Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Bhaskar Ghose's Parricide: A Review in The New Indian Express

It had been a while since I read a racy, pulp fiction-ish novel. And then this came along for review. It had been a while since I finished any book in one sitting. That is of course not to say that this book was that good. Anyway, here is a review of it in The New Indian Express. Or see a slightly unedited version below.


At that time, in the arts organisation where I worked, everyone was talking about Fifty Shades of Grey. For a laugh, I downloaded a copy and started to read it, but gave up on perhaps the 12th page when Anastasia's blush was compared to the colour of the communist manifesto. By then she had already blushed an average of three times per page. The tedious repetition of a sentiment, or verb, in this case, and its uselessness in doing anything to develop either the character or the storyline of Fifty Shades of Grey unwittingly came to my mind while reading Bhaskar Ghose's Parricide. The book is rife with the sentiment of melancholy, our hero Ravi 'is melancholy' too often. A lot. The comparison is grossly unfair though. Parricide is a far better book than that other apology for an erotic novel. That is not to say that it might not have been even better if some corners had been trimmed, if the melancholy had been reined in a little.

Parricide follows the story of Ravi, good looking in an effeminate way, a heartthrob, and his relationship with this father, a tyrant who made Ravi's childhood miserable. In the early pages of the book the father Satyendra Kumar dies and thereupon begins Ravi's understanding of old secrets, secrets that will help him reconcile and even empathise with the way his father was. There are relationships along the way, flashbacks from the past and the mistakes of the now. Throw into the mix a best friend with great insights into the workings of Ravi's mind, a colleague who hand holds him through his bouts of depression, an uncle who is more a father than the biological father, some parties and social events and doses of pop psychology and what you get is a novel that aspires to be a film. Unintentional as it may be, the screenplay feel never goes away in the details, be it the make of someone's car or while setting the scene, "...a rather unkempt park in front of the houses, partly lit by street lights."

The storyline tackles the difficult condition of depression, albeit lightly, in keeping with the general breezy-ness of the story. Why do we feel the way we feel? The strangeness of certain emotions that spring up and catch you by surprise, when you aren't entirely sure where you are or why you feel this way or not, these commonplace things that are increasingly an inescapable part of a fast, frenzied modern life are worked well into the story. Ravi feels them, feels a void, he doesn't know why. Even in the few odd times that he suspects why he might be sucked into a deep, black void, he refuses to acknowledge that it could be because of his father, the father he hated all his life, the father he rejected wholly. Along the way, he makes his friends worry. It gets worse before it gets better. But he does of course get better, thanks to a girl, a job well done, best friends and resulting realizations in due course of time.

Parricide runs through with a rather predictable storyline. But I suspect it did not have grand literary ambitions to begin with. What pulls you along is a gentle narrative, peppered generously with lives that any city dweller might relate to, and a small towner would aspire for, simple language that isn't taxing or complicated. Fans of a certain other very popular author whose books are turned into glossy movies will find much that is enjoyable in Parricide.

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