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Dhokla noir

india Updated: Apr 16, 2010 23:47 IST
Aasheesh Sharma
Aasheesh Sharma
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Betelnut Killers
Manisha Lakhe
Random house
Rs 250 pp 287

The jacket describes it as Sopranos meets Jaane Bhi Do Yaron. But if the novel were to be adapted into a film, my suggestion for the title would be Scene, Sex Aur Dhokla. Steven Soderbergh and Dibakar Banerjee, take a nibble.

Gujarati grocery merchant Chimanbhai Shah wants to bump off business rival Supriya, a siren who's lured away his buyers in Portland, Oregon by batting her lashes at them.

When the Shahs are not plotting Bollywoodish ways of killing Supriya, like lacing her curry with arsenic, or hiring a betelnut (supari, stupid!) hitman from India, they are gorging on delectable dhoklas, wolfing ghee-laden paranthas or drowning in chai latte.

The sex, between wannabe Godfather Osmanbhai and moll Chandni; and Chimanbhai's provocative daughter Maya and man-mountain Elmore, is cheesy. The narrative is littered with the phrase 'before you could say…' to convey speed. Writer and fiction coach Elmore Leonard, ostensibly an inspiration for the author, wouldn't have approved.

The characters we liked: tea-guzzling killer Osmanbhai with Mukesh on his iPod; pungent geek Neeraj who's benched for being tardy; adolescent Sooraj who's not taken seriously till he blows up his house and skirt-chasing investigator Franklin Wade. Manmohan Desai would have liked the climax and the flashback technique.

The story of Betelnut Killers, three portions Whole Nine Yards, two teaspoonfuls Awara Pagal Deewana, works in some places. Paresh Rawal would even make a formidable Chimanbhai. Only, like Priyadarshan movies, the sins (scenes) might not be original.