TWIST IN THE KAHANI
Club you to Death – Anuja Chauhan
Harper Collins India | INR 399/
Review: Anjana Basu
A dishy personal trainer found dead in the gym of a club that from the cover illustration looks like Calcutta’s famed Tolly set against the backdrop of a committee election – Anuja Chauhan it seems has taken a step out of her usual romantic family tamashas into murder territory, but then who says a murder can’t fit neatly into her pattern? The background has her expected cast of entertaining characters – vakil Kashi Dogra and his slim sexy ex-love Bambi Todi who has his heart cartwheeling despite the presence of his long distance Bengali heart throb Kuhu, General Behra Mehra campaigning for Club Presidency and his rival the beautiful Urvashi – a successful business woman, who may or may not have had an affair with Leo Matthew, the personal trainer, and the Dogra Dadi who is still young enough to swoon at Leo’s manly beauty because it reminds her of Mahadev.
Chauhan also throws in political commentary with dry satire – Leo’s caste for example which he tries to hide behind a half Jamaican pedigree which is not mentioned but can be guessed at, backed by a Christian faith; then there is the son of a leading politician in the IJP party who threatens to blacklist a club for not allowing him in with jootis on his feet saying that the Club’s dress code is obviously anti national and surgical strikes and on the borders of satire, Cookie Katoch, one of the DTC members, sculpts shivlings from precious stones and calls her outfit Shivbling. It is funny and, as the nation knows, a supremely unfunny situation at the same time.
In the middle of this is a police investigation with the clever, benevolent ACP Bhavani Singh in charge and not quite jackbooted cops digging up the vegetable garden and discovering dark secrets – there are always dark secrets to be unearthed when a murder is committed. The question is, is discovering the identity of the murderer more important or the Club elections? Most DTC members including the outgoing President would vote for the second. Also corpses do not belong to the expected people so confused assumptions and planted weapons cloud the issue. The result is the expected race against time to push the solution panic button as ACP Bhavani and his team try to solve the case with the on again off again help of Kashi Dogra and Bambi Todi.
Chauhan’s is a page turner peppered with chhamak chhalu Punjabi and Hindi lingo, not to mention a party drug that acts like the kick of a sexy elephant called Pinko Hathno! However, the awareness of a Me Too world runs as an undercurrent to the story, even as Chauhan describes halter neck bikinis and six pack abs flaunted at rave parties. Ganga, Bambi Todi’s protégée, who runs the Club Convenience store relies on the macho General Mehra to bail her out of trouble even though he is her father’s age and causes a buzz among the snobby girl pack of the Club. Leo himself is described as a one dimensional object by the hot aunties who attend his classes, a pack of cougars who don’t even know the reality of the person who has been killed and make cracks about murder being good for lowering the calorie count.
While the motive for the murder seems clear – a Robin Hood destroyed because he bends the law to obtain funding for an orphanage – all is ‘nat’ that simple as ACP Bhavani would put it. Someone has gone over to the dark side and Leo’s charisma fades out of the story as Chauhan brings her mystery to its close. She has her mix and her pace perfect, to the gathering of all the suspects with several twists thrown into the kahani of disclosure as and when it suits her. The double entendre of the title too is a clue to the murder weapon, though not the original one
For someone so au fait with club circles, there is one odd factor – the Delhi Turf Club, despite its horse and jockey logo has no connection with horse racing at all, unlike the other clubs all over India. But presumably Chauhan has her reasons. There are also editing glitches – Mehra’s claim to fame, the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Jhelum Bridge is down as Jhelum Bilge, among others.
Anjana Basu, Kolkata