You guys know how much I love The Zoya Factor (there’s a disturbing rumour around that Salman is going to play Khoda in the film version but I think that’s not true, right? Right? I mean Shah Rukh’s company owns the rights and those two Khan’s are not pals, right? Right?) I was super excited when I discovered that Anuja Chauhan had written another book, chicklit again. Many of these books tend to be one-offs by the author’s even when they’re good. Look at Bridget Jones’s Diary – one sequel and that’s it (ok I know about the Olivia Joules one and I didn’t hate it also. More of even that caliber would have been appreciate but no, Helen Fielding just went underground).
Battle for Bittora was among the books I picked up in Bangalore. I had had mixed reviews but hey, as I said above, we’re hardly spoiled for choice here in the Indian chicklit world, nay the chicklit world in general. Admittedly, the shelves of bookstores are teeming with chicklit – and even Indian chicklit – but most of it is so obviously rubbish from the blurb at the back itself. At least, Chauhan is a tested writer and The Zoya Factor was so awesome that just half the awesomeness would be fine with me.
So, the book – I liked.
It wasn’t up there with The Zoya Factor but I had been expecting that. Always temper your expectations, is my motto in life, as you all well know.
It follows the tested chemistry-fuelled-by-antagonism formula which is also fine by me. This is chicklit here; we’re hardly looking for reinvention of the wheel. In fact, reinvention of any kind might be quite disturbing in this context.
What exactly I liked:
1. Zain. He is droolworthy. What is it with Chauhan and protagonists with names starting with Z though? Is it because she, like me, really liked names starting with Z but refused to name her children that because then their names would always be last in the credits of anything?
2. The way she wants to make you be in India. I feel her reflection of the kind of India her characters live in is the most honest I’ve read in its genre. She is unapologetic about the Hinglish and charmingly fond of the very local and kitchy things that make India what it is, instead of pretending they don’t exist – whether it is plastic fly swatters or snotty-nosed precocious kids who chew rubber lizards.
3. The best part about this book for me was the picture of Indian politics from the vantage point of a young person who is both involved and distant. Granted both Zain and Sarojini have some privilege that makes their entry into politics possible – Sarojini is from a political family and Zain is a former royal and rich – and this makes the whole thing more realistic than if they been some regular upper-middle-class person with and Indira Gandhi-complex but you almost feel like it is possible. To be an upper-middle-class person Gandhi-esque delusions (Indira that is), to contest, to not completely sell one’s soul and to win, or at least to come out alive and relatively unscathed. And the very last path – the swearing in oath – that might even inspire some young people to take that leap of faith also.
What I didn’t like:
1. Sometimes the routines with Zain were too much out of 1990s Bollywood. Like when he puts his head on Jinni’s lap and she’s like no, and he keeps doing it. Or when he grabs her by the pallu. The sort of corny thing that clearly worked for the masses – and infiltrated our collective consciousness – but which one also recognizes as regressive. Then again, Mills and Boons are regressive too, and therein lies their appeal.
2. She does tend to go on and on a bit – as Dipali pointed out once. Like the very last thing Jinni was pissed off at Zain about was not very convincing.
4. Sometimes the writing is a little corny but hey, who am I to point fingers?
Overall, very fun and a bit unputdownable.