Tuesday, November 26, 2013

#BookReview : Final Cut by Uday Gupt

On the jacket:

Six fast-paced, gripping short stories and a short novella, each with a Final Cut -- a surprising, unexpected and intriguing twist in the last paragraphs. In Hodsons Gold, a quest for the legacy of one of the most colourful characters of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 leads, via a poem in code and a coded poem, straight to a thoroughly startling address in Delhi. Two boys grow up, together after a fashion, in the 1990s and 2000s in Bishnupur, West Bengal and Kolkata, in Friends and their growing up years trigger an international sensation when revealed. Shooting for an improbable 4th Pulitzer Prize, a three-time winner arrives in Kolkatas Red Light district to discover, even more improbably, that It Happens Only in India. After setting up a roaringly successful business and after thirty-seven years, Will Reena? -- readers are asked, in the only short novella in the collection. It turns out, in The Last Supper, that the human models for a painting done over two hundred years ago in Kolkata were keepers of wholly unexpected secrets. On a Buddha Purnima day 2,000 years ago, the holiest day in the Buddhist calendar, a miracle occurs in Sarnath near Varanasi that should, by rights, have been recorded long ago in an immensely better book than this. And finally, in the story that lends its name to this book, magic, religion and celebrities combine in the Kolkata of 2011, to lead to a very different Final Cut.


I love reading short stories. But, they are the most difficult to write. And very rarely comes a collection of short stories, where each story is brilliant. Final Cut falls in the bracket of a good collection of short stories.

Hodsons' Gold, the first story, begins in 1857 during the sepoy mutiny. And ends decades later. During the raids back in 1857, Hudson, a British officer had looted from the rich in Delhi and hidden the loot, leaving behind a set of clues which cannot be deciphered. Generations of his main aide, Rajab Ali, find to decipher the clues but they cannot. Are they ever able to crack the clue? What do they find?

Friends is a story of friendship between two people - Ganesh, a rich man's son and Shiva, a naxal leader's son. This story is my personal favourite. I have grown up hearing tales from my mother, of how the most brilliant and promising youth from her college in Calcutta, would leave everything and join the Naxals, back in the mid-70s when she was in college. This story began with my memories of Maa's stories, becoming fresh.

In It Happens Only In India, a Pulitzer prize winner, is in India to do a story on the red light area residents of Sonagachi and through it, subsequently, win his fourth Pulitzer. Something happens here, which justifies the title of the story. Interesting, indeed.

The fourth story in the book is a novella. Title Will Reena? is about Sukumar and Reena who have journeyed from rags to riches, and on the morning of Reena's daughter's wedding, she receives a letter from him. Mystified, she wonders why he would write to her when they have spoke to each other several times in a day; in person and over the phone.

Set in Sarnath, the fourth story, Buddha Purnima is about the huge feast that is organised on the eve of Buddha Purnima. All is set, but the grains have not arrived. Chaos strikes, when a young boy mysteriously provides grains! How?

Gupt has take the painting by Johann Zoffany, The Last Supper and created a short story by the same name. The characters/figures in the painting are British officers who have been posted in India at some time or other. Two of them commit suicide. We find out why, in the story.

The last story in the book is of the same title as that of the book itself, Final Cut. It is a story about a failed magician, Arup Sen, who, in the story is about to do his one final act of magic which will give him money and fame beyond his imagination.

All the stories have distinct surprise element and like with all good collections of short stories, you need to take a break away from the book, once you have finished reading one story, and let the plot sink in. The climax in each story comes out from no where and is totally unexpected. Styles of writing vary with each plot. The only thing that could have been better, is probably, a little less time given for the story to build up.

Final Cut doesn't seem like a debut book at all, and has been written with the finesse and precision of a seasoned author. 

Rating: ****.5/5

[This is a PR request review. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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