Book Review: The Curse-A Dystopian Thriller
Author: Randeep Wadehra
Rating: Four stars and a half
Let me get it straight, The Curse-A Dystopian thriller is not your average cup of tea or daily staple that can be read easily at one go. The thriller, living up to its name, has quite a complex start in depicting the backdrop, setting and fleshing of characters, lending an element of grey, greed and drunk unabashedly on power to corrupt and exploit, the unsung tribal life in the face of ruthless men and women who would stop at nothing. Once, the reader gets a grasp of the novel, it turns out to be a pulsating affair with its own twists and contours. As a thriller, The Curse is simply unstoppable.
The land of Patalnagar is ruled by the most powerful and ruthless President Daulat and his temptress wife Kaamini who wouldn’t stop at nothing to get her way, relying on his master strategist Yodha a man at war with himself, the entire system inside the corridor of power. Daulat has no dearth of opponents, from Virudh, Jwaala, Guru Ji, Zordar TV and its firebrand reporter Shabd. The Curse makes for an explosive cocktail, enmeshed with analogies and rooted dichotomy set against the political narrative in India and the TV rhubarb lending redolence to real life similarities, including an uncanny resemblance to Arnab Goswami.
Author Randeep Wadehra’s writing is lyrical, saturnine at times, a staccato of sort blending a political mamody fighting for values, revolution and against a ruthless ruler. The narrative, tessellated with words and the slightest details conveys meanings, enmeshed in poetic narration or live theatre pushes one to be in awe with expressions and gripping sequences sending an adrenaline rush. Flipping through pages, one cannot help drawing comparison to the Indian mythological tale on the triumph of good over evil, for instance, the Mahabharata, in a very subdued yet sublime fashion.
The Republic of Bodh is cursed and destined to witness the biggest human wreckage after Justice Insaaf is mercilessly murdered by the unknown face of despotism. In Patalnagar Bastee, the second most important after Asurlok, the poor are exploited and Daulat dreams of reigning supreme. The ugly and cocky fights in parliament serve as an antidote to real life scenes of present times legislators make for high voltage crescendo when the most powerful man is stripped naked, an image lapped by the media. The stage is set in deciphering sensuality in the painting of Kaamini’s character.
The author has the rare knack in lending expression and prose in character detailing about the noire aspect deftly explored and various sub-themes of revenge, insecurity, betrayal, painful past and the wicked political game is baked in a legerdemain fashion. The art of political mind games, the third eye and enticing words on the modern day politics and its subjects is what ‘roman-a-clef’ is made of in inferring to an India of unrest, raging intolerance and constant influx. Past is always painful and scars cannot be washed ashore by tears. Kaamini is the alter ego of President Chaupat and unabashedly uses her charm as the temptress to plant doubt in the mind of the ‘emasculated husband’ and holding the trump card.
The narrative is enticing and alluring at the same time with political slurs wrestling the attention of the average reader. A literature potboiler Wadehra ingeniously sucks the reader in the story, the various punch lines and cutting edge dialogues makes for sheer delight. You name it, you get it…crab shit, ideological hodgepodge, churls for viles, Tinpot Raja and Frog Crap.
There is no right and wrong, black and white in the well-wrought characters inimical to the plot in depicting vulnerability, helplessness and unbreakable spirit.
Eroticism forms an inherent part of this unequal power game played violently, a war with the mind, hinging on class struggle hiding the bedroom veiled secret. It’s fleshed out in a subdued manner yet makes for a balancing act through the words wielding a powerful impact, tit for tat on the wrestling ground laden with gender or inequality bias.
“You may be the man in my bed and a great screw, but he is the man in my life and a blue blood.”
The conversational conflict about sex lends an appealing tone and the author injects life in this sequence, ushering on mayhem waiting to unfurl itself. The suspense doesn’t lack tautness. The author has left no stone in tightening the pace in this adventurous thriller. Conflict and war can be sublime and poetic at the same time about tribal exploitation where the story flits at frenetic pace, and the ideological difference between violence, revolution and reforms makes for very dispassionate arguments.
The language is gory and scary, perhaps painting a romanticized notion of pain where humans are uprooted and facing violence at every single moment. Wadehra holds the reader in sway in this literary fest which is a delight to the eyes while painting the chasm of bruise that a fellow human carry, turning a saint into a demon. Picture this out:
“Scented breeze flirted with charismatic clouds to sprinkle happy melodies all over the river. Lusty river tides roared as they rose and flattened like sated bests…skies rained blood upon the screaming children. The horrified children watched the raging fires encircle them. Men, women, and children clad in blood-sodden appeared…they danced amid billowing crimson flames, their torsos bearing ugly marks of wounds and burns and lower parts shackled in iron chains.”
The writing is charming and alternating between picturesque beauty to turn beastly, gory and bloodshed making violence a thirst and passion to be quenched. Beautifully painted and described, one is stunned at the narration evoking pain and torn hearts suiting the agenda of vile men and women.
The curse is a coming of age thriller and Guru ji is one character splayed with the Gandhian values, advocating a return to the principle of simplicity. The ideas propounded through Guru Ji in the Weaverbirds Party manifesto on voting from home is innovative in this age of social media and technology. However, the narration loses the steam and dredges into routine in the chapter where Guru unpeels the party manifesto being built on fertile and getting repetitive ground as he gets too much into the nitty-gritty of an ideal society.
The climax is riveting, baking surprise till the end, right from the chaotic gunshot and gliding towards the tense chase to wipe off life, part of a huge conspiracy for power hunt. Innocent lives are uprooted and turned into smithereens. Does it ring a bell to the world’s biggest conspiracies we are oblivious to? One couldn’t help avoiding comparison to a political India constantly on the upsurge and The Curse makes for a propulsive read, the speeding gunshot, a shocking, plot spinning finale with the twists and turns. The moment, you feel the novel reaches the end Randeep Wadehra as a master story teller ratchets the real face of evil. The Curse-A dystopian thriller is one such rare book, with sharply drawn characters, savage love and intimacy, greed, corruption where the fearful Saaya radicals making it one hell of a kind virtuoso thriller.
Check the book blurb on Goodreads and click on Amazon to buy The Curse: A Dystopian Thriller. I thank Rubina Ramesh of The Book Club Group who offered me a review copy. Check her website here.
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