Book Review: Tamasha in Bandargaon

The ultimate test of the quality of a book is simple: if the characters tend to stay with you after putting down the book then you can safely bet that the author has penned a story of quality - one that has binding power, with superb characterisation and a nice flow in the plot. And the current book - Tamasha in Bandargaon - has all of that, and more... it slowly grows on you and grapples you, ensnares you in the storyline very much like a creeper vine clutches a tree! (Sorry Navneet - could not think of a more apt description)

Tamasha In Bandargaon is penned by Navneet Jagannathan. He works for an FMCG major, and writes in his spare time. This is his first book

 About The Reviewer
Why? Simply because opinions on each book depend largely upon the interests, intellect and understanding of the reviewer! I wanted to underscore this point simply to highlight the quality of the book under discussion. I am a person who loves to read primarily Thrillers, Indian History, Indian Development, Historical Fiction - point is, the current novel does not fit anywhere on this list. If this book can convert a person of my readng habits to this genre of fiction, then there must be something to it, simple as that. It struck me as being different,  and so I went in for it. I was attracted by two promises: firstly, the simplicity and the setting of the story, and secondly the promise of humour. And the acid test: would I spend my money for it? Answer: Yes, I would.

The Main Characters

  • Chagan: Is he good - or is he bad? 
  • Vinayak: Is he good - or is he bad?
  • Shalini: Shines through with her resolve and her maturity
  • Sitaram Sajjanpur: Politician to the core- but with a coherent agenda

The Supporting Starcast

  • Suresh Borkari: Careless, Carefree, but committed
  • Seema Borkari: In one word - she impresses
  • Shambhu: Gunda. No other way to put it!
  • Lakshmibai: Strong, sure and balanced
There are others who appear in the story - Shimpi, Sultan, Miranda, Geeta, Ramlal, Mhatre - but all serve to push the main stories forward. I could not identify even a single out-of-place character in the book. Quite an achievement for a first time author! Also note my presentation of the cast: much like it would appear in a movie review. Such is the power of the narrative.

Of note here is the way the characters of Chagan, Vinayak, Seema, Lakshmibai, Sajjanpur are developed. The quiet maturity of Seema, the purpose of Sajjanpur and his commitment towards the public as a politician, the doughty obstinate but thinking nature of Lakshmibai, the decency of one suitor as opposed to the anything-goes-and-everything-is-fair-in-love of the other... (Who is who? Is Vinayak the decent guy -who tries to save Shalini from the rough Chagan? Is Chagan the decent guy? Read the book!) And especially, the character development of Shalini- subdued, firm and tough. Each character has been thoughtfully developed, and carries the story forward.

About The Plot
This book revolves around a fictional suburb of Bandargaon in Mumbai, and focuses around the residents of Bhavani Nagar and the nearby slum area of Shankarpada and is supposed to be a series of short stories. Please note: I said supposed to be. What unfolds in reality is one continuous story, wrapped around a series of episodes in the daily life of Bandargaon. The beauty is in the narrative of the main story (or rather couple of main stories) that are told alternatively, or sometimes after an interval of a story, rather like an entwined wire - or to use my previous metaphor, creeper vine. What slowly emerges in front of your eyes is a motion picture, a kaleidoscope if you will, of the suburb of Bandargaon. You begin to relate to the characters, understand them, empathize with them, relate to their emotions... At the cost of  repeating myself, quite an achievement for a first time author!

The first main story revolves around Chagan, Vinayak and Shalini: who gets the girl? Who does Shalini finally wed? Chagan, Vinayak - or someone else? It is the eternal triangle with a couple of twists, narrated in a simple uncomplicated style, bereft of melodrama. No crying, No I-love-you's, No marry-me-please here. No tear-jerking bidai scenes, or any direct villian here. A superbly controlled and mature saga of two people who want to wed, and the problems they face. It all comes across as very real and practical. The choice is between Chagan - rough, runner of a tea stall and a gambling den yet decent, with only a mother; a person who has grown up the hard way; and Vinayak - simple, with a local father - and - mother at Shankarpada - a family man, decent. At least it seems that way. Then you get to see negative shades of each character...  this is the primary story that runs the course of the book.

The next main story is about the local MLA election - Sitaram Sajjanpur who has come to visit Bandargaon with the sole agenda of resurrecting the fortunes of the NWP and ensuring that they win their first election in years. Hi son-in-law is Suresh Borkari - his travails as he tries to win over his father-in- law's approval make for thrilling reading... and then you have Seema Borkari - the one character who shines among all others for her unflinching support to Suresh, for her non-compromising attitude on her ideals while not upsetting the family atmosphere even where her ideals are directly opposed by the actions of her family.

These main storylines run parallel to the short stories - stories of Sultan and Miranda's quarrel, of Geeta and Lakshmibai, of Geeta's unsuccessful love story, of Ramlal the Dhobi. This creates a visualisation of the people, of Bandargaon, of its chai shop, its laundry, its vegetable shop, the lanes - thus creating a kaleidoscope in your mind. These stories in a way serve as the backdrop that enhance the telling of the main stories. The book stops being a simple fiction story that concentrates only on the main events and the main stories - the sub-plots lend substance to the book enabling you to relate not only to the characters but also to their environs and the people around them. The overall impact of this approach is to  engender a connect with the story, the characters, the atmosphere and bring to life the entire suburb in front of your eyes - and further enable you to understand each character. 

Eminently readable and recommended - it is great for light reading. It is a quick read, is told in simple fluid language with simple sentences, straightforward and subdued in its prose. As regards humour - there is subtle evidence of humour in the book - not too much, but just enough - such that it keeps your attention riveted to itself.  At no point does the book diverge from its subdued, controlled style. I cannot cannot think of anything to criticize in the book, except perhaps the author has left some loose ends - that is some stories that could have been wrapped up - Miranda's story; Geeta; The slum water problem; Sunrise Apartments election etc... perhaps the author has left it for a follow-up or a sequel. I certainly hope so... I want to know how it turned out for them. All in all, a great light read!

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!


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