Book review: How About A Sin Tonight? By Novoneel Chakraborty

Set in the glamorous world of Bollywood, the book traces the lives of four main characters as their lives intersect one another.

The premise of the novel is interesting – a casting coup that brings together the biggest Bollywood star Saharan Ali Bakshi, his wife Reva Gupta, newcomer Neev, celebrity kid Nishani and her childhood friend Kaash. All of their lives are interwoven – Reva and Neel began their struggle to enter the industry together. As they interacted with one another, they fell in love and started living together. But Neel was a Casanova and Reva had a sexual relationship with another man she never saw (they met in dark rooms, apparently) to get back at him. Then, a chance encounter with Saharan opened new doors for Reva, and she left Neel for her shot at stardom.

Ever since Nishani kissed him when they were children, Kaash has secretly loved her and would do anything for her. Although they were in the same school, Kaash’s family moved suddenly and they lost touch with one another. Through a few chance encounters, Kaash ended up with a role in a low budget movie that went on to do really well, and happened to bump into Nishani at a Bollywood party.

Nishani is the daughter of forgotten superstar Shekhar Rai. During a shooting with then newcomer Saharan, a freak accident left him paralyzed – both physically and emotionally. He was never a father to Nishani, and for that she blames Saharan and vows to destroy him.

And Saharan is in still haunted by this first love Mehfil, a prostitute whom he met while he was still struggling to get a toehold in Bollywood. As their stories take center stage, the industry’s underbelly is left exposed and the gossip-hungry media has enough on it’s plate to last a lifetime.

First, the good: The basic story is interesting – love and hate and lust and revenge all set in Bollywood. There are some interesting reflections on love and relationships. The letters Kaash writes (but never posts) to Nishani are nice, though sometimes it’s hard to believe that those deep reflections could come from the pen of a young man.

The story starts well, but the writing starts getting on your nerves very soon. I’ll never understand why most Indian authors can’t write simple prose. Why does everything have to be forced and convoluted? Like this:

It was raining morning, noon, and night. Streets, along with their numerous dimples of potholes, were filled with water most of the times. From a bird’s eye view, Bombay would have looked like an omnivore’s digestive tract with everything – from snakes to human infants – swimming in water filled lanes, streets and roads.

Then there’s the forced dirty language, and just the horrible grammar. Like this:

Nishani could have stripped him of his pretence and spit on his pathetic nude self, but she played on because all she was interested in knowing was why they were sharing time when neither wanted to get married. And one didn’t want the sex part either.

This didn’t need the stripping and nude and spitting on anyone bits. It could have been just as effective if it had been kept simple. Maybe something like: Nishani saw through his excuses, but allowed him to try and justify himself.

Then, there are parts of the novel that could just have been cut off – some of the earlier lives of the charterers are unnecessarily long and don’t really contribute anything to the story.

Some of the key characters are a collection of cliches. Think of a starlet who is trying to get into the movies without a godfather. Chances are she would be willing to do anything – even be part of the casting couch – to get a break in the industry. That’s Reva for you. She’s confused about love, will do anything to get into Bollywood, treats sex casually and still has guilt issues attached to it. That’s about all you know about her, really.

All-in-all, the book could have used some serious editing, with portions of it needing a rewrite. Read this one at your own risk!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Random House India. I was not financially compensated for posting this review, nor are my reviews influenced by the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel.