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Anuja Chauhan’s new novel Baaz is a pageturner that does justice to her reputation as the “only Indian writer of commercial fiction really worth buying!”
One thing that I have never experienced is regret after reading a book by Anuja Chauhan. Beginning my journey with Those Pricey Thakur Girls, I haven’t looked back. Naturally, the announcement that she was ready with another book excited me like anything. I once read a phrase about one of her books- “toe-curlingly sexy” and to be honest (and a little blindsided with all the fangirling I do for her), Baaz fits like a glove onto that expression.
Unlike the rest of her books, Baaz is based on a male protagonist- a dashing IAF officer, Ishaan Faujdaar. However, that does not mean that the female protagonist is a mere love interest of the former. Tehmina ‘Tinka’ “Tell-me-na” Dadyseth is Chauhan’s trademark feisty and fiery character and not just a paper cutout of a person.
Both characters feel genuine and raw, no plastic model-like perfection. She’s a photographer working for social causes, he’s a cocky IAF officer flying Gnats and there’s a war looming. She is a pacifist, being the ‘sister of a dead fauji’. He lives for the thrill, war is another means of acquiring it. But what happens when they meet? The novel is a clever juxtaposition of the current ‘anti-nationalist Vs nationalist’ scenario on the war of ’71.
Personally, I love Anuja Chauhan’s style of writing. The ‘Hinglish’ elements, the chutnification of the language. When you read those not only Haryanvi but other Indian phrases transliterated into English, it makes you happy from inside, or laugh out loud or snort at the sheer witty repartee.
The initial pace of the book is steady but never boring. Chauhan’s books are never boring. But as the pages on the right side become lesser and lesser, and the war begins, it’s a wild ride from the start to the finish. I read more than half the book in one sitting and as the climax approached, I couldn’t sit still on my chair. Eyes moving furiously from one page to another like a predator looking for prey. My family knows better than to interrupt me at a time such as this.
This is the rush that Baaz gives you. All that while sitting in one place, not really because you keep travelling from Kalaiganga to Tezgaon to Dacca and back.
The book is obviously exaggerated a bit, and lies in the “delicious realm of ‘could have been'”. It does feel a little stretched at the last twist but then the pain of your broken heart at the end is louder than any critical speculation one would feel like indulging in. The book leaves you in the cliched state of a teary smile. I bawled my eyes out but that’s a different story.
Another thing that I felt (it’s okay to disagree) is that the other anti-war perspective of Tinka could have been emphasised a little bit more. I get that the inherent message of the futility of war is very prominent but a little more articulation would have been better.
But then I am no critic and I’m probably going to read this book again, immediately after I’m done writing this review. The Mint rightly states that she’s “The only Indian writer of commercial fiction really worth buying”.
Our readers in Mumbai can join us and meet Anuja Chauhan at the book launch on the 23rd of June, where she will be in conversation with Tisca Chopra.
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