Monday, 7 February 2011
Aditya Sudarshan's "Show Me A Hero" - A Review
Aditya Sudarshan has come up with his second novel “Show Me A Hero. Since I had enjoyed his first one (“A Nice Quiet Holiday”) a lot, I made haste to get hold of and read “Show Me A Hero”. I was not disappointed.
Like “A Nice Quiet Holiday”, “Show Me A Hero” is also a crime novel with a murder that needs to be solved and a few scenes of mob violence. And that’s where the similarity ends. In all other respects, “Show Me A Hero” is as different from “A Nice Quiet Holiday” as chalk from cheese. Vaibhav, the protagonist, is an unlikely hero. A young man who has trodden the path less taken, Vaibhav is not too happy with his existence in general and his not-so-well-paying-job in particular. Vaibhav is brought into contact with Prashant Padmanabhan, another young man who is so difficult to understand that Sudarshan devotes a substantial amount of space trying to dissect him and yet doesn’t achieve total clarity even till the end. Prashant is trying to make a movie, yes one of those amateur, small budget movies, about his hero Ali Khan, a former cricketer who in his heydays courted more than his fair share of controversy. Vaibhav agrees to help Prashant with the movie. All of this leads to trouble and ……........ a murder.
The murder is just of the mysteries in “Show Me A Hero”. An even greater mystery is why Ali Khan, who was dogged by allegations of match fixing during his career, gifted Australia a win in a crucial semi-final by ‘walking’ even before the umpire lifted his finger. You don’t get answers to these questions till the end and Sudarshan keeps his reader shrouded in a gentle cloud which drifts along very slowly. “Show Me A Hero” is even more slow-moving than “A Nice Quiet Holiday” to the extent that the reader at times feels like shouting at Vaibhav to get a move on. For example, even after the murder takes place, the protagonist (who hardly deserves the honorific of ‘detective’) doesn’t jump around and take urgent action. Instead, there is masterly inaction, which, with the benefit of hindsight gained by finishing the book, is quite realistic.
Sudarshan writes very well, his sentences longish rather than short, at times forcing his reader to do a double take when confronted with a longish phrase or sentence. Sudarshan is very good at showing a picture from various angles. You get to see one side of a person’s character and then, without warning, a totally different side. The protagonist Vaibhav is almost as complex a character as Prashant. At times very sensible and perceptive, Vaibhav also appears rather daft once in a while. When his long distance girl friend tells him ‘say something nice’ he doesn’t really understand, till another pretty girl who is in greater proximity to Vaibhav, explains matters. Does Vaibhav’s relationship survive or does he get into another while on his path to ‘finding himself’? Please read this novel to find out for yourself!
Prashant and Vaibhav are not the only complicated characters in this novel. There’s Animesh who is even more mysterious. The numerous young characters in the book are all trying to understand themselves and each other and the reader is also taken along on the various paths to self-discovery, which stretch on till the end of the novel.
Since Sudarshan’s characters are all taking alternative paths to self-realisation, Sudarshan is able to place them in contrarian positions. For example, when Prashant is upset with his mother over something trivial and throws a tantrum, Vaibhav is found thinking, “I felt a perverse desire to obstruct him further. I couldn’t make any sense of his outburst and I wanted to register my own protest; to stand for my right as a guest not to be privy to the house’s scenes.”
This is definitely a good read, though not a light read, despite an attempt to ‘package’ it as one. As mentioned earlier, this novel moves along slowly, but doesn’t drag except may be at a couple of places. It’s the sort of book which forces the reader to put the book down after every dozen pages and reflect. For cricket lovers (like me), the (fictional) descriptions of various cricket matches and (made-up) cricketing trivia involving Ali Khan are an added bonus. “Show Me A Hero” is definitely a big step forward for upcoming writer Sudarshan who seems to be almost ‘there’.