Title: The Bestseller She Wrote
Author: Ravi Subramanian
Publisher: Westland Ltd, 2015
Price: Rs 295
Paraphrasing Francis Bacon, one may say that some books are potboilers, a few are the fire beneath the pot, and still few are the food inside the pot. Ravi Subramanian’s latest novel, The Bestseller She Wrote, belongs to the first category. It has all the ingredients of a successful Indian potboiler. There is the hero who is a successful executive in a leading bank and also a famous writer, a heroine who is the quintessential Indian wife with all the virtues and no vices, and a villain who is ambitious, scheming, manipulative and above all a ravishing beauty who is happy to shed her clothes as required by the author (or the director of the movie).
The main plot revolves round a modern version of the ancient triangular love. Aditya Kapoor is a happily married, successful banker and “a rock star author.” Maya, his wife, is a paragon of virtues, a teacher at Dhirubhai Ambani International School, who also involves herself in the social initiatives of the school among the urban poor in Mumbai, particularly the slums of Dharavi. A young graduate from IIM Bengaluru, Shreya, storms like a virus into the idyllic life of the Kapoors and churns the ocean of their married life with as much drama and skin show as required for a roaring Bollywood movie. And the churning will also yield the amrit in the form of a moral lesson preached by none other than the hero.
Shreya is a ruthless egotist, a typical contemporary villain. For her, everything and everybody is a means that can be manipulated to achieve success and fame. “Everything is commerce,” as Aditya says in the novel, for people like Shreya. “Others be damned. Sense an opportunity, go for the kill.”
If Shreya enters like a virus into the Kapoor paradise, Ebola enters as the tear-jerker without which a movie in India can be a box office disaster. “Soon to be a motion picture,” declares the cover of the novel. When Shreya’s “bestseller” is released, Anurag Kashyap (yes, the real one) is the guest of honour and the movie rights are bought by him in a grand public gesture. Promising to become a movie is one of the essential ingredients of a bestseller.
What are the other ingredients? The journey must be tragic but the ending happy, dictates Aditya Kapoor. If the writer is glamorous and sexy, the book will sell more. “You will be the darling of the media. A pretty author gets away with a lot.” A few pages later we are told, “If an author is an MBA, or well qualified, foreign educated, young, well-networked, he or she finds many backers. This is because the publishers know that they will be able to sell a significant number of copies in the author’s own personal network.” Finally, “Sometimes the best-written books fail and the miserable ones do well. It’s also a matter of luck.”
Ravi Subramanian knows what makes a publishing success and he uses that knowledge effectively. Towards the end of the novel, a character says about whatever has been happening, “This is turning out to be a potboiler.” That’s just what the novel is. For those who want a quickie, The Bestseller She Wrote is a good choice. Apart from the fairly fast-paced plot and suspense, skin show and panty-groping, there is a lovely moral lecture welded with an apology from Aditya Kapoor crowning the climax of the novel. I can imagine the thunderous applause with which the Bollywood audience will receive that lecture coming from a tinsel Kapoor.
“The Bestseller She Wrote is a combustible cocktail of love, betrayal and redemption,” declares the blurb. Indeed it is that. A cocktail. Once the intoxication is over there will be little to carry home. Not a single character that sinks into your psyche. Not a single line that bubbles in your memory. But bestsellers are not meant to do those things.
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