All Talk and No Action Thursday, April 1, 2010

 Image Courtesy: India Uncut

When umpteen visits to Crossword and Odyssey failed to fetch me a copy of My Friend Sancho (MFS), I wrote to Amit Varma, who suggested Flipcart. Rightly so. Shopping at Flipcart was hassle free and quick.

Amit Varma of the India Uncut fame is a journalist-blogger-novelist.

My Friend Sancho is his first novel.

Being a regular at IU, I expected a satire on the watchdogs of democracy or an insider's look at the machinations of the BMC.

Thankfully, Amit didn't consult me for the plot.

For then, I wouldn't have met Abir Ganguly.

MFS is a young Tabloid Journalist, Abir Ganguly's journey through Bombay, Tabloid Journalism, ethics, crime, family, friendship, confusion and love.

A routine, petty crime coverage goes awry and Abir becomes an unwilling party to a police encounter. Later, wanting to do a human-interest story on the deceased, Mohammed Iqbal, Abir meets and befriends his daughter, Muneeza, who shares snippets of their un-eventful, yet loving life together.

Professional Ethics-cum-order from a sly boss-cum the need for masala demand Abir to do a balanced piece, and present a sketch on Inspector Thombre, the man responsible for the wrongful shootout.

Amidst juggling between work responsibilities, dreams of a rich life, and taking potshots at celebrities, Abir sees a delicate relationship form between him and Muneeza.

Will Abir be able to do justice to Mohammed Iqbal, or will he end up supporting the wily Inspector Thombre?

Would Muneeza still be his friend when she realises the truth, or, would Abir have to settle with a lizard as a companion?

Read MFS to find out for yourself.

The book worked for me because of :

  • The humour - I thought I was fairly immune to Amit's humour. I was wrong. MFS has plenty of wit and sarcasm that will keep you wanting for more
  • The prose - A book works for me, if, it can articulate its idea without me having to refer to a thesaurus often. By that standard alone, MFS is a winner. An easy style, lovely font, frothy read
  • Bombay - The unabashed use of the word "Bombay" earned Amit brownie points. I only hope the MNS doesn't discover this !
  • Indian Writers - A lot of Indian writers borrow their style from Western authors. They end up disappointing everyone. I am glad Amit didn't succumb to this fad and came up with a cosmopolitan, yet Indian novel
  • The Climax - The book ends at the right moment. Amit should strictly avoid a sequel, unless, it offers a more biting humour
  • Sex - Yes, a well thought out, humorous, tightly woven and earnest piece of work, doesn't need that one customary page of sex to sell itself. I would have hated MFS if it would have gone the Chetan Bhagat or Manreet Sodhi Someshwar way 
Having said everything, I also think, MFS could have been better at characterisation. Apart from Abir, no character generates enough interest. Even with Abir, you mostly end up thinking this is Amit, the Libertarian. Also, having reached where he is, IU's promotion should have been avoided.

It would be interesting to see if Amit can dish out better etched characters, who don't necessarily mirror his own thoughts, the next time around.

For now, Sancho awaits you.


Anonymous said...

Somehow the plot doesnt interest me at all... There have been too many of the type... But maybe some day...

All Talk and No Action said...

@worldthru- Yup, the plot is wafer thin. But the humour makes up for it. Far better than other Indian fares.

Anonymous said...

which league is it from? chetan bhagat types? wanted to read this book from a long time....but not sure should I read this now. As you loved joker in the pack as well, which i didn't... :P

All Talk and No Action said...

@allthecrap - Correction ! I didn't LOVE joker in the pack... just thought it did its best :)

Well, this book is better than Bhagat fares :)

Anonymous said...

The book did not work for me at all...i found it fact i find amit varma's writing blog and/ or book highly overrated...what really got to me were the constant references to the blog in the book..that was like aditya chopra mentioning DDLJ in every film of Yashraj...i am not really a fan of bloggers turning authors...though Sidin's book and Great Bong's books were not bad.

All Talk and No Action said...

@Anon - Thanks for stopping by. Yes, self promotion wasn't very helpful and yes, the book didn't have too much of a plot. But humour - that was a high note really.

Also, most of these bloggers you mentioned - Sidin, Great Bong and even Amit, really fall into the same category - their themes are all similar and maybe that's why you dislike them ?

About bloggers turning into authors, I see no problem with it, as long as the book sustains enough interest.

This is similar to Models/Miss Indias wanting to become actresses. As long as they bring some amount of performance to the table, I see no harm.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing against bloggers turned authors...I agree when you say that they need to have something different to say...but unfortunately their books are just an extension of the blogs...i really like great bong's blog...but his book had no themes that were not mentioned on the is as if these guys are trying to cash in on the blog's popularity and writing novels for the sake of it..i am all for bloggers turned authors provided they have something different to narrate...for example have you read Prem Panicker's version of the Mahabharata narrated from Bhim's POV read it if you haven't it is available on line on his site...that sort of material should be published not crap like My Friend Sancho

All Talk and No Action said...

@Anon - I have to say I don't really disagree with your assessment. I will check out Panicker's version, thanks for mentioning it.