Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Anna and Aasha

By a happenstance I started reading Anna Karenina and Starry Nights at about the same time.
It was most fortunate.
Had I relished Leo Tolstoy's magnificent contribution to the world of realistic fiction without allowing my mind to venture into the plots of any other novel, I would have been just mildly enchanted. But reading it along side Shobhaa De's crass narrative that she passes off as 'The original Bollywood novel' meant that I not only was completely spellbound with the former but also pleased with the fact that years of reading had imparted me with power of discretion and also (might I add) a little taste.
But why compare Tolstoy and De? Even De-in spite of her vainglorious estimate of her writing abilities- wouldn't dare compare herself to the legend. Neither would I. The only reason for this seeming comparison can be explained by the opening line of this post. And because both are realistic fictions. Also due to the fact that both novels have adultery as the central theme.Although that might not be an exclusive point of comparison, because by that logic each of De's book can be compared with Anna Karenina. Adultery is not just the central theme of De's novels. It is the only theme.

I have an incurable habit of reading anything that I lay my hands on while I'm bored, and far more hopeless is my inability to stop even when I know that the stuff I'm reading is garbage. A couple of weeks ago a friend had suggested me a book by the name of penthouse, which, as I was told, is a pornographic equivalent of Mills and Boon. I politely declined, but a few pages into Starry Nights and I started wondering if it was any different from the X-rated books in the market. It's not that I didn't expect this. My mind has been assailed by  three Shobhaa De books so far (including this one) and I know that she heavily banks on carnality so that she can have 'Bestseller' written in bold on the cover page, but the earlier ones at least had some storyline! Whereas if you're reading this one you might as well go to an animal farm and see pigs mating-over and over again. It's hideous. Nauseating.
I don't intend to sound like a chaste woman, holy and devoid of impure thoughts. Because I'm not. However what gets my goats is people marketing vulgarity in the name of 'art' and 'freedom of thoughts'. Usually while reading a novel I think in terms of the protagonist (as does everyone else I suppose). But I just couldn't imbibe Aasha Rani's character.What kind of a woman-who willingly sleeps with scores of people, including a woman, to both escalate her career and satiate her lust-can be deemed innocent and morally right? It was a poor attempt at De's part to create a selfish and lascivious character and masquerade her as a circumstantial victim. So, if you Mrs. De are exercising your fundamental right by penning down and publishing your thoughts, I too am enough of a freedom writer to call this your novel of yours an utter trash.

So far I have read just two of the eight parts of Anna Karenina and can I be any more hooked? I'm planning to write a full length book review once I'm done. I'm amazed at how seamlessly the story unfolds, how beautifully the characters are brought into the plot, how aesthetically the tender scenes are described.
I have said this often, more to myself than to anyone else, that a good book is the one in which after a point you cease to be a mere reader and become a character yourself. Unless a book does that to you, you won't be able to enjoy it. And it is quite unnecessary to say, but still let me say it, that I'm thoroughly enjoying this book. Classics, after all are classics.