Of Politics and Personal Entanglements
Radha Chakravarty
Penguin/Viking by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi Penguin/Viking, 2010, 349 pp., 499
April 2010, volume 34, No 4

Siddharth Dhanavant Shanghvi’s novel has all the ingredients of a classic potboiler: love, lust, power, violence, murder, suspense, scandals and courtroom drama.Yet it does not quite succeed, either as a gripping narrative or as an intense scrutiny of modern social trends.

Inspired by the Jessica Lall murder case and liberally strewn with episodes that recall recent sensational news stories, the book nevertheless affirms its status as fiction.The central character, photographer Karan Seth, is introduced to us in the first part of the novel in terms of his encounters with several members of Bombay high society: Samar Arora, the maverick pianist who opts for obscurity when his career is at its peak; Zaira, the filmstar who suffers from acute loneliness; and Rhea Dalal, the would-be potter-turned-housewife with whom Karan has an affair.

All four protagonists find their lives altered irrevocably by the train of events set in motion by Zaira’s murder, narrated in Part 2.Karan gives up photography and shifts to a teaching job in London; Rhea accompanies her husband to Singapore, unable to accept the changes in Karan’s life; and Samar decides to devote his time to his lover Leo who is dying of AIDS in San Francisco. In the final section, Karan joins Samar, now back in Bombay as an AIDS patient himself; he also encounters Rhea again, to find their passion unabated; and he resumes photography, which makes him famous.

Continue reading this review