When I realized that Mumbaistan was written by the same Piyush Jha who had made the film Chalo America, the DVD of which I had bought and watched last week, I took it as a good sign. There is no denying that Piyush Jha presents three cinematically explosive crime thrillers in this tiny anthology of stories all of which have the city of Mumbai in common. His writing style is simple and detailed and although he does, like many Indians writing in English, use Hindi curse words to bring certain genuineness to the story, something I personally detest, he doesn’t overdo their usage, keeping it to the bare minimum.
An easy and quick read, Mumbaistan unfortunately gets too predictable after the very first story. The author deserves credit for presenting stories that are without a doubt Bollywood-ish and do have a number of filmy clichés, but simultaneously also have hints of originality, colourful characters, and a certain entertainment factor that keeps the reader engrossed in the story.
The strongest point of all the three stories in the book is the twists and turns that the situations and characters are put through. Every time the story seems to be heading towards an expected culmination, Piyush, just at the last moment, adds in a new character and a new situation that lengthens the anticipation of the reader. While this tactic works brilliantly in the first of the three stories, titled Bomb Day, the remainder of the two become extremely predictable as the reader, by now, is aware of how the author thinks and the guessing game becomes relatively easier.
The same can also be said about the final twist in each of the three stories. They all have the exact same element (which I shall not disclose here), laced with betrayal, that takes away the fun from the entirety of the story.
The author gives his best presenting Mumbai with a unique character of its own. The stories dive deep into the shady by-lanes of the city emerging occasionally to mention the more prominent parts that even a non-resident would know of. While it does give an insight into the city, to someone who is clueless about the nitty-gritty of the life in Mumbai, like me, the names of the places do not evoke any emotion or response. They are nothing but names that don’t add much to the stories either.
Nevertheless, keeping in tune with the general atmosphere of the stories, the description of the places does add a feeling of dread which in turns does make them slightly more realistic and exciting at the same time.
Mumbaistan is perfect if you want to get a dose of Bollywood type action in the form of a book. The stories are full of vibrant characters and the fast-paced events would be perfect to showcase on screen, but the predictability factor is the only major letdown of the book. Furthermore, counting close to 5-6 obvious printing mistakes in the first two stories was quite disappointing.
I will however state that even after its minor faults and major predictability, the stories and consequently the book remains un-putdown-able.