Wednesday, March 08, 2006


As I mentioned in my Book Tag post, Shantaram figures among my five favorite books in recent years. It is written by Gregory David Roberts, who has led a life more interesting than that of most fictional heroes. He was a drug addict and a bank robber (from Australia) who ran away to Bombay and ended up living in the slums there and writing a book about it! And it looks like he has now set up a trust whose mission is to rid the slums of tuberculosis. Talk about a roller-coaster life! One of Rediff's staff members has met him in person yesterday and her talk with him reminded me of the book.

I usually stick to fast-paced, light crime thrillers but Shantaram, at around 950 pages, is the biggest book that I've read so far. It starts off with the protagonist's arrival in Bombay and follows him as he is pulled into a life of crime and drugs and becomes one of Bombay's sons. He has dealings with everyone from the Bombay mafia to the film industry and makes an equal number of friends and enemies. It is a fantastic read with very few slow moments. According to Roberts, Shantaram was the second book in a series of 4 planned books.

But what made the book a really great read for me was Roberts' love of Bombay and its people. His feelings about the city seem true and from the heart. Even when he writes about things that are probably strange and even disgusting to a foreigner(like spitting out paan juice), he does so with a touch of admiration that, for us, usually translates into humor. And he really admires the good-heartedness of Indians (he says that if this many Russians or French had been packed into an area the same size as India, they would have killed each other by now!)

The book is supposedly being made into a movie with Johny Depp in the lead role. But if you are a reader, don't wait for the movie and pick up the book right away. The movie, however good it may be, just can't do justice to it.


At 8:35 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

Did you catch the article on rediff today?

Yes, always, books are better than movies, especially if you have a rich imagination :-)

Reminds me of Oscar night when one of the winners mentioned something similar, about keeping up with reading.

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

which article? didn't c any article other than the 1 i've linked to in my pose :)

At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But what made the book a really great read for me was Roberts' love of Bombay and its people" (from your review)

--> I feel that a lot of movies that capture the beauty and glory but not the "flavor" of the cities/villages that they're set in. Take away the great rustic story-teller Bharathiraja, I feel that even master filmmakers like Mani Ratnam present a stylized package of the locations where they set the story in...which is not necessarily a bad thing coz his films are visual masterpieces but just that they dont give you the feeling of being "there," save Mouna Raagam. Here're my fav movies where the location itself was a 'character' in itself, Throughout the story (not just a location for a song or an important scene) :

1. Muttam in Kadalora Kavithaigall
2. The waterfalls and the nearby locations in Achamillai*2
3. Delhi/Agra in Mouna Raagam
4. Chennai in Mahanadhi (every location is indicative of the changing status of Kamal and his children)
5. The village in Thanneer Thanneer
6. The banks of the river, in Mudhal Mariyaadhai...the scene where Shivaji and Radha catch fish ("idhu namma raasi") is an evergreen example of visual poetry.


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