WORLD BOOK FAIR 2019, NEW DELHI : A VISIT TO PARADISE



“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” 
― Marcus Tullius Cicero


World Book Fair being held at Pragati Maidan New Delhi is one of the oldest Book Fairs in India. The first Delhi Book Fair was inaugurated in 1972 by the then President of India V.V Giri. Back then it was a biennial event. Since 2013 the fair is being organised annually by National Book Trust in association with Indian Trade Promotion Organisation generally in the first to second week of January. It is being promoted as Asia’s biggest Book Fair and it is here that I propose to find my true soulmate- Books.

The 2019 World Book Fair is being held from 05-13 January at Pragati Maidan from 11 am to 8 pm. The theme of this year is ‘Books for Readers with Special Needs’ and ‘Sharjah’ (UAE) is the Guest of Honor’s country.  On 05 of Jan I had an early brunch and by 11 am I was on a metro towards Pragati Maidan.  I reached Pragati Maidan Metro Station around 11.30. It is barely 05-10 minutes walk from the metro station and by 11.40 I was inside the fair grounds ready to explore a limitless world.








My first destination was the Indian Language Publishers Hall. This was a microcosm of the Indian culture and exhibited the diversity of its literature. Books from many Indian languages were on display here. From Hindi to Urdu, from Bengali to Punjabi the stalls displayed the rich and diverse literary culture of India. Being a Bong guy I decided to visit the Bengali stalls first. I was disappointed that only a few stalls were displaying Bengali Books. Still the rich literary heritage of Bengal from Rabindranath Tagore & Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay to Mahasweta Devi & Sunil Gangopadhyay was in full display here, my personal favourites being Satyajit Ray’s Feluda and Sharadindu Bandyopadyay’s Byomkesh Bakshi. But I decided to settle on the Pujabarshiki edition  of the popular  Bengali Cookery
 magazine ‘Hangla Hesel’, as I had to return home at the end of the day and explain my absence for a whole day to my loving wife. Bengalis love their food and a good cook book should amicably settle chances of any domestic discord.



Next came the Hindi stalls. Hindi books on a wide range of subjects, from the heartbreaking novels of Munshi Premchand and the intoxicating poetry of Harivansh Rai Bachchan to the glitz & glamour of Bollywood, were on display here. My mastery over the Hindi language chiefly consisted of my interest in hindi comic books as a child, so I decided to stick to the same. A visit to Diamond Book Stall and I was reuinted with the world’s most clever man, Pran’s ‘√áhacha Chaudhary’, whose brain works faster than the computer, and his sidekick ‘Sabu’, an alien from  Jupiter & the most powerful person on this earth. Then came my tryst with the Indian superheroes
Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruv & Doga  from the publishers Raja Pocket Books (the Indian equivalent of Marvel & DC). These comics brought back vivid memories of my childhood days.





I have a four year old at home so I headed towards the kids section next. Einstein once said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent read them more fairy tales.” Hence, I decided to select a few fairy tales and bedtime stories for my little one, so that on growing up he does not take after me.



By the time I was finished selecting books for my family, my stomach was already crying “how can you ignore me like this bro???’’. So I decided to pacify him too.Though I had a wide range to choose from, from chinese noodles to desi pav bhaji and dum biryani, but the food did not look too appetizing. I decided on the Chicken Biryani. Though the food was rubbish, it provided me with the energy to conquer the final frontier - English literature.



