The Story of Everyman
Sucharita Sengupta
THE EXTRAS by Kiran Nagarkar Harper Collins, 2012, 465 pp., 599
December 2012, volume 36, No 12

The usual practice is to turn a book or a story into a movie. What if you could turn a movie inside your head into a novel? Reading through Kiran Nagarkar’s novel, The Extras, that is exactly the feeling you get. The characters, the thrill, the twists and turns of a potboiler fit nicely with the relatively slo-wer pace and greater detail of a novel for most part of this book about two rookies with starry eyes and interminable bad luck. We met Ravan and Eddie in an eponymous novel published in 1991, where absurdities and accidents govern their lives. Ravan gets into trouble because he is too honest, and Eddie is the blackguard, the smart alec. The plot is not much different in their adult life, which is the story Nagarkar tells in The Extras. But what a delight it is to read the story of everyman set in Bombay of the late sixties, early seventies.

Ravan tries to make something of his mu-sical talent by joining a wedding brass band, but ends up seduced by the bride and then be-aten up and thrown by the roadside by her family. He returns to a staid career as a taxi driver. He would rather walk the straight and narrow, but misadventures seem to follow him. One of his passengers turns out to be a dread-ed don, and he unwittingly gets involved in the world of crime. His disarming honesty wins him the trust of the don, who starts seeing the luckless bloke as his talisman and lets him off. Ravan falls for Eddie’s sister Pieta, the very picture of a dignified tragic heroine. He helps her meet her callous lover, and helps her with a secret abortion. Pieta, overcome with guilt, continues to shun him.

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