Monday, February 20, 2012

Faceless - the only way out by Tapan Ghosh

Faceless - the only way out is written by Tapan Ghosh, a debutant author from Mumbai, and it is slated to become a major motion picture in the near future.

Book Blurb:
"Dildo in a bin! Who put it in?"

Embarrassed about mistaking a vibrator for a bomb, Khush and his anti-terror squad go about looking for the owner of the pleasure tool.

Khush and Shom have been friends since childhood. In their forties now, they love to swing to latino beats in Mumbai's nightclubs. Shom, the reticent one, is very different from the flamboyant Khush.

Everything changes when Shom meets Raima. Their sensual yet spiritual love is separated by age, wealth and background. Shom throws caution to the wind and meets life head on, choosing honesty over hypocrisy. It's a Love Story emerging in the contemporary world of wealth, lust and power, like the freshness of the lotus flowering in stagnant waters.

Raima, a victim of circumstance, is exposed to the world very early in life and as such she is tough, sharp and street smart. She is the soul of the book.

Faceless is the story of love and passion so powerful, so pure, that we live it with Shom and Raima.

The story set in Mumbai (SoBo, Khandala, Daman, etc) has a host of characters; we have Khush (short for Khusrau Screwvala), Shom (actually Suman Bhatia), Natasha, Raima, Natasha's mom Swapna, Saif Hussain, Aruna, Aneesh and Aneesha, and many more. However, as we progress, we find that the book mainly revolves around Raima and Shom, with Khush making the occasional appearance along with the luxury vanity van called the "Land Yacht".

I had recently read and reviewed a book - The Blogging Affair - by yet another debutant author and wanted to stay away from sauce and empty plots for a while, but that was not to be and soon enough Faceless – the only way out found me.

The plot is flimsy to say the least and the first line on the book blurb "Dildo in a bin! Who put it in?" was quite a turnoff. The narrative or the manner in which the ... umm story is told doesn't gel with me either. The result: After The Blogging Affair, this is another book that I have taken the longest to read.

The Plot: Shom is a self-made successful businessman and best friends with Khush, who too is super-rich and moonlights as the deputy to the chief of Mumbai’s bomb squad - and that too post the 26/11 terrorist attacks! Strangely though Khush spends most of his time in pubs and discos, drinking away and 'having fun'; he sees himself as doing a great service to womankind by satisfying their needs.

Shom and Khush are both married men with families, Shom having married his rustic wife at the spur of the moment under some unpleasant circumstances. He has a past with a childhood sweetheart - Aruna. The unhappiness and emptiness (this bit is quite contrived though) of his life makes him seek 'solace' from time to time. He meets architect-cum-escort Raima Sengupta (many years his junior) on Facebook and Blackberry chats. They decide to remain faceless but maintain contact nonetheless. Then they decide to meet.

Raima has lost her father quite early in life and is brought up by her loving aunt whose creep of a husband molests her when she was just fourteen. Fortunately she remembers the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky saga just in time and decides to keep her dress (the one with her uncle’s semen) safely - and the uncle wilts. Her mother is bed-ridden.

She has been in a relationship with Saif Hussain - an ISI backed terrorist and a close aide of Headley (the mastermind of 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai). She plays a vital role in getting him imprisoned, while Khush sees to it that no harm comes to her. However she ends up being on the hit list of shadowy figures. After Saif and Khush, she meets her soulmate Shom - through FB and BB chats and then face-to-face.

They meet as often as they can. They call each other soulmate and the author has done his best to portray whatever happens between them as love and tender romance, but it simply falls flat. It comes across as one-dimensional, as lust, and is tiresome.

My two pence worth: The flow of the story is jumpy and not at all logically convincing. There are too many inconsistencies, disconnect and clunky writing for the readers to sustain their interest after a few minutes. That the story is narrated in a flat tone and lacks humour doesn’t help either. It drags on and on and there is no Loin to rescue us from the overwhelming Mona-Tony.

Frankly, the narrative starts with a vibrating dildo (in a bin) that people confuse for a bomb, but Khush finds out the truth and becomes the hero of the day. The gadget belongs to Swapna, Natasha's mother, who in turn is a friend of Raima. And that's how Khush and Raima meet. The author's portrayal of the 'needs' of middle-aged and neglected women leaves a lot to be desired. He even brings the third gender - the shemales - into the plot, and they have absolutely nothing to do with the storyline. It was insensitive to say the least. And Shom going underground (and faceless) - eliminating terrorists via a fully automated system? I would rather watch A Wednesday instead.

We barely get a glimpse of the city or the state - except for a feeble one - that of a beach, but are overwhelmed by the minutest detail - of the Land Yacht's interiors and those of the third gender.

Having plowed through the book, all I have to say is that perhaps the author wanted to write a story with the aim of converting it into a movie and therefore just went about adding all sorts of 'spices' and 'garnishing' that he felt would enliven it and result in a blockbuster. He even brought in past life connect and reincarnation - out of the blue!

After reading the book, the hardest thing for yours truly has been to write the review and boy am I glad that I have finally managed to pull it off! And now that I am done with it, I am in dire need of some strong south Indian filter kaapi.

But before I grab a cup, I must add that the book does feel good to hold and the editing errors are barely there. Even the book jacket cover is unusual and manages to hold your attention; there is somewhat of an element of the mysterious there. I only wish there was a plot too and a coherent one at that. Why has the author called this book "Faceless - the only way out" - I know not.

My Rating:
Had it been the X-Mas-New Year season I might have been more generous and given it a 2/5, but since it is not, I am going with a 1.5/5 for Tapan Ghosh's debut book. Given the backdrop and the other sub-plots like reincarnation, etc., this one could have turned out to be a very good read. A much meatier read in its own right, if only there had been a clear storyline and the deadwood (for the sake of cheap thrills) had been pruned out.

With that, I am off to get some much needed filter kaapi.

Details of the book:
Faceless - the only way out / Author: Tapan Ghosh/ Publisher: Frog Books (an imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd.)/ Publishing Date: 2011/ Format: Paperback/ ISBN: 978-93-81115-98-5/ Pages: 239/ Price: Rs.145 (Rs.109 @ Flipkart.)

The book jacket cover of Faceless - the only way out. Courtesy