Entry no. #5Debut Indian Writers Month: October 2012

Part of Debut Indian Writers Challenge and South Asian Challenge 2012

Title: Death in Mumbai
Author: Meenal Baghel
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 978-8-184-00065-8
Pages: 231
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: 3 of 5
Reviewed for: Random House India

Image: Flipkart.com
Image: Flipkart.com

Truth is stranger, bolder and gorier than fiction and Neeraj Grover murder case in 2008 had yet again proved it right and how! Mumbai – The city, that is famed to stop for none,whatsoever, was hooked to the murder case of the TV executive like never before and worthily so for the confession by the main suspect – Maria Susairaj – was blood curling, cold blooded and humanely impossible. Meenal Bhagel, Editor of Mumbai’s leading tabloid – Mumbai Mirror – in her debut book takes the reader through the events that led to the confession and later the conviction.

Meenal uses interviews as the basis of her narration going through the sensational murder case, looking into the personality traits of the characters that may have led the urban middle class well-to-do Indians to an act so gory that it defied conventional human imaginations of real-life crimes (until then). The story has majorly three main characters, a conventional love triangle, just that it ended with the lady losing both her loves – one to prison and one to death – and like life each one of these characters is neither black, neither white – they are grey – not good but not evil either. Neeraj Grover, the victim – perpetual womanizer, neither stable in love nor in jobs; Maria Susairaj, convicted for destroying evidence in the case (according to the court) – struggling starlet, confused soul about career, locations and men in her life; Emile Jerome, convicted for culpable homicide not amounting to murder – All rounder Naval officer, winner all the way except losing his heart to Maria, a women elder to him and far less deserving him (as per all who knew him).

Meenal brilliantly navigates through the mess of human minds entangled in urbane ambitions with the help of interviews with the investigators, friends and families of all the three characters involved. At the end of it we are standing at a juncture, which is neither accusing nor accepting because we have peeked into three minds that may belong to just about anyone we may know around us. The narration is compact and racy keeping the reader engrossed right through. The book is divided into three chapters – The Journey: The journey from Mysore to Mumbai, Oshiwara: Three characters in search of a film and Death and Denouement. Though the first and the last chapters deal exclusively with the murder case, the middle one has an indirect effect on the story. The Oshiwara chapter deals with interactions with Ekta Kapoor – who wanted to make a film on the case and was Neeraj’s ex-boss, Moon das – who was approached to play Maria in a film on the case and a tragedy victim herself and Ramgopal Verma – who made a film, Not a Love Story, based on the murder case. This is the only chapter in the book that I felt should have been edited down much in the book because apart from a line from Ekta about Neeraj’s character there wasn’t anything related directly with the case. Yes it does enlightens you on the eccentric working ways of Ekta Kapoor, the story of Moon Das and her constant struggle to clear her name and survive in the industry and yet another creative mind’s – Ramgopal Verma’s – modus operandi. These are all different stories, not really having a say in the story of Neeraj Murder case. They tell us of the world that Neeraj existed in and Maria aspired to be in but this part has been pulled a tad too long. I also felt that the book raced towards its end too quickly, which could be what good narration does to a reader’s mind. You end up wanting more! Inspite of being a systematic real life crime narration, the book is high on literary metaphors, which compensates for the beauty that is missing is the gory story.

The book closes with the positivity of a peek into the efficient strategies of breaking a tough mind employed by a department tagged with inefficient performance – The police force – and also the irony of the card that destiny plays: an abettor and instigator in one of the most hideous crimes to rake the maximum city walks free and the provoked and co-planner languishes behind the bars for 10 years.

A thrilling read and definitely not for the weak hearted; a sneak peek into human minds and hormones gone wrong.

Happy Reading.

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