Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai - Rishi Vohra

Every now and then a movie based on a novel is made. But not many books are written to recreate the charm and magic of the 70 mm reel on paper. No sir. Not that often. And this is where this book takes away all the brownie points. So much, so that even though I am not a sucker for Hindi film romances, this book touched a chord in my heart.

Once Upon The Tracks of Mumbai, much like its lifted-off-a-movie-yet-creatively-modified name, is a formula-based filmy story with a filmy plot and a befitting filmy ending, but with a unique flavor to it. Its uncanny protagonist is a schizophrenic 24-year-old youth, Babloo, whose life revolves around the railway tracks twisting and turning through the length and breadth of Mumbai. He is misunderstood by his family and the society. His parents, instead of caring that little bit extra for him, act impatient and shower their attention and affection on their younger son. Enraged and alone, Babloo prefers spending his time watching B-grade Hindi cinema at cheap shady theaters, running along the railway tracks behind his colony or talking to Vandana. Now who is Vandana? She's the quintessential Hindi film heroine - a decent yet ambitious girl with dreams of making it big in life, visiting 'America' and finding her Prince Charming before her orthodox parents get her married to a dork. Vandana seems to be the only person who has patience enough to try to understand, befriend and get along with Babloo. Quite inevitably he falls in love with her.

Now all that is missing in the tale is a villain, that shady character who makes the hero's life difficult and casts a wrong eye on the heroine. So in comes Sikander, the local cable operator guy who decides to score with Vandana as part of a sleazy bet with his minions. At the same time, Babloo, in his slow but determined demeanor, decides to win Vandana's heart by becoming famous and respected. And to be all of that, he dons the title and get-up of a new-age superhero - Rail Man. How all of their lives entangle and work out in the end is the major premise of the story. Needless to say, it has a happy ending that leaves you feeling good.

The plot might look mundane and run-off-the-mill at first glance, but the highly lucid manner in which the author describes the inner workings of a schizophrenic-autistic person's mind is what makes the story unique in itself. It serves as an eye-opener for a majority of average readers who have no idea about the thought process going on inside a mentally challenged individual's mind. All the characters have been etched to perfection, and a number of issues have been touched upon. Add to it all a sub theme that throws light on the menace of increasing crime in the local trains of Mumbai, and you have a racer of a book which can be read in one go without the slightest sensation of boredom. A simple yet powerful book, and certainly a sensational way to make a debut in the literary world. I'd give the book three and a half stars.

The book is conveniently priced at 175 rupees, so as to clearly distinguish it from the league of Rupa's 99-ers (and I shall make no efforts here to disguise my dislike for them) yet make it purchasable for everyone. Total win-win!

To know more about the book and the unbelievably multi-faceted author, visit the official website.

P.S. 100th blog post completed. FTW! \(^_^)/


Naddy said...

Congratulations for 100th post :)

Mahima said...

Thank you :)

Maliny said...

congrats on the century ! nice review :)i share your views on the book too . . its an engaging read . .

Mahima said...

Thank you so much Maliny. :)