Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: Sikandar - Binayak Banerjee

Sikandar, 10 Players, 68 Days by Binayak Banerjee translated from Bengali by Soma Ghosh is a fictionalized account of a reality show of Bengal's first ever reality show, Sikandar, where ten public personalities from different walks of life are thrown together in a house called Jatugriha and they have to live under the same roof for 68 days.

The milieu would be recorded and aired among millions of viewers to show what happens when people are not acting in accordance with the script but the story gets to be based on reality and the one, who manages to battle it out and survive the eliminations by the public emerges as the first Sikandar of Bengal and win Rs. 25 lakh as prize money.

Jatugriha houses personalities ranging from a hermit, Samyuktanand, Bengali superstar Kanishka Dasgupta, a opinionated actor who participates in the show just to get himself noticed by the lady he is infatuated to, feisty elocutionist Aindrila Roy Saxena, social activist Rangajaba Sanyal, widow of a slain radical who wanted to name her daughter ‘Telangana’, a determined teacher Elizabeth Mitra, famous politician Makhan Mandal to a prostitute, Lovely, who spent many intense nights warming the bed of yet another Sikandar contestant, industrialist Lalit Bajoria.

The game begins and the cameras monitors them 24 hours a day and seven days a week, while the characters talk in riddles and drench everything in philosophy and the viewers decide their fate of staying in the faithful house through SMS votes.

Interestingly most of the characters seem to be interrelated, and has a close relationship with each other, and that makes the passage all the more entertaining as we get a peek into each of the participant’s personal lives and their way of thinking, where we get to see the beauty of the complexity in human minds and where they delve from. The way we see on the face of the things may not be the same as in reality it is.

We may mask revolutionary movements as social evils but the men behind it may have some other compulsions to do it, when we find out the husband of one of the participants fighting and losing it out for the cause of her daughter’s life. One highlight of this book is it beautifully portrays how easily we love to stereotype things rather than going to the root of it.

The mounting tension that continues from the beginning, interactions and feelings between the characters along with the easy language used in this book, will make it difficult for you to stop reading till the very end. Overall a good and entertaining book full of rhythm in which you can’t wait to see how it ends.

You can well envisage the divergence, the relationships and the drama that happens in that house as confessions are made and secrets tumble down. Can the participants endure to live together in that house for 68 days? Can they trounce the differences that exist? Can they rein in their properties that are so diverse and mutually endure each other?

To know about the entire bioscope and the one who manages to have his/her way through the viewers, you have to leaf through the entire novel. The chronicle ends with a little twist, just like all the real things they show on TV turn out to be so unreal in life. There may have been one winner of the show but at the end each of the participants won in their own ways as thought processes got moulded in different perspectives.

The novel is stuffed with varied exciting characters, slick plots and subplots from the beginning to the end and has depth in the descriptions of each contestant’s life and their experiences, with one of them getting eliminated every week. The premise is something we've grown familiar to thanks to the million reality shows that have invaded prime time Indian television and borrows its format from the very popular Big Brother show.

The author has managed masterfully to create an intimate atmosphere that makes the reader quietly interfere in the lives of the characters, and explores the quirks of two characters- Kanishka Sengupta and Lovely really well. Each chapter/round begins with the tale of the remaining participants, like a diary with all the details. The author also took care to add a trigger just to spice up the sauce, a sauce that could blaze some of them.

The exchanges are nice and the author skillfully employs the technique of telling the story from the point of view of the characters. The book is interesting with the story flowing smoothly with no downtime, what makes you always look forward to turning the page to see what will happen to the characters.

Book: Sikandar: 10 Players, 68 Days | Author: Binayak Banerjee | Translator: Soma Ghosh | ISBN: 9789380658735 | Binding: Paperback | Published: 2011 | Publisher: Westland | Pages: 238 | Language: English