Books from all the major English publishers were on display . My favourite stalls being Penguin Random House India and Harper Collins. From Tintin & DC comics to the classics like The Book Thief & To Kill a Mockingbird, from Indian Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik & the spiritual Life’s Amazing Secrets by Gaur Gopal Das to Sapiens & Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, Penguin India had a wide selection of books for everyone and from every field. Harper Collins is home to the undisputed Queen of murder mysteries, Agatha Christie and many of her titles were available here. Other notable authors include George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) & J.R.R.Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit). It
had classics such as The Alchemist and modern thrillers such as The Woman in the Window. Other notable stalls included Hachette, Bloomsbury & Pan Macmillan India. Hachette India had some of the finest books on Horror & Mystery, from books of the master of horror Stephen King to those of authors like Anthony Horowitz & Keigo Higashino (The Devotion of Suspect X). Bloomsbury was a treat for the Harry Potter fans, while Pan Macmillan had the books of such legendary authors as Jeffrey Archer. I was spoilt for choice. Next came the stalls selling old & used books. They had a wide collection and you could buy a popular novel for as less a Rs100/-. By the time I had finished going through these it was already well past 7 pm and the stalls were closing for the day.





I left the fair grounds at 7.30 with loads of books. I can hardly wait to go through these. I will be posting my views on the books in my blog in the coming months. Overall I had a great time at the Book Fair. My New Year is off to a great start. Wishing you a prosperous year ahead. Happy New Year.



“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges



THE CHALK MAN - C.J. TUDOR

Never judge a book by its cover, they say. Well, at first what attracted me to the British author C.J. Tudor’s debut novel The Chalk Man is the title and the cover of the book . The picture of a stick figure , drawn with chalk, with a noose around its neck is really creepy and intriguing. The book explores the darker side of childhood, the secrets that people keep & the huge consequences that even small acts can have.
The Prologue of the book in which a dismembered girl is lying in the woods and someone comes and takes away her head in a bag sets the tone for the book. The book is set in two time periods 1986 & 2016.
In 1986 we find a twelve year old boy Eddie and his friends. Everyone in this gang of five is known by their nicknames. So we have, Eddie Munster, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky. One day they go to the local fair. Here Eddie meets his new school teacher Mr Halloran. Together Mr Halloran and Eddie rescue a teenaged girl who has met with a terrible accident at the fair and this sets into motion a chain of events which ultimately leads to tragedy. It is Mr Halloran who introduces Eddie to the Chalk drawings.The idea takes root and soon the gang is sending each other secret messages through the chalk drawn figures of stick men. Trouble brews when the chalk figures start appearing on their own and they ultimately lead them into the woods where they find a murdered and dismembered girl.
Then after thirty years we see a grown up Eddie or Edward Adams in the year 2016. He is now a school teacher in the same town. Eddie thinks that the events of 1986 are are past him. But one day he receives a mail containing a drawing of a stick man and a piece of chalk. It turns out that all his friends have received the same mail. Metal Mickey pays a visit to Eddie and discloses that he is thinking of writing a book about the events of 1986. He says that he knows who the murderer was. On the way to his hotel from Eddie’s house Mickey is drowned in the river. In order to survive Eddie must now discover the truth of the events of 1986. As Eddie investigates he is in for a shock. 
We see the events from the perspective of Eddie. In 1986 we see the events as it appears to a twelve year old Kid. While in 2016 the world is seen through the eyes of a mature forty two years old Edward. To connect the two periods the author employs the technique of flashbacks as Edward reminiscences about his childhood .
Though it is Tudor’s debut novel but it never feels so. She is a skilful storyteller and writes in a simple, uncomplicated and lucid manner. To describe the horror of Eddie who mistakes Mickey for his dead bother Tudor writes, “Ghosts didn’t exist in daylight, or zombies. They only existed in that sleepy hollow between midnight and dawn, crumbling to dust at the sun’s first rays. Or so, at the age of twelve, I still believed.“ The characters are well drawn out. We have the jovial Fat Gav who is the leader of the pack. His humour is evident in the manner in which he describes people’s secrets, “Secrets are like arseholes. We all have them. It ‘s just that some are dirtier than others.”
Tudor’s love of the horror, of the dark and macabre is clearly influenced by Stephen King. There are enough scenes in the book which makes one’s hair stand up on end. The prologue, the discovery of the body in the woods, the bullying of Eddie by Mickey’s elder brother Sean Cooper and his cronies, the appearance of Sean’s ghost and the final struggle with the killer is creepy and horrific.
The only problem with the book is its pacing. The mystery unfolds at a very slow pace. A lot of time is given in building up the atmosphere. The narrative shifts between the present and the past and a lot of time and space is given to the activities of the children, their games etc. Also you feel just a little bit cheated at the final revelation, though it is quite unexpected .
The Chalk Man is one of the best mystery novels to come out in 2018. It is being hailed as The Girl on the Train of 2018 and undoubtedley it will be made into a movie soon. This book is highly recommended for the mystery lovers.
C.J. TUDOR

THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS


World’s most beloved detective is back. After the success of her first two Poirot novels The Monogram Murders (2014) & Closed Casket (2016) Sophie Hannah is back with her third novel in the series, The Mystery of Three Quarters.

Returning home after lunch Hercule Poirot is accosted outside his home by an angry middle aged woman Sylvia Rule. She accuses Poirot of writing a letter to her accusing her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, of whom she has never even heard of. Soon he is confronted by three other persons John McCrodden, Miss Annabel Treadway & Hugo Dockerill each claiming to have received a letter from Poirot accusing them of the murder of Barnabas Pandy.
Barnabas Pandy turns out to be the 96 year old grandfather of Miss Annabel Treadway who had accidentally drowned in his bath three months ago. Poirot compares the case to the Church Window Cake prepared by Euphemia Spring, the young waitress at Pleasant’s Coffee House. Each slice of the cake is comprised of four sqaures. Likewise the case seem to have four suspects. When, Poirot starts investigating he is able to establish the connection of only three of the accused to the late Mr Pandy. John McCrodden seems to the only one who has apparently no connection with the case. Hence the name of the novel The Mystery of Three Quarters.
 Was the death of Barnabas Pandy a accident or was it deliberate murder? Who has sent those letters impersonating Poirot and what is his/her motive? Is a murderer on the loose? Will Poirot be able to answer the questions before someone else is hurt? The mystery deepens and family secrets start tumbling out of the closet as Poirot starts digging deeper.

       Here we find the Poirot we have come to know and love from Agatha Christie’s books. His mannerisms, his obsession for neatness, order & method, his love for his mustaches, his use of foreign words and expressions are all there. His eyes turn green when he has hit upon the solution. But instead of Arthur Hastings here we have Inspector Edward Catchpool of the Scotland Yard as Poirot’s sidekick. The story is presented through the eyes of Inspector Catchpool. Sophie weaves a web which is worthy of Agatha Christie in its scope, conception and execution. The Mystery of Three Quarters, is a delight for Poirot fans.  Thanks to Sophie Hannah we are able to enjoy the exploits of the Belgian detective after four decades of his final exit in Curtain which came out in 1975. Eagerly waiting for the next instalment of the series to come up.
SOPHIE HANNAH

22 SHEY SHRABAN

22 Shey Shraban is a 2011 Bengali psychological thriller written & directed by Srijit Mukherjee starring Prosenjit Chatterjee, Parambrata Chatterjee, Raima Sen, Abir Chatterjee and actor/director Gautam Ghosh who makes a comeback after a hiatus of 29 years. The movie is based on the Stoneman murders which took place from 1985 to 1989 in Bombay and subsequently in Calcutta in 1989. It is suspected that the murders were the handiwork of a single serial killer who used to crush the skull of the homeless people with a single piece of heavy stone. More than 20 murders have been attributed to the Stoneman. These cases still remain unsolved.

