Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Complete Adventures of Feluda (Part 1) - Satyajit Ray (Book)

The Complete Adventures of Feluda (Part 1) - Satyajit Ray.

Surprisingly, I have (had) read quite a few "on" Satyajit Ray but never one "by" him so far. Blame the availability in the book stores or getting my Kindle too late or may be too few Bengali friends around ;) whatever it may be! Till, I praised Agatha Christie's and Arthur Conan Doyle's works in front of a Hardcore Patriot, that I had read recently finished and also showed him what all I had from them. He just said one thing which got me thinking big time that "You are one of those quite a few Indians who haven't been to Leh - Laddakh but praise Grand Canyon to no end", and I was like "Whats the point dude?". It took me quite a while to actually decode (You see I am no Feluda) but when I got the point, I vowed to not to read a Christie ever till I finish "Feluda" completely. To my shock, amazement and ashamed confession - I even had the first of the two book series already on my Kindle which I picked I guess quite a while ago when it was being sold at a paltry 99/-. But as a true Satyajit Ray fan I have already got the second of the series too, all thanks to a friend who almost has every book that I can think of or at least he can source one at the drop of a hat :) (You know who you are and I love you for that). And am I glad? WHOA! I am super happy to have come across these gems, guys! If you haven't read these yet, you have no idea what you have missed. Although Satyajit Ray claims to have written them for children but no ways, these are too good to be ignored by adults or for that matter anyone who loves thrillers. Supremely clean of Violence, Blood and Gore stuff, it doesn't even have a female character in any of the stories - just imagine.

The Author himself is a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and he mentioned the same at the very start in the opening note that he has read all Sherlock Holmes stories when he was a kid himself and the inspiration is quite evident. Not only that I will even say that his works are not in league with Doyle or Christie but the audience that he was catering to, seeing from that angle I can very well say they are not only fantastic but mind-blowing with ample of comic moments to keep one not only engrossed but happy too. The three main characters in all stories are Feluda (The Detective, real name Pradosh C Mitter), his side kick Topshe (Watson, real name Tapeshranjan Mitter - Cousin) and the hilarious Lalmohan Babu without which no story goes any further, who happens to be a B grade thriller writer who writes under the pseudonym "Jatayu", gets all his plots from Feluda and Topshe's adventures. The Adventure stories are written from the perspective of Topshe (a teenager) who sees it all happening in front of his eyes as his cousin Feluda not only takes him and us on the thrilling rides but makes him understand it all too. Among-st the three lead characters my favorite will always be Jatayu, the way he cracks the situation up is simply amazing and always had me in splits, may it be the way he screws it all up or the way he talks, the use of words, his vocabulary which keeps getting better with time and so much more. And of-course my favorite story will always be "The Golden Fortress" not only because I have seen the movie and I could visualize it all but because the way the entire chase and sequence is written that too with Rajasthan as background is simply superb.

In all its a huge collection of Fifteen stories each almost equally good. What is more outstanding is the way he has covered not only Bengal but the other cities and states like Rajasthan, Assam and even Bombay in the stories is superb. They are always travelling, either on a Train, or an Airplane or later half on Jatayu's new acquired car that he buys from his books selling so well :). Solving the cases of Emperor's Ring (a ring from Mughal Era) to solving the cases of Bandits of Bombay, Feluda gets to do it all and in style. From the bylanes of Calcutta to Mumbai, Benares, Lucknow, Gangtok, Darjeeling, Jaisalmer and even on moving trains. How Feluda starts from a mid 20's inexperienced unknown guy next door to a full-fledged very well known Detective almost all across is the book all about. His body language, mannerisms, book that he reads, movies that he watches and what not is simply amazing. For some reason young Satyajit Ray's face kept coming in front of my eyes as I kept reading the Feluda stories. One thing I missed in these stories may be in the first part is that they don't go out of India anywhere. Who knows, may be in the next they get to go out, I so much wished that Feluda at-least gets to go to England once :).

If you have read Feluda's adventures, do let know how you liked them but if you haven't, you exactly know what to do now. As I move on eagerly to the second part to see if Feluda goes out and solves some International cases too. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Wild Sheep Chase - Haruki Murakami (Book)

