‘Tamasha in Bandargaon’ by Navneet Jagannathan, is literally that, a tamasha, and a witty one at that. It took me two chapters to get familiar with all the characters, and it was a ride from there on.
Be it the bookie Chagan, in love with the good for nothing Santra and a maid LakshmiBai’s daughter Shalini, the jobless Shimpi, supporting his working wife, Radha, the secretary of the Sunrise Cooperative Housing Society, Bhagoria, and his friend and enemy Vijay Sharma, the lawyer Suresh Borkari surrounded by his politician father in law Sitaram Sajjanpur on one side and his wife Seema, heading the Bhavani Nagar Ladies Association on the other, the hapless Dhobi Ramlal, or every other character in Bandargaon, helped in making it a very enjoyable read.
Every character in the book is well described and given a role so beautifully, the beggar Chitrahaar, the stray dog Khopdi or Grubby, as the leader Anthony Miranda calls it, Father Mathew as the comforting priest, Geeta Phule helping the lovelorn couple and also Sitaram, after her sad past of not being able to marry the pujari Guruprasad Joshi, Anand in awe of his master Chagan at the Jinias Chai House, the unruly Shambhu, and Vinayak with the help of his aide Mangal pursuing Shalini, the crook Hari, the owner Satvik of the Jaanam Desi bar, the famous movie Kroor, a hit with the place, the Purana Qila, the inspector ChandraKant Gokhale, the vegetable seller Sultan, the laundromat of Manohar, the local publication ‘The Bandargaon Observer’, ofcourse the Panther and may I add the buffalo, and many many more.
The way each chapter begins with a problem and ends with again a problem was really amusing, in a way unexpecting as well. After a helluva juggle of problems in each’s lives which are in a way interwined, comes the last chapter Happily Ever After, which was again unexpected and a very good way of putting them at ease, I would not say ending because the story moves on, the music just continues.
What clicked for me were firstly the characters, then the chaos and the mad rush of the citizens of Bandargaon, and also the nice subtleties with which the story moves forward. There were times I laughed out loud, and there was a smile always at other times. I could actually imagine the place, thanks to the wonderful book cover.
It is not one straight story, and there’s something for everyone. You will enjoy the episodic happenings in the story, it is not for a single train journey read, it is long and apt for a short weekend read. Navneet has tried to bring in the R.K.Narayan kind of humour back with his first novel and I feel he has only succeeded in it, and I also hope he continues the story with this amazing set of characters. There is not a single hero in the book, infact there were many, only making the journey more colorful. The language used was very easy to follow and I quite liked how each chapter began from a new character’s perspective. I would definitely rate it a 4/5, and even call it a must read for its different genre.