Book Review : The Battle For Bittora by Anuja Chauhan
I found it… Funny, cool, packed with info and unbelievably wicked.
First Impression… The Great Indian ‘Democrazee’ forms the splendid background to this angst -ridden-dilemma of the young-upwardly-mobile where Facebook is as pertinent as EVMs to their life. The protagonists talk tongue in cheek for the most part and the quintessential political matriarch speaks hilarious Hinglish. The contrast co exists rather well. The ups and downs of the political scenario is seen through the rose tinted lens of a light romance that refuses to get overwhelming inspite of the passionate moments because of the wicked humour that the author lays on… thick.
The Story… Battle For Bittora is the story of a young, spunky, big grinning with an out- of -place haircut protagonist who is an animator by profession and a reformist at heart. When her closest relative, her grandmother, who is something of a political matriarch, drops in to her workplace and ‘convinces’ her to campaign for her in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Jinni, the anglicised version of Sarojini, named after the indomitable Sarojini Naidu, is perplexed but allows herself to be led out of a sense of duty. Her name introduces the reader to the dichotomy that is India, the traditional and the modern, the old world charm and the new opportunities.
Jinni and the reader are then transported or dumped straight into the heat and noise of the Indian political scene. Never boring, for it is the ringside view of the proceedings by a novice in the book penned by someone who is fortunate enough to be the protege of a formidable political figure.
To the bubbling cauldron of intensely interesting, eccentric, lovable characters especially of Jinni’s ‘crack’ team, who are a bunch of endearable nuts; she adds a dash of romance in the form of the very hot, honey toned, ex-royal, Zain Altaf Khan or ZAK, who is also a formidable political opponent. Zak and Jinni have been childhood friends, teenage crushes and have shared a past that is all too intimate and complicated.
Interest factor… What keeps you hooked is the question of who is going to win the election from Bittora, a dusty little constituency in the heart of Pavit Pradesh which is easily recognizable from real life, as are the Pragati and IJP parties.
The language of the book is hilarious though there were times when I wished that the youngsters would talk normally /seriously at least once in a while. The hinglish used by the characters brings laughter in spurts and one can imagine the Pavit Pradesi accent insinuated in the book.
The most lovable person is Amma, Jinni’s grandmother and the pivotal figure, even when she is shrewd and manipulative, taking political mileage out of tragedy as compared to Bauji, her dead husband and the idealistic politician. Everyone loves a flawed character, living life to the fullest even when confronted with defeat/ death, for in her words ‘life is ‘sort'”.
Anuja Chauhan’s successful foray into writing follows her even more successful and eventful career in advertising. She has been credited for many high profile ad campaigns. Her own media prescence has been good even though not very high profile and I have been in awe of her clarity of vision and her magic with words . And her good impish looks, of course. By the way, I kept expecting Jinni to look exactly like her, though it was someone else whose smile inspired Jinni’s really wide grin.
Battle For Bittora is now going to be made into a film, directed by Shashanka Ghosh with Sonam Kapoor as the female lead.
I was led to Battle For Bittora when I first picked up ‘Those Pricey Thakur Girls ‘ by Anuja to read and I liked her writing style rather a lot. She is descriptive, delivering pages upon pages of delightful scenes and snippets. So when I read the blurb for Battle For Bittora, I hopped straight in. The great elections in the world’s largest democracy from the viewpoint of totally cool young professionals seemed too good a combination. To quote the characters, I so wanted to read it.
Verdict… Anuja Chauhan, with her tight narrative, a great plot line, mesmerizing and very well etched out characters is unputdownable. She has been hailed as a clever writer with a fiction that has wicked humour, sounding a bit like chick lit but infinitely more deep and satisfying. I totally recommend it.