A Wild Sheep Chase - Haruki Murakami.
Now, where you do you start to talk about a Murakami book, even that is pretty confusing. As it has been said time and again by so many that his books are either a hit or a miss by a long shot. I fell in love with him, his writing and his amazing characters after reading my first Murakami (Kafka on the Shore) and there was no looking back. Hence picked up his first book (Book 1 of Rat Trilogy) after a friend sent him the fourth book from the series (Epilogue). Imagine he wrote a Trilogy and ended it with a fourth book as an Epilogue. Got me all hooked from the very first one as of-course I predicted and what an amazing journey it had (still has) been. Finished the third book today afternoon and I still do not know what the protagonist's name is or what is the real name of his best friend "Rat" is as he is always referred as the Rat. Or their best buddy's name (called J) who owns a bar and they've been frequenting it from College (first book) to their works (second) and even in third where they are about to hit their 30's. May be because these are the initial books that he wrote hence it is like that but I am having a ball of a time keeping a very keen eye to see if he mentions any names anywhere. The closest I got in this book and almost he had me having a wide grin on my face is when the unnamed protagonists lands in a Hotel and the manager asks him to sign the register :) but he damn well uses a fake name and not his real name. Even his girl friend I shouldn't fail to mention has no name, she is referred as the girl with most beautiful ears, the moment she ties her hair in a pony the world stops revolving and everyone just gets mesmerized by the beauty of her ears and she has some special powers to (read the book to know more).
As I said the third book of the Trilogy and story hasn't gone much ahead. Our hero is now married for four years, his wife walks out on him, he makes a new girl friend (the girl with the beautiful ears), they have moved ahead from their earlier business of translation to advertising, his friend the Rat is gone on a sabbatical location unknown. J has opened a new bar somewhere far. All hell breaks lose in this one (after 50% mark) is when he prints a unique sheep's picture sent by the Rat to him in an advertisement. A super rich man on death bed assigns him of the task to find the Sheep in picture or lose everything he had by not taking up the challenge. What he does next or where his journey takes him in search of the Sheep is the rest of the book but how it all ends is simply terrific (read typical Murakami) still he refuses to give you a closure of sorts as he always does with his books I believe. So many unanswered questions and so many cross connections that I could make out but not sure if they are really there or am I just confused. But there is a silver lining as I now have the fourth book which he wrote as an Epilogue. Guess another 400 pages to satisfy my questions, queries, confusions or the metaphors he has created in these ones so far. I hope that gives me the answers.
As always the case is with any of his books and stories, this too has superb book(s) and music references. It actually did put a wide smile on my face as the books, Authors and quite a few music references are something that I have read and listened too in the recent past and some that I haven't have gone to my "To Be Read" list as always. The western influence on Murakami's writing is pretty much evident I believe this one onward as I plan to go forward with his other works and is damn impressive. He surely knew right from the very start how to keep his audience hooked and to keep em happy at that. Have you read the "Rat" Trilogy? If you have, please tell me that I am going to get that closure by the end of the series, if not, I will say do think before picking this up :). If you like long prose with nowhere going story yet with so many stories thrown in between, do read this series or else stay away.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Jude The Obscure - Thomas Hardy (Book)

Jude The Obscure - Thomas Hardy.
Stern Warning: Do not read this book at any cost. Just don't go by the legendary Author's name for this one and you will save yourself from the worst (or shall I say the best) misery, pain, suffering, gloom, depression, feeling of helplessness, not worthy of a life and a plethora of other sadistic feelings that I am sure you would have not felt yet by reading anyone else's best and last work to say the least. Go no further, don't even read the review just close the window, sit back, relax, close your eyes or go back to whatever you were doing and enjoy your life.
I picked up my first Thomas Hardy book from Blossoms (Bangalore) last month, thinking that I will read it and impress my fellow readers with a neat review on it showcasing that I have finally started reading the terrific books from the Masters of Literature. But that was never to be as a friend (another enemy friend) forced this book down my throat with no warning and just said that I must read this and feel the emptiness that he felt. I wish I had a tenth of his vocabulary the way he had put it in his review that I didn't read full as the very start told me somehow that I was about to read this book. He was kind enough to mail me the book as well. This is one of the longest that I have ever taken to finish a book 14 days. The last longest record a book ever hold for me was "The Fountainhead" guess was close to ten days at the most. Unfortunately this one is the last ever written by Hardy and became one which stirred some kind of storm in the literary circle even back then (some 100+ years ago). Of-course he couldn't have found a better subject as the theme of his story other than "Marriage" that too between two cousins (read same blood), Awesome. What happens next is the darkest and saddest story ever as I said earlier. Jude is one guy that again unfortunately I just couldn't not fall in love with, so much that there were so many times I actually wanted to enter the story and kill him with my own bare hands putting an end to his misery saying "Dude, die please, this world is not for people like you, this world seriously doesn't deserve a noble soul like yours".
Right from his childhood with no parents, no relatives to take care but just an aunt who cared nothing about him but to put him to some-kind of her own work to make some use of his time. He only wanted to read and he does reads a lot of books (this was the happiest part of the story). The only respite in his troubled life was his teacher (Phillotson), who does gives him books to read and some lessons but that too doesn't last long as the teacher moves out to a distant town in search of a better job himself. His next best friend is the visiting physician (Vilbert) who gets him some books that he gorges on and his long lost teacher too sends him some as promised. How the role of teacher and physician changes in due course of life is such irony and unbelievable that I have no words to explain. His only dream is to move himself to a nearby town to get into a University, study and become a somebody other than what he is (a Stonemason). What he does next, how he ends up in the town full of Universities, his eyes shine to see the buildings which call him but the humans inside discard him. Wow!! What beautifully Hardy has captured it all with those amazing words and every sentence is like a gem in itself. That's exactly why it took me so much time to read it rather I will say cherish it the way it was supposed to be. So many times I had to go back n forth to read and re read the whole thing again as it was too amazing to be just read and move on to the next para or page. If you have read any of his earlier works, I am sure you will agree with me as I am assuming he has to be that good in all his stories (dunno if I am going to read anymore of him).
In between how he gets entangled in a rut called life and marriage with his first wife Arabella (I will run out of adjectives) a character that vicious I have never come across in books in last two decades. What happens to their marriage, how he falls out of it and in love with his own long lost cousin is such a beautiful episode of this story that you've got to read the book for (promise me you wont read this book though). But again as this is the story of our man called "Jude (Fawley) The Obscure" as the name suggests, how could he be happy? so tragedy strikes and what happens next just took out the floor below my feet and I had a free fall straight to hell. The big heart Jude, lets his first wife go off her free will when she relocates to Australia in search of a better life, gets married again, settles down, but comes back to trouble him as he falls for his own cousin (Sue), marriage or no marriage they were married to each other (by heart and feelings and love and what not). I believe Jude's only crime is that he is a simple good man with a big heart and is poor. It is so unfortunate and heartening to see how Author plays around with his characters is something that leaves us readers speechless. I really wondered throughout, what must have been going inside Hardy's mind and heart that he came out with this story and developed and ended it this way. There are some reliefs too like Prof. Phillotson who ends up marrying Sue (Jude's cousin and second wife) even after she leaves him in the first place for Jude. I am telling you, it is a very straight forward story yet pretty complicated too.
I know I am not able to do justice to neither the subject nor the book so I will stop here. Coming back to Thomas Hardy, I had this feeling that can it be possible that there is a connection between Jude and Mr. Pip or our own Mr. Devdas from back home (India)? As they are all the stories almost from the same era, is it possible that either of the three Author's have read each others works and have carved out their own characters which are all full of pain, gloom, depression but yet they are with hearts of gold? Great Expectations in 1861, Jude The Obscure in 1895 and Devdas in 1917. Could they be inspiration to each other? I just couldn't help but think that ways. Also, the way Hardy has spoken about the Institute of Marriage is not only controversial, convincing, ironical and kind of opened a Pandora's box. The debate is inevitable as its all covered in Introduction and after the story finishes in the end too in form of his books reviews, opinions, questions which left unanswered and all.
Although I loved Jude from the bottom of my heart, he had my full sympathy, empathy and what not, I so much wished, prayed and imagined that his life will take a good turn somewhere, someone will come and love him the way I wanted him to get loved.... What a man. Hats off to you Mr. Hardy. You've made a fan for life.
PS: And there is a fantastic movie made on this book. That I am going to see this weekend. Beware: If you plan straight to jump to the movie - its gory.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

31 Miles - Vinita Bakshi (Book)

31 Miles - Vinita Bakshi.
My Mom's review. She wrote in pure Hindi and I am trying to translate it to English, although my vocab doesn't do justice to her words but whatever:
I got the opportunity to read the book "31 Miles" by Vinita Bakshi and once I started, just couldn't put it down without finishing it. No doubt this book is so beautifully written that it actually shook some untouched corners of my heart. She has actually uncarved the deep engraved feelings of an Indian woman. Author has actually very well put together and has understood what a woman goes thru and what her struggles, pains, dilemma, confusions are, that commendable and I believe she is a perfect psychologist. Protagonist is a middle aged (45 years), well educated, a mother of two from an upper class family, even then she doesn't remain untouched by something like infatuation at that age and situation is what the book explores. Her husband is a smart, very well placed, caring, loving and a man who will leave no stone upturned in fulfilling her wishes. A simple thing which tells a lot about him is that he actually gets restless and waits for her standing at the terrace the day she gets late to return home from her work. He wouldn't even let her drive their car alone thinking that she may have an accident, just imagine. Even after being married for two decades or more, she still has no idea how much he loves her or she just doesn't understand his love at all.
She always feels that there is something missing in her life, may be those little praises that she expects from him or those little "I love you's" that go missing in the daily rut of life is what gets fulfilled by "Rajan" the new entrant in her run of the mill life. How this new "Online relationship screws up her married life of two decades is the rest of the story. The utter romantic Rajan and his histrionics make her fall head over heels and she just couldn't see anything else. Author has to be praised for the way she has done and covered this delicate turn of events where it never goes out of hands and never feels over done or goes over board. It is actually to her credit the way she has carved out the strong character of the protagonist who still tries to make her lover understand that they are both married with kids and have spouses, still the way it turns out to be is quite shocking yet convincing. But what happens next as well as how it all ends is something you've got to read the novel for. I found the ending to be quite emotional and heart touching, especially the way her "Guru Maa" handles the situation and guides her is simply terrific. The actual depth of the novel and the narrative is its ending part which impressed me to no bounds, it was indeed what the Author wanted her readers to know and understand (I believe).
This book is actually superb for those ever so emotional people who may take a wrong step or two at one point of there life and think that there is no going back. Its a must read especially for those and will be an eye opener who are on the verge of committing a mistake knowingly or unknowingly. This will work like an ultimate guiding light for those lost souls. I will rate and recommend it very high and will call it a must read for all.
PS: I am not sure if my translation does justice to her original review in Hindi. And I got the book back on my rack with this :) so I will be reading it soon myself.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Pinball - Haruki Murakami (Book)

