Skip to main content

Kolkata: The anatomy of a city in Agni Mitra thrillers


The first Agni Mitra thriller ‘In the Shadows of Death’ (https://goo.gl/ajgKLn) starts with a portrayal of Park Street on a rainy evening, which goes as below: 

“Those who had run for cover under the shades included men and women who had been working late in the many offices in the neighbourhood, street children who would otherwise flock around foreigners staying in one of the plush hotels in the area, pimps who carried albums loaded with pictures of call-girls and would get in the way of men roaming around alone in Park Street, and hookers who roamed the streets or waited patiently for hours on end in desolate corners of the roads or in the bus stops in their loud make-up and hopeful eyes, waiting to be picked up and driven to cheap hotels around the place. The incongruous mix of people who stood next to each other, skin to skin, in the bus stops or under the ledges of the showrooms of global brands that lined the road, made Agni smile to himself every time he crossed them. That one stretch of road had something for everyone in the city – the movers and the shakers, and those resigned to the gutters.” 

This picture of the throbbing heart of the city contrasts sharply with the serenity of the Ganga at the Princep Ghat in another section of the novel: 

“The Ganga stretched below us on both sides, the gloom of the sky reflected in its black waters. The riverfront stretched behind around Princep Ghat. The trident lights, landscaped gardens, fountains, street food and a quiet boat ride away from the din of the city – the perfect getaway. 

Every city has one, I guess. After all, you do need a place to hide when everything and everyone around you seems alien. 

I hit the Kona Expressway which connects the city with National Highways 2 and 6 leading to Delhi and Mumbai. The concrete around me gave way to the green, and the bumps and potholes underneath vanished. I stopped at the Toll Plaza briefly and then drove straight. The empty road stretching to the horizon like smooth black silk beckoned me…” 

When the reviews started coming in, I realized that in addition to the plot and the characterizations, my portrayal of Kolkata has touched a chord with readers. Some of them even wanted me to explore the city more in my next story!

While writing ‘The Colours of Passion’ (https://goo.gl/cnY38Z), I did exactly that! 

Thus, the backdrop of the story ends up being an eclectic collage.

While writing this novel, what I realized is that, in the ‘new’ Kolkata, we have the moneyed upper class and the upwardly mobile middle class with its new-found avenues of prosperity that make the city a natural destination for global brands and plush real estate. We have shopping malls which are among the best in Asia, residential apartments which literally kiss the sky (the 'Atmosphere' towers on the E. M. Bypass with its skywalk 'Deya' finds a mention in the novel), nightlife which is among the best in the country, and a glamour industry which is getting its due attention in the national and international arena.

We also have the squalor of slums like Tiljala that are now home to the burgeoning mafia – smugglers, contract killers – and their unholy nexus with politicians and industrialists.

Yet, the ‘bright morning sun reflects from the steeple of St. Paul’s Cathedral’, ‘holidaying crowds make a beeline for the decked-up horse carriages for a ride by the Maidan and the Fort William grounds’, and the ‘autumn mist still hangs on the vast expanse of the Maidan’ and come autumn, ‘the city erupts with festivities, when happy faces beam all around and laughter echoes in the autumn air, when crowds throng streets awash with lights’. 

Kolkata comes alive in the pages of 'The Colours of Passion' as Agni traverses the city in hot pursuit of a murderer responsible for the brutal rape and murder of Tolly heart-throb Hiya Sen, followed by two more murders.

My Kolkata is a living, breathing character in ‘The Colours of Passion’. She had to be introduced in all her glory – warts and all notwithstanding – to the world, all over again.

(Note: Quoted lines are from the works of the author)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review - Museum of Memories: A soulful journey of many lives, through many eras and across many worlds

Amrita Mukherjee’s book ‘Museum of Memories’ (http://www.amazon.in/dp/9385854194/) is a collection of 13 short stories which, as the blurb suggests, are tales inspired by reality.
Reading through the stories, you find yourself looking into a kaleidoscope of emotions and Amrita, with her lucid language and superior storytelling skills, draws you into a world inhabited by characters you have grown up with, characters you run into everyday, and the person you look at every time you stand in front of the mirror.
In terms of structure, these are short stories that speak volumes and mostly end unpredictably. One can breeze through the book from cover to cover. However, they leave you with images, questions and thoughts to reflect upon long after the last page has been turned.
How do we embrace those close to us before they turn into memories? How does a woman who sells her womb for a price then grapple not just with the empty womb but an empty heart? What does destiny have in store for a sex…

Book Review - Onaatah of the earth by Paulami Duttagupta

Early on in the narrative, Paulami Duttagupta has to say this about Onaatah, the feisty protagonist of her novel ‘Onaatah of the earth’ (http://www.amazon.in/Onaatah-Earth-Adapted-National-winning/dp/9385854224):
‘ She looked rotten. Her face looked battered. But she didn’t want anybody to see her tears.’
This line pretty much sums up the courage and the grit of the (s)hero of Paulami’s story.
Based on the eponymous Khasi language film that won a National Award in 2016, Paulami’s novel is about a young girl who is subjected to brutal sexual violation after being abducted in a car by a gang of men that ironically includes one of her classmates from college, and who then fights back against archaic patriarchy, against the radical changes in attitude of those she had held close to her heart, and most importantly, against her own inner demons that her traumatic experience had unleashed.
In the early sections of her story, Paulami brilliantly depicts not just the physical sufferings but the em…

Book Review - Ajaya: Roll of the Dice by Anand Neelakantan

Ajaya: Epic of the Kaurava Clan by Anand Neelakantan published by Platinum Press (Leadstart Publishing) brings a unique perspective to the story of Mahabharata. In his introductory note, Neelakantan sets the premise of his work and is compellingly convincing in his characterization of Suyodhana, more (in)famously referred to as Duryodhana in popular lore, when he draws the reader’s attention to his unwavering determination to fight for his belief, his bravery and his strong personality. Neelakantan calls out incidents such as Suyodhana’s willingness to challenge the prevailing caste system by making Karna the king of Anga; his feelings for Ekalavya; his gallantry in taking on the Pandavas. At the same time, Neelakantan depicts him as a fallible human being, in sharp contrast with his cousins.

Neelakantan’s storytelling is lucid and he creates powerful imagery. Right from the ‘visually rich’ and dramatic entry of Bhishma into the palace of Gandhara to walk away with the princess Gandhar…