Nerves stretched to breaking point now.
Then all four were on board.
‘Zorawar,’ Krishna hissed into the headset.
Along with the code word to commence strike, the flash bang in his hand was cast forward.
Just like that, the operation attained critical mass.
The flash bangs exploded with mind-numbing roars.
Breaking out of the protective crouch, to ensure the grenades did not affect them, K-team thundered into action.
This thriller is fast-paced, seeped in contemporary commentary, and explains action with precision. There are ex-commandoes in it and the reader too feels he is moving in and out of scenes and plots with them without losing any of the technicalities on the way. ‘RIP’ is an action thriller by Mukul Deva who has already been hailed as the ‘literary storm-trooper’ who writes his prose in a ‘pulse-pounding, crackerjack’ fashion without pausing or digressing into other issues that don’t matter.
Thrillers are supposed to have a lot of action, a knowledgeable sprinkling of weaponry, an intelligent use of gruesome killings, incidents that move into one another without pausing for breath, and a background of plausible plotting. This novel has all this… and I’m sure Mukul never wanted to be known as a writer who wrote memorable prose or books brimming with quotable quotes! If that is what you want, keep this book down and walk away before you begin reading it… because once you begin the book, you would want to read through.
‘But I want action with a story.’
‘You want a story? Of course there is one. There are these ex-para regiment guys who are unhappy with the way things are going on in the country and so they decide to kill. That’s it.’
‘That’s it? You mean this novel has a few men who take to arms and commit murders? Cold-blooded murders?’
Well, RIP is an acronym that means ‘Resurgent Indian Patriots’ and is a tightly knit group of like-minded trained army men who go with the presumption that scams, scandals, and corruption needs a heavy dose of killing. However, this novel isn’t just full of mindless killings… our K-Team does plan out each of their attacks with the perfection of any commando operation.
There are three things that I would like to talk about this book.
The first is the way the pages take you back into contemporary news and the writer picks up real-life people and incidents, twists and turns them into very recognizable caricatures, and then adds liberal doses of satirical punches. Then kneads this concoction with a lot of anger and frustration that the common man today experiences… and you find that you smile, nod in agreement, and just read on. One finds caricatures of politicians, activists, bureaucrats, army-men, arms-dealers, business-men, and even other professionals walking in and out of the plot making it sound so connected with a life that we are living now. These are thinly veiled references, for instance…
Sheila Kaul was aware that the sympathy wave post her husband’s death had helped to submerge the corruption allegations that had plagued her husband’s final months. However, she was also smart enough to know that this sympathy would not last forever. And also pretty sure that when it faded, the curtain would go up on some of the scams that had flourished during her husband’s leadership.
…or read this reference…
Madam had sounded agitated and angry. Sanjive knew that Sharad was riding in the eye of the storm whirling around the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, which he had been in charge of organising. Corruption allegations were rampant. Public anger was unusually high… was also fuelled by the hunger strike which activist Arvind Hazarika had begun a few weeks ago to protest against the institutionalised corruption and spate of scams that rocked India every so often. Bofors, fodder, stamps, coffins, land, 2G, Spectrum, the Commonwealth games…
The best thing is that this novel brushes you past even the Lokpal Bill as the protagonists plan their assassinations and killings. As a reader these references actually connected me to what was happening on the pages of this novel.
What I did not like though was that the novel was not discussing these issues at all. They were just names and I went along with whatever concept I was already holding of these issues. The book also does not make any effort to give a distinct perspective to these vital issues, and also offers no solution. I mean, when was killing ever a solution? For instance, if an office goer has a boss who is corrupt and ill-treats him, should he get up and just pump a few bullets in his head?
The second thing that I want to talk about is the use of short, hard-hitting sentences. Not all writers are able to resist the temptation to write long and winding prose that clarifies just as much as a shorter, pithier sentence would have. Read these lines… and the novel is full of them… sentences that hit you in bursts, short bursts… no ammo is wasted, so to say…
Time to talk was over. Now it was time to walk the talk. And as it always did, instantly, all uncertainty slid away. Replaced by the Zen-like stillness of battle. In the space of a heartbeat the man within died, as the warrior came alive.
The third thing I need to mention is that this novel gives you a feeling that the writer has had some real time moments in the OGs. Yes, some of the expressions and phrases took me right into the heart of IMA, where I too trained just a couple of years before Mukul Deva would have entered to do his quota of front-rolls, EDs, and restrictions on the Drill Square right in front of the Chetwode Building. Thus I’m not surprised to find Deva define ‘firing as fucking, you don’t really forget how… either you’re good at it, or you aren’t. It’s that simple.’
For those readers who feel that even well-executed killings, great descriptions of tension-filled prose cannot complete a novel in the Indian context, this one has its own brand of romance in it. You have a strange triangle of Raghav, Krishna, and Reema. No, there are thankfully no intimate scenes, no bedrooms and smooches and kisses popping up in between the C-18s, M-84s, grenades, flashes, bangs, shocks, SVDs, and succinylcholine… the narrative remains focused on action, except until the very last where lips ultimately meet:
‘Are you proposing to me, Colonel Athawale?’ her lips curved into a beautiful smile.
‘What do you think ma’am?’ He grinned back mischievously.
‘I think you’re full of good ideas today.’
He took her in his arms. Then their lips met.
There was nothing gentle about that.
The silence around them deepened.
Author: Mukul Deva
Publisher: Westland Ltd
Price: Rs 200/- (in 2013)
23 February 2013