I'd been waiting to read Death in Mumbai by Meenal Baghel since a few months, and finally could. I mainly wanted to read it because of the author. When it comes to Indian authors, I give a blind thumbs up to journalists - books they write are precise, plots crisp and language impeccable.
Death in Mumbai is about Neeraj Grover's murder case, dating back to May 2008. This is the second reason I wanted to read the book. As a journalist, I had actively followed the murder case, attentively listened to discussions the crime reporters would have at the bureau, pored over the tabloids and waited with a lot of expectations to see the case unfold. As soon as Rakesh Maria took over the case, every one in the bureau, even us deskies, would remain glued to the tv and any information that we could lay our hands, eyes and ears on.
On the jacket
A gripping account of the infamous Neeraj Grover killing that sent shock waves through the nation.
Three years ago, the brutal killing of a young TV producer called Neeraj Grover sent shockwaves through Mumbai. An alluring aspiring actress, Maria Susairaj, and her dashing naval officer boyfriend, Emile Jerome, were accused of killing him and hacking his body into pieces, before setting it on fire. The cast of characters was young, attractive, and upwardly mobile, the press hungry for a headline. As details of the case unravelled, the questions flew around—what had gone wrong? What made these young professionals turn to violent crime? Was it the savage pressure of the city, or was the motive even darker?
This book will shock and inspire a much needed change in perception of celebrity culture and Bollywood. It’s about so much more than a contested killing case and will be a talking point for years to come.
First let me talk about the technicalities. The plot, the style of writing, the flow of events, the language - everything was almost perfect.
But, almost all of us have followed the case and know all that the media has informed us. Then why read this book?
I would say, to read a well written book, firstly. Secondly, to know more about the case than met the eye. Baghel seems to have researched well. I was a tad doubtful while starting this book - I sort of imagined gory explanations of Neeraj's body being cut to pieces in the book. But, I was pleasantly surprised. The book doesn't talk as much as what happened that night as what led to it happening, and what happened after it.
Baghel has not only spoken about Neeraj and the main accused in his murder Emile Joseph and Maria Susairaj, but the plot includes various characters including their families and friends, Ekta Kapoor, Ram Gopal Verma, Moon Das (remember the struggling actor whose jilted love interest shot her mother and uncle before shooting himself?), Rakesh Maria and other police officers involved in the investigation.
Baghel had put special attention to character development of all three main characters of the story - Neeraj, Emile and Maria. We all knew what had happened, but did we know who they actually were? I didn't. I had known of Neeraj when he was with Balaji and that he was known to be a womaniser, but how much, I never knew. How Neeraj had always wished for things beyond his reach and how his parents had always fulfilled their only sons wishes, in a way spoiling him. He didn't care whom he hurt. Maria came from a rich family. She had big dreams, but not enough drive. Emile was the perfect son, student and officer. He was the best in everything he did. Did that strain him too much? Was the way he was, the prime reason he lost control, stabbed Neeraj, forced Maria to have sex with him just inches away from the dead body, and then cut Neeraj's body to pieces, cleaned the house and dumped his body?
Have I intrigued your curiosity enough? To tell you the truth, the last chapter dragged a bit - for the simple reason that most of it's contents were already known, but overall, the book is a must read!
Publisher: Random House India
[This book was reviewed for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]