Friday, 26 August 2011

Book Review - 'Bombay Duck is a Fish' by Kanika Dhillon

This book is a first attempt by a screenwriter and aspiring writer.

What type of book is it? Let's begin with the genre. I don't like to compare, but if you like Chetan Bhagat's books, you'll like Dhillon's too. They're both written in the same quick, breezy style. Simple non-flowery English that anyone can understand. Written as a quick easy-to-assimilate-read for the common man.

I stress on simple language so you know exactly what genre this book belongs to, and don't judge it in an incorrect context. That would be a waste of time.

The story? A straightforward one. Little town Punjabi girl Neki Brar travels to the big bad city - Mumbai - to make it big as a film-maker in Bollywood, getting a job as an AD on a new film by a major choreographer. 

The narrative? The story begins near the end, Neki reading through her diary, telling her story in flashback mode. Her diary entries describe her interactions with her roommates and the people she meets at work, what she feels, along with email transcripts to her parents.

Apparently, all her 3 roommates have issues of their own, secrets they keep. And there's tension between her colleagues and her, mainly the other 4 assistant directors senior to her, and various department heads for the film. Nostalgia inducing interactions with the extras on set also crop up from time to time. Another running plot line is her relationship with one of male leads of the film, something that she can't help getting into, and something that impacts a lot of her decisions, good or bad.

What I liked about the book? That the story begins with Neki about to commit suicide. So now you have to keep reading for 2 reasons. To see if she's really going to kill herself, and to find out why. Clever of Kanika to hook the readers this way.

Also, the inside look at what happens behind the scenes in a Bollywood film is probably the most interesting part about the book. The book feels at times autobiographical, with certain characters based on real life personalities.

The narrative structure is non-linear. Beginning near the end, then continuously shifting between the past and present, till you come back to the end, is supposed to keep things interesting. However, I thought it seemed a bit repetitive at times.

Each new chapter/diary entry either begins or ends with Neki thinking about quickly things can go from good to bad, with the main part of the chapter serving as an example. This keeps happening till about a third of the way into the book, during which time you wonder if the story is going anywhere.

The story does get a lot more dramatic and emo towards the end, with a sudden rush of emotion and character development all happening at once. A bit like a Bollywood movie. Which is exciting while it lasts, but kind of ends in a weird way, with none of the humour displayed in the previous chapters, and a more spiritual bent.

Towards the end, the book's main character, who's been narrating the story so far in first person, tends to get more introspective, as a whole bunch of different plot lines converge at the same time, building up tension in the story. While welcome, you kind of wish that this tension was present at previous times in the book too, rather than just at the end.

Also, while the beginning of the book contains a lot of humour, the latter half has none. Again, much like a Bollywood film, with the first and second halves being completely different entities. That uneven distribution of emotion, coupled with the ghost story ending, which I felt was unnecessary given the light reading tone thus far, kind of ruined it for me.

The book seems to be repetitive at first , then building up to something big, then ending in a major ant-climax, containing none of the elements of the preceding chapters, with an ending that belongs elsewhere. I get the message of the ending of course, about how every newcomer to Bollywood is the same, etc., I'm just saying that the message doesn't gel with the tone used throughout the rest of the book.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!


Friday Links

General Science:

On the incorrect use of Psychology in the London riots -

Simba ruined my childhood -



The Free Sound Project has some cool sounds -


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Movies Seen - The Holy Mountain, Altered States

I saw these 2 films last year. Really didn't care enough to write about them until now.

Avoid. This film wouldn't make sense even if you watched it while high. Had to resort to fast-forwarding to get to the end.

An interesting story about devolution. Not realistic, and a bit dated now, but interesting, specifically if you're into psychology.


Friday, 19 August 2011

Assorted Animal Articles

Some popular science articles for laymen:

Danielle Venton on how communicating with dolphins can help us talk to aliens.

Humans and Animals: An ancient and complex bond

Elephants understand that they need to work in teams

Taking a Cue from Ants on the Evolution of Humans:

Geology and Evolution

Eye Evolution

Can Animals be Gay?