The story is set in modern day Kolkata of 2010. 4 murders have been committed by a serial killer over the past 8 months. All the victims belong to the lowest strata of society, a madman, a prostitute, a gravedigger and a goon. The only thing connecting these crimes is that beside the bodies are found a piece of paper quoting verses from various bengali poets from Sukumar Ray to Jibananada Das. The Kolkata police are all at sea. The investigating officer Abhijit Pakrashi (Parambrata) is directed to rope in the services of Prabir Roy Chowdhury (Prosenjit) an ex IPS officer who in the past has worked on four such cases of serial killings. Prabir is a disturbed soul who is tormented by a tortured past. He has been dishonourably discharged form duty due to his extreme hatred for criminals resulting in encounters and custodial deaths. He is now a drunkard, extremely ill tempered and foul mouthed who can hardly complete a sentence without the profound use of expletives. Meanwhile a fifth murder takes place and thus begins a cat and mouse game between the serial killer on one hand and the two sleuths Abhijit and Prabir Roy Chowdhury on the other.

There is another parallel track involving the love triangle between Abhijit, his girlfriend Amrita Mukherjee (Raima Sen), and her best friend Surjo Sinha (Abir Chaterjee). Abhijit and Amrita have broken up many times during the past year. Amritas best friend Surjo who is in love with her is always beside her when needed. They are both professional journalists and work for the same news channel. The news channel is planning a 13 part series on serial killers with the 13th episode being a live interview with a serial kiiller. Amrita and Surjos investigation leads them to Nibaron Chakraborty (Goutam Ghose) who  has spent jail time with a notorious serial killer Rafiq Ahmed. Nibaron is a would be poet who claims to be the last surviving relic of the anti  establishment Hungry Movement in literature which rocked Bengal during the  1960s. He is desperate to publish his poetry and claims that there will be consequences if the establishment tries to silence his pen. He is a frenzied madman who roams the streets during night carrying his bag of poetry. For Abhijit and Prabir he seems to perfectly fit the profile of the serial killer and they start tracking him. But there is more than meets the eye.

What elevates the movie is the performance of its lead actors. Prosenjit (Bumba da, as he is being affectionately called by his fans) delivers a stellar performance. He is one of the finest actors of his generation not only in Bengal but the whole of India. Though he has played some minor roles like the one in Shanghai, its time that Bollywood wakes up and utilises his potentential to the full. Parambrata is a very underrated actor. Goutam Ghose excels as the anti establishment eccentric poet. Raima and Abir play their parts well.

The lead pair of Prosenjit and Parambrata share a terrific chemistry. Sparks fly every time they meet. Much of the finest dialogues of the movie occurs when they interact. Abhijit (Parambrata) arrives twelve minutes late when he meets Prabir (Prosenjit) for the first time:

Prabir : Youre late.
Abhijit : I just missed the lane.
Prabir : Youre late by 12 minutes.. In the last 12 minutes light has travelled the earth one and a half times, the little hummingbird has flapped its wings 72,000 times, according to reports there have been eight rape cases in India in the last 12 minutes, and you just missed the lane Abhijit.

Then again,
Prabir : Do you drink whiskey?
Abhijit : No.
Prabir : Bournvita ???

When Abhijit addresses Prabir as Prabir Babu, he retorts
Prabir : Sir
Abhijit : Sorry
Prabir : Address me as Sir. I dont run grocery store here.

Dialogues like these abound, and the dark humour adds to the overall gloomy atmosphere of the movie .

The music of the movie is composed by Anupam Roy and it is one of his finest till date. The track Je kota din brings out the intimacy, the physical aspect of the relationship between the two lovers Abhijit and Amrita.  Ekbar Bol brings out the loneliness and pain in the lives of Abhijit and Prabir.The tracks Ei Srabonand Gobhire Jaobrings out the central theme of the movie. Though the love triangle and the songs slow down the pace of the movie and adds to its length (run time of 140 minutes), but they are organically integrated into the scheme of the movie and do not look out of place.

