Lounge Review: Rest In Peace—Ravan and Eddie5 min read . Updated: 22 Aug 2015, 07:32 PM IST
Kiran Nagarkar remains as irreverent and impudent as ever in this, the last of the trilogy
It is refreshing every now and then to read fiction that is uniquely Indian, that makes no attempt to bow to the pantheon of Western critics and readers, that could not be bothered with tipping its hat at foreign literary agents, and whose writer is, in a word, having too much fun to remember to tilt at the windmills of literary fads and conventions! Kiran Nagarkar can always be relied upon not only to be irreverent and impudent but also to take improbable risks.
For it takes a brave man to recast the time-honoured love story of the mystic poet Mirabai and her blue god Krishna from the point of view of the long-suffering husband: Cuckold offered its readers a new way of looking at an age-old tale of love and loyalty and, in the process, recreated life in medieval Rajputana, replete with political intrigue and foreign aggression. That it fetched the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award for its author was a measure of its success with both readers and critics.
The Ravan & Eddie trilogy—culminating with the third and latest in the series, Rest In Peace—reinforces precisely why Nagarkar has remained a consistently popular author. Meticulous attention to detail, immaculate writing, crackling pace and large dollops of humour—these have been trademark qualities in much of his writing.
Conventional wisdom would have you believe that you must read the first two books of a trilogy before you embark upon reading (let alone reviewing) the third. But since conventions appear to have very little place in Nagarkar’s scheme of things, it seemed appropriate to dispense with such strictures. What is more, Rest In Peace allows a novice reader to gain entry into its densely written, action-packed narrative.
Perhaps the characters and incidents are familiar to those who have encountered them in the two previous outings. Perhaps the gaffes and gigs, the quips and sallies have you chuckling with fond memories of similar double entendres in the first two books. But such is the hurtling pace of Nagarkar’s roller coaster of a story, with its sharp dips and swerves, dramatic plunges and surges, that very little matters except the adrenalin-charged here and now. And such is the immediacy of the peculiar predicament of being Ravan and Eddie—the two eponymous characters of the trilogy—that you get drawn in willy-nilly even if you know nothing about the shenanigans which have brought them to their most recent mother-of-all-predicaments.
The notion of a man’s life flashing before his eyes as he falls to certain death below has been used by creative writers before, most notably by Salman Rushdie in The Satanic Verses. The technique of flashbacks too has been used most effectively in both literature and cinema to imaginatively reconstruct a storyline. In Rest In Peace, the two come together in a way that is at once thrilling and inevitable. “Falling…falling…falling…" runs as a refrain through the book; like the chorus in a Greek play, it reminds us of the inevitability of a certain, tragic doom and the futility of attempting to run away from one’s past. And much like the Greek chorus, the refrain is used to drive home certain truisms, highlight certain big moments and comment on the ongoing drama.
“Falling…falling, falling…." a form of letting go, metaphorically and literally, can be like nothing one has experienced before, we are told on the opening page. “It’s exhilarating, it’s totally liberating… It’s the purest form of freedom. It’s the closest you will ever get to Nirvana."
Falling…falling…falling…. causes Eddie to reflect on the immense possibilities of a free fall: “Was it possible that the stupid Ravan was right? That if you forgot about the bottomless pit in your stomach, the experience would be the most deliriously thrilling one of your life? Dare he say it, this was heaven. Close your eyes and you could float forever. Frankly, he had no idea whether he was ascending or descending, maybe they were the same. Something strange was happening. His whole life was being screened. Not in any linear order. The past, present, future kept shifting tracks. The editing was a bit of a roller coaster. At times, it was brisk, jerky and fragmented and at others coherent and fluid like a majestic river in full flow. But always comprehensible, the good and the bad, things he would rather forget and things he would have wanted to go on forever…"
Ravan and Eddie—the ubiquitous R&E/E&R—are the unlikeliest of heroes. “You could never accuse them of having been lucky by birth or upbringing. No sugar daddy, no fairy godmother and certainly no godfather to direct them or encourage them and cushion the journey called life. There was no silver spoon sticking out of their mouths. And yet they had what the supremely rich and the super-poor rarely had. Most people botched their lives or blundered through them. Oh, make no mistake, Ravan and Eddie had had more than their quota of failures, bumbling through everything they had."
Neighbours in the CWD Chawl No.17 in Mumbai, their lives inextricably intertwined virtually from birth, R&E had dreamt the Bollywood dream all their lives. They had assumed that all that they were doing, or would do, was nothing but a preparation, albeit an exceedingly long one, for becoming actors. No amount of “diversions, wrong turns, bickering, falling-outs" could dampen their spirits or shake the sangfroid that is their single greatest asset. And yet when they found that elusive thing called success, it was not as actors but as musicians, that too top-ranking, hot-shot, much-sought-after music directors in the film industry.
To quote from an old movie song, Jaate thhe Japan, pahunch gaye Cheen (such is the serendipity of success that they had set out for Japan but landed up in China)". And such too is the strangeness of life that, falling from the terrace of the Air-India building—with rival gangs of gun-toting villains and their henchmen in hot pursuit, a blindfolded French acrobat doing a tightrope walk between their high-rise and the adjoining building, a police helicopter hovering overhead and an anxious crowd of onlookers below—is not necessarily a fall to certain death below but an exhilarating leap into the great unknown.
And appropriately enough, the legend that ordinarily closes all such thrilling tales of love and intrigue, high drama and passion, dreams and goals—THE END—is here suffixed with another legend (in true Nagarkar style): “You’ve got to be kidding." Such insouciance and abandon is refreshing, to say the least.
Rakhshanda Jalil is a writer, translator and literary historian. She has authored Liking Progress, Loving Change: A Literary History Of The Progressive Writers’ Movement in Urdu.