On bookshelf: History, movies, and a window to India (IANS Books This Week)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

NEW DELHI - The book shelf this week is a peppy combination of facts, fictions and human triumph.

1. Book: India: A Traveller’s Literary Companion; Written by Chandrahas Choudhury; Published by Harper Collins; Priced at Rs.399.

What might it be like to encounter a country and its landscape not through a travel guide, or a book tied to facts, but through the eyes and the imaginative universe of its greatest storytellers?

“India: A Travellers Literary Companion” feature a dozen stories by Indian writers, each one set in a different part of the country. Kashmirs fabled vistas open up through the eyes of Salman Rushdie, while Kunal Basu pens a historical drama in which an humble accountant becomes the architect of one of the worlds most resplendent monuments, Taj Mahal. Enter, with Vikram Chandra, the secret vortexes of power in Mumbai, where a small-time thug fences some gold bars he has stolen and then decides to find out what pleasures his money can buy.

2. Book: Chanakya’s Chant; Written by Ashwin Sanghi; Published by Wetland Ltd; Priced at Rs.195.

The year is 340 BC. A hunted and haunted Brahmin youth vows revenge for the gruesome murder of his beloved father. Cold, calculating, cruel and armed with a complete absence of accepted morals, he becomes the most powerful political strategist in Bharat and succeeds in uniting a ragged country against the invasion of the army of Alexander the Great.

History revives Chanakya two-and-a-half millennia later in the avatar of Gangasagar Mishra, a Brahmin teacher in small-town India. He becomes puppeteer to a host of ambitious individuals - including a child from a slum who grows up into a beautiful and powerful woman. Modern India happens to be just as riven as ancient Bharat by class hatred, corruption and divisive politics and this landscape is Gangasagars feasting ground. This wily pandit - who preys on greed, venality, and sexual deviance, brings about another miracle of a united India.

3. Book: Popcorn Essayists - What Movies Do to Writers; Edited by Jai Arjun Singh; Published by Westland Ltd; Priced at Rs.395.

A sparkling collection studded with wit, passion and insight, the essays are personal reflections on genres of cinema: Hollywood blockbusters, Hindi Noir, horror - and any other kind you may have sat through wide-eyed in a million small-town halls or metro multiplexes - and the effect they had on individual lives. Ranging from the sparse, undemonstrative work of Finlands Kaurismki brothers to a boisterous Punjabi masala movie that may or may not be about a foot fetish; from a writers first - and hilarious - experience of watching a film in a theatre, to one who performs a Helen dance in drag at a Brooklyn square… each of these essays reveals to readers a completely different side of their authors.

4. Book: Known and Unknown: A Memoir; Written by Donald Rumsfeld; Published by Penguin USA; Priced at Rs.999.

The memoir is filled with previously undisclosed details and insights about the Bush administration, 9/11, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also features Rumsfeld’s unique and often surprising observations on eight decades of history; his experiences growing up during the depression and World War II, his time as a naval aviator; his service in Congress starting at the age of 30; his cabinet level positions in the Nixon and Ford White Houses; his assignments in the Reagan administration; and his years as a successful business executive in the private sector.

5. Book: A Beautiful Lie; Written by Irfan Master; Published by Bloomsbury/Penguin-India; Priced at Rs.299.

Bilal is a liar. His friends are liars too. But the lies they tell are keeping a mans dream alive. The novel is set in India in 1947 at the time of partition. Although the backdrop is the key event in Indian history, the novel is even more far-reaching, touching on the importance of tolerance, love and family.

The main character is Bilal, a boy determined to protect his dying father from the news of partition - news that he knows will break his father’s heart. With great spirit and determination, and with the help of his good friends, Bilal persuades others to collude with him in this deception, even printing false pages of the local newspaper to hide the ravages of unrest from his father so that his father can die in peace.

will not be displayed