Crime, murder, mystery and thrillers are the flavours of the Indian book market season. We are suddenly seeing an influx of Indian authors writing thrillers which are hitting you right, left and centre. Neeraj Pandey, the director who gave us the mind-boggling “A Wednesday” and “Special 26”, turns to writing and takes a plunge into the world of thrillers. Two films down, he now comes up with a crime thriller novel, Ghalib Danger. It is fast and to quote Bollywood “isme action hai, drama hai, violence hai, love toh hai na aur total paisa vasool story hai.”
The story’s pace starts rising from the time you meet the protagonist, Kamran, in an Indian prison. He is also making sure that he gets his revenge from those who brought his downfall. He is called Ghalib Danger due to his apparent liking for Mirza Ghalib’s verses and, is someone who courts danger. You travel with Kamran right from the time when he is dreaming big in a small village in Uttar Pradesh. He comes to Mumbai to stay with his uncle and falls in love while trying to make a living as a taxi driver. But, what you think and what really takes place are two different things. He ends up saving the life of old Mirza who turns out to be a Don. Kamran or Ghalib’s life is not the same as he becomes Mirza’s man Friday. And with that, enemies follow, in the form of Kitkit and Mental. Typical underworld dealings, a cop with a mission, Kamran’s unusual murder of Mirza and escape to Paris with Sonia make up the racy story of Pandey’s debut novel.
The whole novel oscillates between past and present with ease. You never once drop the thread of the narration or pace. Even though the setting begins in the 60s and 70s of Mumbai, Pandey easily allows you to travel with the characters during the era. You picture Mumbai, the underworld and changing times without batting an eyelid. The language used to narrate this thrilling underworld saga makes for an easy read. Pandey’s Kamran comes out as a cocksure guy who makes it big with his trademark street smartness. You can see his graph of growth, right from the simple but smart taxi-driver to the deadly don. The old-fashioned don in Mirza lives by the rules from the bygone era. Secondary characters like Kitkit and Mental too live with their unique lunacy. But somehow Kamran’s track with Sonia seems mis-matched. It appears Sonia is more in love with Kamran and goes to any length to be with him. And yes, Ghalib’s verses are spilled throughout the book with translation. Unlike Kamran who prefers them without going deeper in the meaning, it might be useful to understand and savour these lines.
Ghalib Danger might be Neeraj Pandey’s first novel but you do not see the nervousness that a first timer might show. Like his first film, A Wednesday, all you read is a fast-paced thriller which will make a great read on a causal day, in your favourite corner and armed with only your imagination.