Saturday, April 15, 2006

shantaram -marathi is now part of Hollywood

I strongly believe that every criminal –how hardened he may be – has his humane facet intact and every noblest human being who has dedicated his life with his charitable deeds does have a room for his lurching criminal bend of mind. We gloss over charitable acts of noblest people and condemn criminal act with a single stroke of brush. I also feel majority of people like me have both these traits in sizeable measure and we very easily could have tilted to either side depending upon the presence of catalyst at critical phases of our life. I also don’t believe that crime happens only because of necessity, compulsion or helplessness. I think crime often does take place for sheer thrill of doing it or take pleasure in hoodwinking the so called guardians of dos and don’ts of moral, ethical life.

I met shantaram by chance. On my flight back from USA, south Indian USA bred man was reading ‘maximum city’ by Suketu Mehta -a novel about Bombay and Shiv Sena. I rummaged through pages but I felt it worthless to spend money to buy a book on a subject that I am well versed with it. When I saw an interview of David Gregory Roberts on NDTV, it amused me to see white skinned foreigner staying in mumbai slums, being in prison and doing all sorts of nefarious activities and top of it speaking fluent Marathi. So when a chance came to buy Shantaram – 946 page thick novel by Roberts for few hundred rupees at mumbai airport signal, I grabbed the chance.

I liked Shantaram because I could easily relate to his thought process, his vulnerability to fall in love with people more for their sheer innocence and generosity and less for the manner they earn their roti. I loved the way Shantaram see things – in Indian cities, villages and decipher the complex behavior montage of Indian people through regimented, programmed western way of thinking. I was delighted by his logic of reasoning in doing illegal things and giving every thing that he earned to the people who gave him love, respect and standing. Shantaram is an epitome of virtues that resides in most criminals who have opted to be criminal without any compulsion or desperation.

''Shantaram,'' is combination of Gregory’s real life events and his flights of imagination. Those who grew up in Mumbai and are familiar with Colaba, Cuff Parade, Haji Ali and Dongri can relate to everything that Shantaram describes in vivid manner. For Mumbaikars, life in slum is a way of life that lies just across their boundary wall of their dwellings. They peep through slum life when they take short route to reach a railway station or hunt for housemaid when she hasn’t turned up for work. But shantaram takes us to the daily grind of slum filled with little pleasures that we have almost forgotten living in moss layered, iron grilled concrete cubicle called apartments. Our stay in those slums that spans almost 1/4th of this novel brings the resilience of human character in adapting nauseated ,unhygienic conditions while weaving formidable relationship with wonderful souls of Prabhakar, Qasim Ali, Johnny Cigar, Anand, Raju.

Our migration from slum to the inner ring of Mumbai’s gang lord is palpable with the presence of Muslim and Pathan dominance. Those of us who have seen the days of Haji Mastan, Karim lala can conjure images of Khaderbhai, Abdullah easily. What is difficult to digest is elite prostitution racquet run by crazy woman Madam Zou, Arthur road prison ordeals that resemble prison in Iraq during Saddam Hussein regime. But this incongruence also makes us realize that this is after all a fiction and we must give a room for author’s imagination.

The novel loses its steam towards the end when Shantaram doesn’t catapult to become a heroic figure either in criminal world or charitable social cause. His dalliance with both these worlds and fling with Bollywood could have been a catalyst to drive him in either pole with consummate perfection. I feel this is where; it lost out to be racy, scintillating crime based novels despite crisply delineated characters. Durability of imprint of a book or a movie is often measured at the pace it generates as story or script unfolds and the manner it reaches crescendo in the final stage. Reader or viewer gets engrossed often to lose bearing of time and abandon one’s own thoughts. Shantaram, unfortunately meanders, stutters and gasps at the last stages. This novel had all the Indian ingredients to have same impact as that of Godfather with Italian ingredients.

Shantaram’s humane facet gets elucidated by Karla,Khader, Vikram, Tariq ,Didier bring the best of philosophy, spiritually in lucid and innovative manner in most mundane settings and conversations. Khaderbhai’s Pushtu heritage tells us “You are not a man until you give your love, truly and freely to a child. And you are not a good man until you earn the love, truly and freely, of a child in return”. Karla in her seductive charm reveal “Men reveal what they think when they look away and what they feel when they hesitate. With woman, it’s the other way around”. Didier sums up over beer drinking chat that “News tell you what people did. Gossip tells you how much they enjoyed it”. With his Italian French background, he relates India with Italy “Indians are the Italians of Asia and vice versa. Every man in both countries is a singer when he is happy, and every woman is a dancer when she walks to the shop at the corner. For them, food is the music inside the body and music is the food inside the heart. Amore or Pyar makes every man a poet, a princess of peasant girl if only for second eyes of man and woman meets.” Shantaram in his unique manner finds logic of most Indians avoiding Pork “Sight of wild, hairy, black pigs roaming through filth, eating the waste. This may be efficient and environmentally benign method of waste disposal but a definite argument in favor of vegetarianism”. His being in love makes him profess “Being in love we often pay no attention whatsoever to the substance of what lover says, while being intoxicated to ecstasy by the way its said” and at the end he says what all do in this life “We all strive to do one good thing to balance all the wrong that we have done in the past”

To summarize, Shantaram promises a lot in the beginning, entertains in the middle part and dies unnatural death before it ends. I think it has very potent and lethal substance to make a formidable script. Now that 'Shantaram' is turning into a movie with Johnny Depp as Shantaram, Marathi is all set to make its presence in Hollywood.

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Anonymous jaideep said...

wow that is a news that this book is being considered for a hollywood movie casting johny depp.

gr8 news for us!

4:02 PM  
Anonymous abha said...

you jus reminded me that i have bought the book at another signal and just kept it!

i have been in the fascinating land of narnia for some time now! revisited Arthur Haileys hotel as a detour!

now destination Mumbai!

johny depp will be awesome! he is so good and can do so many different roles!

keep penning!



4:03 PM  
Anonymous sam said...

hi goggly i ve read shantaram its a good thriller but i think there are times when u get bored reading the book. goggly man u seem to be a well travelled guy
can u trust me

4:04 PM  

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