Pinball - Haruki Murakami.
Is that possible for a writer to keep churning out books by books and still keep the quality intact in all of them? In my quest to unearth the fact I decided to read 4 books back to back from Haruki Murakami. This one being the second of a four book series, whose fourth part an "Enemy Friend" as I told you in my last post, gifted me. Since I had to read em all I thought why not kill two birds with one shot ;). Although this (read these) are his very initial writings, I am sure of that but still its shocking that even then his ramblings were way too good in comparison to what his counterparts were churning out then. Although the trend continues from where he left in the first one, he refuses to disclose the location, refuses to name the characters and they are all weirdly referred to, the biggest yet is that I am keeping a very keen eye on knowing who the protagonist is, even that he simply refuses to disclose. I hope and guess by the time I read the fourth, I will be able to know who or actually what was the name of the guy whose life story he has told me in this "Rat Trilogy" with a fourth book as an "Epilogue" to it all. Can you believe all that? That my friend is Haruki Murakami the magician of words I will say. Again to my shock, surprise, sadness and what not, what I am reading are of-course the work of translators and it is indeed sad to see at so many places where they do word to word translation without using their brains but I forgive them for still giving me a terrific story as told by the master in original. (I refuse to learn Japanese in future and will stick to translations :)).
Second book of the series and story still goes nowhere, the unnamed protagonist with a handful of friends (other characters) is out of school and has started a business of translations :) you see Murakami has a sense of humor too. His partner another unnamed guy has the capital so he gets half the share, a girl that they hire to help gets one share and our hero gets the four remaining shares thats how their life goes. He still has a dear friend the "Rat" whose actual story is the whole series all about. And they both frequent their favorite bar owned by a guy called J. Who is their confidante too. Although the story goes nowhere almost but takes some hilarious turns like protagonist's live in relations with a set of Twins who he calls 208 and 209 respectively as the T shirts they wear have those numbers. Sometimes they exchange them too further confusing not only him but us too, whose who and whose saying what too :). Rat too gets his share of attention like falling in love, getting dumped in a plush apartment on top of a hill overlooking a beach with a 250cc bike to ride (he trashed his car in the earlier part). His rich parents call it seclusion so he will make something out of his life and what he does is what you've got to read the book for. Trust me, when I say this that almost 70% of the book I finished like that as the flow as always the case with his books is simply amazing but then I thought what about the title "Pinball"? Barring a whole one page dedicated to its invention and some information, it just gets tossed out of the book. But once the Pinball machine makes an entry, Phew! I cant even explain what happens.
What I love about Murakami is his terrific characters, I am sure you all have read one or the other works from him and will certainly agree. His characters can talk to anyone of anything and thats the magic, he so convincingly made me fall in love not only with the unnamed guy but also with the Pinball machine that I started thinking hard when did I play my own last game on a machine like that? Now whenever I will pass through a game zone in my life and come across a Pinball machine, I am sure it will look up-to me, might as well smile and talk to, who knows :). This is seriously insane and unbelievable. Yet, it did put a wide smile on my face and he makes the pact of me not reading a series stronger by ending it the way he ends it. So many questions unanswered and the book ends.
If you have read this, of-course tell me that you loved it as I cant accept that anyone can even dislike a book and amazing story like that. But if you haven't read it yet, you bet you have no idea what you have missed. Go get the whole series and fall in love with a Pinball machine.
PS: Thomas Hardy has broken the Murakami spell and I am in love yet again with a guy called "Jude" now, if you know what I mean ;)