Top positive review
Targetted at a select audience - if you're it, then you'll be laughing away to the end
on 16 February 2010
The book starts off with a conversation between two chicks (yes, it's a chick-lit) in a lingo that is a delectable mash of Hindi-English, much like Amitav Ghosh in Sea of Poppies, but more modern, more with-it. If you don't comprehend Hindi, this book may be a complete waste of time unless you doggedly managed to enjoy the movie Three Idiots. If you do comprehend Hindi, this book is a complete waste of time, but unbelievably fulfilling if you love wasting time.
I read a few pages and thought to myself, it's funny alright, but not classy; far from it. Chubby Zoya destined to fall in love with the most handsome captain of the Indian cricket team, of all times. I thought the Bridget Jones love story was passé. It has trended out even by the time the sequel was released. I tch-tched through the first few chapters, very mindful of how trashy and Shoba De-ish the style was (having never read a Shobha De, don't ask me how I manage to be so opinionated).
Half way through the novel, something strange began to happen. I felt that this novel was threatening to draw me into the plot, despite my staunch views about elite fiction, et al. The plot? A convoluted mass of jiggery-pokery - Zoya, quite by accident, is turned into the durga goddess of cricket, holding supreme power over a game she barely understands - but I don't mind that, you see, I worship Salman Rushdie.
I was beginning to laugh, not just snigger. Even so, I was still deliberately resisting warming up to the novel. By now I had proclaimed to my mum, during our weekly catch-up, that how ridiculous it was of me to be reading a book like the Zoya-factor, right after finishing off with my series of Man Booker Prize Nominees (no, I don't have a book club. I have no excuse. Period). Zoya makes up and falls out with Nikhil as often as there are songs in bollywood movies, portrayed with the literary equivalent of dancing around trees in figure eights - enough to make one dizzy. Like "Mills and Boons" - I am not saying this, I am merely quoting the author here.
But on the other hand, Armaan singing a song back to the IBCC Chief totally cracked me up. Absolutely ingenious.
Finally, I gave up all resistance, all dignity, and openly started to devour every syllable, once Zoya's brother breaks his leg. He alone is faithful to his creator, which, at this point I turned the book around to note is called Anuja Chauhan. It is through Zaravar's merciless and increasingly frequent repartees to Zoya that Anuja brandishes her true wit. The fiasco during the agarbatti shoot (and shoot-out!) is the scene that gets closest to non-fiction in the entire novel - what, no? Ever watched NDTV? It is brilliantly written, and could have been the perfect denouement, except that twists of the ZN love story needed to continue. Sigh!
Towards the end, I was completely immersed in the Zoya factor. I was won over. There is definitely something unique in how Anuja expresses herself. Despite having, seemingly, poached bits and pieces of all medium and all genres of art, Anuja has presented a concoction which has a flavour of its own, something new and refreshing, and irresistible. (Sadly, when I write something in earnest appreciation of the author, I sound like I am being paid for the endorsement.)
Anuja Chauhan does manage to hold the attention of her readers for longer than sixty seconds. In fact, she makes them sit up, take notice, and grudgingly but surely, hand it to her.