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Mumbai inspires books on crime

Mumbai is the most formidable character in two new books on crime. In Death in Mumbai, journalist Meenal Baghel takes off right from where the news reports let go of the story, while Mumbai Rollercoaster is a fictional account of everything you want to avoid and a good example of how real life, as seen in the Susairaj saga.

books Updated: Jan 06, 2012 19:24 IST

Death In Mumbai

Meenal Baghel

Random House India

Rs 299 pp 248

There is no time to catch your breath, or make plans for the evening, when the first line reads, “You, lady, are my number one suspect.” The speaker is Rakesh Maria, head of Mumbai Crime Branch, speaking to Kannada film actress Maria Susairaj. The case is over-familiar: it made headlines in May 2008 when television executive Neeraj Grover went missing in Mumbai, his body later discovered chopped to “several bits”.

In Death in Mumbai, one of the books under discussion, journalist Meenal Baghel takes off right from where the news reports let go of the story. Her attempt is to force a rethink of the “young, beautiful, ambitious people involved in a gruesome killing”, so she takes us through the daily grind of Neeraj Grover, the victim, Maria Susairaj, the manipulative lover and Emile Jerome Mathew who loved the wrong woman — and how it all culminates in a gory end.

The most formidable character in the narrative reconstruction, however, is the city. Baghel explains how TV-dom’s headquarters, Oshiwara, grew from the slushy backwaters of Mumbai, and how the setting up of Balaji Telefilms in 2000 turned things around for wannabes like Neeraj from Kanpur and Maria. The sequence is detailed and thorough, a sign of the author’s extensive research.

The individual chapters are dedicated to the main characters, so we learn about the young ‘Casanova’ Neeraj who discussed girls with friends, the manipulative Maria who “when in a relationship could flirt outrageously with her boyfriend’s friends to make him jealous” and Emile, who despite his family’s opposition to his liaison with Maria, found himself caught in a honey trap. Testimonies emerge, from friends, relatives, even Ekta Kapoor who first noticed Neeraj, an “aspirant hanging around on the ground floor (who) saw Ekta and flicked an impertinent salute.” Baghel deals with the aftermath of the crime as well: how it attracted film directors like Ram Gopal Verma and the anxious TV entertainment folk who couldn’t get enough of numerologists and vaastu consultants.

Mumbai Rollercoaster

Rajorshi Chakraborti

Hachette India

Rs 295 pp 276

Mumbai Rollercoaster by Rajorshi Chakraborti is a fictional account of everything you want to avoid and a good example of how real life, as seen in the Susairaj saga, can beat half-baked plots. Rahul and Zeenat, two teenagers in love, find a “freshly bleeding” corpse in an under-construction high-rise in Mumbai. Soon the 16-year- olds are trying to solve the mystery, running around South Mumbai, and even going to Berlin. The details do not add up at any point, and you are left flipping pages for information. A sad product given the variety that the city offers its inhabitants.