Some of the greatest writers in history have been journalists. Charles Dickens began his career as a parliamentary reporter, George Orwell reported for The Observer while writing Animal Farm and preparing to write 1984, and PG Woodhouse was a journalist with the now defunct Globe. In recent times, journalists like Martin Amis who worked with The New Statesman, Will Self and Tom Wolfe have been successful in their transition from newswriting to fiction writing.
So why should our journalists be any less? 2012 saw a number of Indian journalists cross over to writing books this year. Some to great acclaim, others not so much.
Tavleen Singh’s Durbar
Veteran journalist Tavleen Singh’s Durbar was touted to be a book that would provide a dekko into the Nehru-Gandhi family, and help us understand the origins and rapid proliferation of dynastic politics in India, the cult of servility and the foreseen potholes in the use of the same blueprints that the family inherited from Indira Gandhi. Singh examined the insurgencies in Punjab (1984) and Kashmir (1987) and addressed the full-blown militancy that followed from an interesting vantage point – as an insider.
However, as Rajysree Sen notes, “The problem with the book is that the brilliant and utterly engrossing narration of the politics and mood of India in the Seventies and onwards, chokes on Tavleen’s broken heart and bile at being left out in the cold by Sonia.” http://www.newslaundry.com/2012/12/tavleens-testy-tales/
Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s Bank for the Buck
The Deputy Managing Editor of Mint, Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s Bank for the Buck promised to tell the story of “India’s most valued bank” – HDFC. Through the book, Bandopadhyay chronicles HDFC’s success story as well as India’s growth story. Devoid of impenetrable jargon, the book is to-the-point, comprehensive and anecdotal. What you could call every critic’s favourite word – “unputdownable”.
Aman Sethi’s A Free Man
In A Free Man, journalist Aman Sethi explores the life of an itinerant labourer Ashraf, a safediwala, and gives the reader an insight into the lives of many men like him. The women who share the same fate as the protagonist are not mentioned. The tight focus though, helps illuminate the life and triumphs of Ashraf. The book is emphatic and dense – much like one would expect it to be. Aman Sethi’s interview to Newslaundry can be seen at the link below.
Shefali Vasudeva’s The Powder Room
With a tailor-made masala cast of Ludhiana ladies and their nauseating obsession with bling and brands, small town models aching to find a nano space in the spotlight, darzis apprehensive of being consumed by the laissez faire and Fashion Week skirmishes, emerges a fairly riveting book on the Indian fashion industry. The former editor of Marie Claire, Shefali Vasudev has peppered her book with the “Devil Wears Prada” and “Fashion” clichés and more. Yet, the book does little more than re-iterate the duplicity, deceit and disaffection that floods much of the Indian fashion industry.
Vaibhav Purandare’s Bal Thackeray and the Rise of the Shiv Sena
This authorised biography – Bal Thackeray and the Rise of the Shiv Sena – is written by Vaibhav Purande, Senior Associate Editor, Hindustan Times. The book examines how Thackeray went from being an unassuming cartoonist to pioneering the sons-of-the-soil movement, and then transformed himself into an aggressive Maharashtrian and propagated a strident Hindutva movement. The book claims to tell the complete story of Bal Thackeray – the rise, fall and split of the Shiv Sena and the end of an era in Maharashtra politics after his death.
Meena Menon in her review of the book in The Hindu, calls it uncritical, pedantic and full of rhetorical questions.
Nilanjana S Roy’s The Wildings
The lit-crit turned author this year with The Wildings in which she dissected feline tendencies in astonishing detail. Their behaviour, much like ours is read, understood and poetically recounted by Nilanjana. The book is a page-turner and a must read for all cat-lovers.
Saba Naqvi’s In Good Faith
Journalist and political editor, Saba Naqvi’s In Good Faith was born out of her journey across India. It is a journalistic account of her discovery of an India that exists in faraway shrines and quaint little places and of communities and people who reach out to common ground – defying existing notions of identity within the Indian context. In the book, the author argues that it is in these little islands of pluralism, music, art and culture that we may still find a counter to fundamentalism.
Baradwaj Rangan’s Conversations with Mani Ratnam
Through freewheeling conversations with Mani Ratnam, Baradwaj Rangan – National Award-winning film critic, currently Deputy Editor at The Hindu- helps us understand the genius of Ratnam. Rangan examines the art through Mani Ratnam’s use of light, music and sound. The book, much like Ratnam’s films, is riveting, avid and entertaining (to say the least!).
Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story
Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story was re-published this year. The book looks at Sanjay Gandhi’s rule and its impact over Indian politics. It comments on many aspects – from the insecurities that plagued Indira and Feroze Gandhi’s marriage to understanding Sanjay’s personality to his rule over the Youth Congress and his love for cars that led to the establishment of the first Maruti factory. To date, The Sanjay Story remains one of the most precise biographies of one of India’s most controversial political figures.
S. Hussain Zaidi’s Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia
Zaidi is a veteran crime reporter who has covered the Mumbai mafia for nearly two decades, and seems to have poured his heart into Dongri to Dubai. The book encompasses several milestones in the history of the Indian mafia and gives a detailed and fascinating account of Dawood Ibrahim. The book is extremely comprehensive and makes for an engrossing read.
Richa Lakhera’s Garbage Beat
Richa Lakhera’s debut novel revolves around the life of a journalist covering entertainment for a leading TV channel. The book doesn’t promise to explore anything out of the ordinary. So we get a dose of life in the newsroom, deadlines, jealous reporters and sexy superstars with fragile egos.
Amrita Tripathi’s Broken News
In Broken News, Amrita Tripathi – a news anchor with CNN IBN – explores the cult of “Breaking News”. She reveals the many facets of being a TV reporter – the 20-hour days, never-ending demands, the long laborious journey to the top and then the struggle to stay there. Conspiracy theories, deceit and jealousy galore, Broken News is quite a dramatic representation of TV news and the lives of TV journalists.
And it seems 2013 is not going to be ignored by the journalist-cum-author. Rahul Pandita, Kishalay Bhattacharya, Samanth Subramanian, Sidin Vadukut and Indrajit Hazra are all writing this year. And of course, you can expect Khushwant Singh’s 1902nd book to hit the bookshops sometime soon.
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