Book Review- Show Me a Hero

by Jaya Bhattacharji Rose

Vaibhav, is a twenty-three-year old engineer, who has recently moved to Delhi to work with a wildlife organization. Having been brought up in a “government” family, he has so far led a sheltered and privileged existence, including having lived in a posh locality of Delhi when he was a school kid. So, for the first time he has to fend for himself in the big bad world. He rents an apartment in the noisy, crowded and dirty Patparganj. He has to share the space with three other boys, including Animesh. Soon they discover that they have a friend in common – Prashant Padmanabhan. With the reappearance of Prashant in their lives, the monotonous existence of being just bachelors ends with a bang. Instead, they become a group of “friends” who hang out together and develop a project. Or rather, tag along with Prashant’s obsession with making a film on the great Indian batting legend,
Ali Khan. Apparently, Ali Khan had walked off during a crucial semi-final World Cup match against Australia that had cost the Indians dearly. A lot of stories swirled about it, but the truth was never known. Ali Khan retired to lead a reclusive life in Meerut, and earned a living by taking coaching classes. The project begins to take shape only due to Prashant’s persistence and at times, passionate letters that he writes to Ali Khan seeking his permission to make a biopic.

Soon the friends are immersed in the project, but face hurdles like goons who want to disrupt the production on a flimsy excuse—for fear of it depicting Islam in a derogatory manner. In fact, fishy lawyers like Saeed Ibrahim tried getting a stay order on the film. All the planning is disrupted when Prashant dies unexpectedly. He is discovered face down at his writing desk, by his father. But his friends realize that there is more to the story and suspect murder.

Show me a Hero picks up as in the second half of the book. For a novel whose blurb promotes it as “a tragedy, murder mystery and a coming-of-age” story, it is probably trying to pack in far too much in limited amount of space and words. It takes a while for Aditya Sudarshan to develop the plot. A conversation-driven plot that seems to be the current trend in contemporary Indian and sub-continental literature can be quite enjoyable to read at times, but it has to be done tactfully and with some crisp editing. Actually what shines through Show me a Hero is the Henry James style of writing, especially with regard to Vaibhav. He is portrayed as very sharp, sensitive and astute at observing a character and his interior monologues are perceptive commentaries about people and scenarios.

Aditya Sudarshan is a young and upcoming writer who has talent, and sparks of gravitas. His fiction is as yet to meet the benchmark set by his literary criticism. He will get there soon.

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose is a Consultant Editor.

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