Director Srijit Mukherjee has drawn inspiration from a number of sources. Influence of movies like 2008 thriller Righteous Kill and Agatha Christies novel The ABC Murders can be discerned. But like Shakespeare the director has turned the borrowed materials into pure gold dust. As a psychologial thriller 22 Shey Shraban is unparalled in Indian cinema. Only other movie which comes to mind is Sujoy Ghoshs 2012 thriller Kahaani. If you can overcome the language barrier then 22 Shey Shraban is worth your every penny. It is the best that Indian cinema has to offer.



P.S.- 22 Shey Shraban means the 22nd day of the bengali month of Shraban. It marks the death anniversary of Kabi Guru Rabindranath Tagore, the greatest poet of the land. The movie pays a tribute to the rich literary culture of Bengal and like the verses the killer leaves beside the bodies the movie feels like poetry in motion.

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW - A.J. FINN

The Woman in the Window is one of those rare books that really is unputdownable. “ - Stephen King

There is a lot of buzz around A.J.Finn’s (pseudonym for Daniel Mallory) debut novel The Woman in the Window. So I ordered my copy from Amazon. It arrived promptly and I began reading. With the turning of each page I got immersed deeper and deeper into the world of Anna, the principal character of the novel. The pages kept turning themselves. Everything else, my family, my job took a backseat until I reached the chilling climax of the book.

The book starts slowly by building the picture of a middle aged woman Anna Fox tormented by her past memories. Anna  is living alone in her home in New York. Her husband and daughter has left her. She suffers from agoraphobia. She is seeking psychiatric help and is on medication. She has also developed a drinking problem due to her loneliness. It has been ten months since she last stepped out of her home. Her principal pastime is sitting by her window, watching and capturing her neighbours through her Nikon camera.

One day she notices the Russells, a family of three moving into the house opposite her. She sees a reflection of her own family in the Russells and becomes obsessed with them. She keeps peeking into their lives through her window. She develops a friendship with the Russell boy and his mother. Everything seems to working out fine when one night Anna sees a murder being committed in the Russell household through her window. The Police arrive but find everything in order. So what did Anna witness? Was it real or a hallucination? A result of her medicines and her alcoholism? In this world nothing is what it seems.

The novel feels like a Hitchcockian drama unfurling itself on the big screen. The writer starts slowly, building up the character and the world of its central character, investing it with a dreamlike quality. Gradually the writer builds up a claustrophobic atmosphere against which the drama of deceit and illusion is to be played out. Through flashbacks the writer brings out the nature of the extreme pain felt by Anna. The narrative picks up momentum once the Russells arrive. From this point onwards the narrative races on until it reaches its shocking final revelation. The story is full of twists and turns which keeps the reader transfixed till the end.
A.J. FINN

The Woman in the Window is one of the best mystery/thriller novels to come out in 2018. No wonder Fox Studios have bought the rights to the novel. Grab your copy of the novel before it hits the big screen.

GHOUL - NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES

Ghoul is a Netflix Original mini series directed by Patrick Graham. It is the first horror venture of Netflix in India after its successful Sacred Games & Lust stories. It consists of three episodes of around 45 mins each and is available in Hindi (original language), English, Tamil and Telugu.

The series is set in a future dystopian world reeling under military rule. Sectarian violence is rampant. Minorities are looked down upon. Free thinking is curbed. Books, even nursery rhymes and children literature are banned. Everything is taught according to the syllabus’ prescribed by the government. Anyone who does not conform is branded as anti-nationalist and terrorist. They are captured and reconditioned to be ideal citizens and are killed if they do not conform to the system.

Nadia Rahim (Radhika Apte), a trainee at the National Protection Squad Academy specializing in advanced interrogation, is a product of the system. She aides in the capture of her father, a professor and one of the intellectuals who opposes the atrocities of the state. He is promptly branded a terrorist and sent for reconditioning. The ensuing investigation leads to surfacing of some secrets essential to national security and Nadia is stepped out of her training and sent to Advanced Interrogation Centre Meghdoot 31 under the command of Lt Col Sunil Dacunha (Manav Kaul) to aid in the investigation. There she is looked at with suspicion by fellow officers. Meanwhile a prisoner Ali Saeed (Mahesh Balraj) arrives at the centre. Saeed is the leader of the ‘terrorists ‘and hence a high priority subject. The officers start the interrogation of Saeed unaware that what they have brought with them is much more than human. Slowly it starts feeding on their fears and insecurities. In the final act there is much gore and blood fest as secrets come tumbling one after the other out of the closet.

