Tuesday 7 February 2017

Sultan of Delhi, by Arnab Ray

A few thoughts on Arnab Ray’s “Sultan of Delhi”, in no particular order: 

  •  Sultan of Delhi is about Arjun Bhatia, a man who lost everything during the Partition, but who rose to become a political fixer and "behind-the-scenes" emperor of the Delhi scene. The writing is fast-paced, editing and vocabulary is good. You aren't "thrown out of the book" at any point by bad editing or weird writing. Considering Arnab Ray ( aka @greatbong) has been a popular blogger for decades and written books before, this is to be expected, but in the current scenario, it is a big relief.  
  • I am really happy to see that Ray shies away from cliches and similes that don’t fit the Indian context. This has been a grouse of mine for a long time (see, and though IWE has been growing spectacularly over the pasrt decade, I see few signs of the language being subverted to create something specific to the Indian style of speaking. But Sultan not only avoids the cliches, but also adds in Hindi phrases for colour. Thank you, Ray, for not using the British “arse” and sticking to gaand for your insults :).  
  • Plotwise, however, the storyline makes you lose interest about three-fourths of the way through. [SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR REST OF PARAGRAPH]. A character that the hero, Arjun, cares for, is introduced early on. He appears till about halfway through the book. Then he reappears 75% of the way through, as Arjun’s nemesis. Which immediately makes you think, was there a point to the bit in between, or was it inserted just so the first and last bits don’t touch each other? The bit in between is Arjun’s run-in with a powerful rival. It feel like filler in that there are no details of the juicy bits - just lots of “Arjun met every important person and bribed him to take his side.” A simple v-arc - straight down for half the plot and then straight upwards for the remaining.
  • The world created for the book - political fixers, corrupt cops, “bigade hue ladke” and so on, is excellent. I feel this is where Ray has done exceptionally well. Maybe it isn’t realistic, but it feels real and deep.

Summary: Excellent characters. Excellent writing. Plot wise, doesn’t feel like much new.

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