nair is making Shantaram with big B and Johnny Depp is what i last heard.....i am looking fwd to that one!!! I have always enjoyed her works ...

Radha said...

Moi,
In fact I liked 'Sarkar' because I thought it was a good remake of 'The Godfather' rather than a bollywoodised version.

The profanities in 'Omakara' went well with the crude image of the characters, but did get distracting after a while :). And Saif did a good job with all those invectives :))

I'm looking fwd to Johnny Depp playing 'Shantaram' although the only Mira Nair movie I've seen so far is 'Fire' which was strictly ok. Which of her movies do you like?

Moi said...

Saif was so cool in Omkara....from that urbane image that he has to staright shot crude Langda Tyagi was nifty transformation!!!!!

And that's one mistake most of us make : get confused between Mira Nair's works and Deepa Mehta's......Nair is a notch better, trust moi! Fire is Mehta's .....I loved Nair's recent Namesake..thoroughly enjoyed her Kamasutra and Monsoon Wedding....and love her for giving us Salaam Bombay...i am still to see Mississippi Masala with Denzel Washington!!!

sarkar was a well made movie..no doubt about it...I just wish we would make more of well done original movies instead of Indianizing Hollywood!!! :(

Parth said...

I enjoyed Shantaram too :-) You are right when you said that the underworld has not been well portrayed in the literary world. But you did forget to add Satya to the list of movies. I thought that was a superior product too. In case you haven't yet, read 'Maximum City' as well. You'll feel and smell Mumbai quite a lot in it :-)

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Radha!

I haven't read "Sacred Games" yet but I attended a reading by Vikram Chandra in Toronto last year and I was surprised at the amount of attention his book got on the local Canadian literary scene. I have a signed copy on my bookshelf but haven't delved into yet because it's such a tome!

You're right, "Shantaram" and "Sacred Games" are possibly the only two works of fiction on the underworld...there is Suketu Mehta's "Bombay" ofcourse but that's non-fiction so not sure it counts.

Book Closet said...

Radha, I've been wanting to read this book for so long now. But, the size is a real put-downer for me...

Radha said...

Moi,
Oh that Meera Nair!!! :)

Parth,
Sure, 'Satya' was a good movie as well. And I've been meaning to read 'Maximum City' for so long now. I'd seen Suketu Mehta's interview on tv when the book was published and he explained how he researched his book. It seemed pretty fascinating then,although later I also read some criticism that it was a little one-sided.

Lotus,
Yes, I remember your post about Vikram Chandra's reading in Toronto. Dont let the size bother you, because the book is pretty fast-paced.

Book Closet,
I was intimidated too by the 1000-odd pages! :)
But I had read 'Love & Longing in Bombay' earlier and had to read the next book written by Vikram Chandra. I think he is fantastic!

diyadear said...

radha,
yeah i like watching such movies too.. i liked"D" too. though risk wasn't that appealing.. N hey have finished the story. Do come n give me ur feedback :)

Kanishka Agiwal said...

I love the Shantaram. It ranks as an all time favorite. Infact take a look at this..Gregory speaking about his book at a film festival. The 5 part series had me riveted to my seat for 20 mins.

Part 1:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGL5eTU5DXA

Part 2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh4GD4YLbNw

Part 3:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWjnkxDW0cU

Part 4:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjcNOzh3J1g

Part 5:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBJ7eMWSXfE

Keshi said...

good to know..tnxx Radha!

Keshi.

Radha said...

Diya,
Hi, havent seen "D" or "Risk". But from your comments I guess I haven't missed much :)
Will visit soon to read the story!

Kanishka,
Cant watch videos from work :(
Will check them out tonight!

Keshi,
You're welcome :)

clickable said...

Personally, I loved this book, somehow I liked his style of writing much more than the one in Shantaram. The characters are fleshed out well (though his mom is a little too filmi ala Farida Jalal), but L and I had fun discussing who would be able to carry off these roles in a movie (and I'm pretty sure there will be one). Oh - and did you read the appendix with all the gaalis - it's delightfully wicked to read it.

Radha said...

Clickable,
My thoughts exactly.
'Shantaram' was interesting purely because the story was "too fantastic to be based on real life; yet very much based on real life"
'Sacred Games' on the other hand is a genuinely well-written book.

Did you notice that Sartaj's character is a continuation from 'Love & Longing in Bombay'? I remember we had this discussion whether he committed suicide in the end of the story....well, I guess he did not :)

Jas Bhambra said...

I am so not in the bollywood scene at all!!! Whenever I go visit my brother, he makes me watch all the movies he thinks are the good ones out of the whole lot. he told me that there is a bollywood version of "Snatch". I shall watch it during my next visit...I forget what the name of the movie is....

This seems like a good read the way you have described it Radha.

Radha said...

Jas,
Hi! The book is a great read. Would highly recommend this one. And about Bollywood movies...I watch around 8-10 Indian movies a year; and mostly they're based on recommendations from friends back home :)

Moi said...

new post, plz :DDDD

Radha said...

Moi,
You shd've been a school teacher!!

Moi said...

haha..i wanted to be before they sent me to an engg concentration camp :D