Ghoul works at more than one level. It is powered by the terrific performance of its cast and crew. After her performances in the Sacred Games and Lust Stories Radhika Apte once again delivers a brilliant performance as the multi layered Nadia Rahim. The cinematography and the background score adds to the bleakness, the claustrophobia, the horror of the scene. There are enough jump scares to keep the audience on tenterhooks. But what works most is its multi layered narrative. It is much more than a ‘Ghost Story ‘. It is commentary on the insecurities, the fear of the minorities, the lies told, the atrocities committed under a Fascist regime and the eventual reaction, the revolution. The Ghoul is the Fascist regime preying on the minds of the people, devouring them and leaving a trail of destruction and bloodshed in its wake.

For the millennials who have been raised with a liberal dose of Aahat and Zee Horror Show, Ghoul is a refreshing change. Kudos to Netflix for bringing horror television in India up to the international standards.


MORIARTY - BY ANTHONY HOROWITZ



Moriarty is second book in the series of pastiches written by Anthony Horowitz who has been authorized by Conan Doyle’s estate to carry forward the legacy of the phenomenon that is Sherlock Holmes. The first book The House of Silk which came out in 2011 brilliantly captures the essence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works and presents to us a sombre, dark and gloomy picture of the Victorian London. Moriarty the second book in the series is bolder in its scope and treatment.

Moriarty is essentially a Holmes novel but lacks its two central characters - Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson. Their places have been taken by Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard (who is first intoduced in Doyle’s The Sign of Four), and Frederick Chase, an agent of American detective agency Pinkerton. The story fills the void between 1891 after Holmes’s disappearance in The Final Problem and his reappearance in 1894 in The Adventure of the Empty House, the period commonly known as the Great Hiatus.

The events of the novel takes place in 1891 after the episode of the Reichenbach Falls as described in The Final Problem. Both Holmes and his arch enemy Moriarty are supposedly dead after falling from the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland while fighting each other. A dead corpse resembling Moriarty is fished out of the Reichenbach Brook. Inspector Athelney Jones who is investigating the matter meets Frederick Chase and together they start investigating.  From Chase Jones learns of the existence of a master criminal from America named Clarence Devereux who is ready to take over the underworld of London after Moriarty’s death. What follows is a series of gruesome murders and much blood is spilled on the streets of London.


Moriarty has all the elements of a Holmes novel. Macabre scenes of murder, disguises, honest thieves and red herrings are there in abundance. Athelney Jones is an admirer of Holmes. He has studied Holmes’s works and has modelled his investigating techniques on the techniques employed by the great detective. But he is no Sherlock Holmes. Frederick Chase here plays the part of Dr. Watson. Much of the interest in Holmes’s stories is generated by the relation between Holmes and Watson. The chemistry between Jones and Chase does not quite match up to that between Holmes and Watson. Like The House of Silk Horowitz here exposes the dark underbelly of the Victorian London. The atmosphere here is darker and the murders more gory but the story never quite reaches the heights attained by the The House Of Silk which is a more polished work of art. The final twist which though unexpected has no novelty about it. Overall it is a good novel and is recommended for the Holmes aficionados.

P.S - The short story The Three Monarchs which is attached to the end of the novel is more in the Sherlockian mould and is a delight for the fans of the Holmes.

WORLD BOOK FAIR 2019, NEW DELHI : A VISIT TO PARADISE

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”  ―  Marcus Tullius Cicero World Book Fair being held at Pragati ...