Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lost And Found by CP Surendran: A Review

By John Cheeran
CP Surendran’s Lost And Found can be read as a Bollywood script with gravitas. For someone as accomplished with words as CP, I should say at the outright, that the novel disappoints, again. May be, expectations were too many to begin with.
CP is many things -- poet, journalist, columnist and that may have complicated the role of being a novelist for him. His first novel, Iron Harvest, rooted in Kerala tackled the dreams of the rebellious youth during Emergency, but was lost in a running stream of imagery.
As a journalist you are condemned to a life of cursing and questioning and every story that lands on editing table can be material for a novel. In fact, newspaper stories often defy imagination.
CP’s situation deserves readers’ sympathy. Being a journalist and novelist it would have been hard to stave off the temptation of making use of events during 26/11 for a work of fiction. That CP dared to look back on 26/11 and Bombay, not much in anger but in compassion, understanding and reconciliation both at personal and political levels, is a praiseworthy act.
The dread with which one approached Lost And Found disappeared as taut sentences spread their ink. When CP writes “The future seems extravagant, unnecessary” you may agree with him.
But to make use of the trite Bollywood theme of twin brothers separated at birth coming together as the pivot of Lost And Found must have taken a leap of faith for the novelist. A terrorist from Pakistan wielding an AK-47 bumps into his twin brother, biological mother and alleged father in a Bandra apartment moments before he prepares to put his foot on the doors of heaven. Jihad meets its comeuppance in the outcome of a one-night stand of a Malayali couple.
Even dark humour needs to have its boundaries and I wonder whether CP wanted Lost And Found to be read as a spoof for our troubled times.
Yes, there are redeeming features, too. In Lost And Found, Bombay conveniently becomes the canvas for CP’s take on journalism, religion, fundamentalism, Islam, and broken relationships. They would have made excellent reading as newspaper columns – in fact Placid Hari Oadnnur’s profile of freelance photographer Udit Rai, The Dog of Small Things, is outrageously brilliant-- but not as a gripping narrative.
A farrago of characters and a bhang-inspired plot make for Lost And Found. Lakshmi Menon the porn writer, who was raped in a Mumbai local train many years ago, kidnaps her alleged rapist from a party and brings him home the night before terrorists from Karachi land on Mumbai shore to script 26x11. It was a beginning but the carefully wrought sarcasm and cynicism get washed away in the desperate effort of the author to justify his cast of characters. Yes, in India and Pakistan a lot of things do happen. Even on Bollywood screens. What Lost And Found wants its readers to believe is much more than that, a task in which CP has failed them again.

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