It’s been years since my Dad and I switched our reading habits and moved on to different genres. My first book from BookChums however had both of us fighting over it! Thank God, I had a review to do and he relented.
As I read The Newsroom Mafia, the one phrase that kept echoing in my mind from start to finish was “Dhanda Hai Par Ganda Hai Yeh”. RGV’s 2002 film ‘Company’ based on Dawood Ibrahim’s life and times kept coming back to me, and like a background score my brain kept humming the song! It is quite a thing that like the film the book is based on an underworld Don Narayan Swamy, but the ‘dhanda’ that the book really refers to is the profession of journalism. And being an insider in the business of news production I know how far a corruptible business this is! Considering the writer is a former journalist (with a name strikingly similar to his star reporter in the novel Oscar Pinto) and is a teacher of journalism, I’d like to ask him a thing or two about how he instructs his students on the ethics of journalism! I wonder what his students would have to say after reading the book. *wicked smile*
The allure of a news scoop is as tempting as a dollop of ice cream. For a newspaper reporter it is about having a headline, like for a television correspondent it translates into higher TRP. The rewards are too immediate and the hunger of bigger, mouthful stories is insatiable. Oscar Pinto’s camaraderie with supercop Donald Fernandes is a fine example of how a journalist befriends a cop for mutual benefit. A Police Commissioner hungry for publicity and a news reporter looking for the next big exclusive are a lethal combination. This mutually beneficial relationship has its own pitfalls though, like Oscar and Donald’s friendship goes through. Twists and turns, exclusives and revelations later, the last page of the novel holds the key to their connection. You cannot dislike them for the deal that they have, but you can’t like them either! You will cluck your tongue, shake your head and read every crime news piece in the newspaper with a sense of doubt.
The novel is set in the late 1980’s when Mumbai wasBombay. I found that very, very interesting. For one it was really the time when the big bad ‘underworld’ was spreading its roots in the city. Illicit liquor joints, bootlegging, smuggling, running prostitution hubs, funding elections and political parties, it was really the precursor to the grey days of crime in the city. Terrorism came in a little later, not too far though. I quite liked the Godfather, Narayan Swamy. A Tamilian living in the city ofBombay(since I am talking about a Don who lived in a city calledBombay, I hope no one will drag me to jail!) rises to the rank of a Godfather and in the wake of his new found status looks at covering up his tracks in the murky world of crime. ‘Sarkar’ anyone? If RGV’s Amitabh Bachchan starrer was a tribute to Mario Puzo’s Godfather, Oswald Pereira’s Narayan Swamy is an amalgamation of the two! I quite like the Don actually. The part where he deals with politician Bhoomipanar is hilarious! He depends on his press triumvirate and when the time is right he coldly eliminates the odd one out. Quite like a Don who doesn’t get his hands dirty, he plays his pawns in a way that his work is done. But really his dark deeds haunt him and he looks at ‘social service’ as a means of cleansing his soul. The drama around his personality works!
Most of the characters around Narayan Swamy’s den are sycophants, except for the journalist turned economical adviser to the Don. He becomes a turncoat and is duly punished for it. Quite the thing that you would expect, right? His men are scared of him, like they revere him and whitewash his crime riddled empire with the social work he does. The lawyer and chief adviser Chandran is an interesting character. The fact that tears sprout his eyes at the mention of his benefactor makes him a likeable chap.
The plot and structure of the book is apt. A crime thriller has to be a page turner. It has to hold your attention with every word. The Newsroom Mafia does all that and more. In parts I could imagine Oscar Pinto’s narration as a voice over in a film. Imagine a Makrand Deshpande reading it…nice! That brings me to the one quality that I think almost everyone will agree to. The Newsroom Mafia is a book waiting to be converted into a film. The city, its tryst with the underworld, a larger than life Don who you cannot totally hate, his army of sycophants, corrupt and upright cops, dirty politicians and sullied journalists – Oswald Pereira has a story that is screaming for Ram Gopal Varma’s attention. Yes, despite the film makers recent duds at the box office, he is the one man who handles the underworld as an excellent cinematic subject!