Kiran Nagarkar according to me has somehow always been under the microscopic view of readers and reviewers. May be it has to do with the way he writes and concocts themes and ideas, but one thing is for sure, there is never a dull moment in his books. I got hooked on to his books, like any other teenager (then) with Ravan and Eddie. Ravan and Eddie (though according to me was loosely based on, “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving) was a delight to read. The intricate moments of post-independent India was not hidden. The slums, the chawls, the abuses and the interwoven plots were all there – almost like a nice stew, boiling slowly, served to perfection. Ravan and Eddie was published in 1994 and now after eighteen years, there comes a sequel to it, titled, “The Extras”.
The Extras spans the lives of Ravan and Eddie as adults, in the big bad city of Bombay. I love how the title on the cover reads, “The Extras – Starring Ravan and Eddie”, with a very 70’s film poster like visual. The story of course takes on eighteen years from where it ended in the earlier book. Ravan and Eddie are adults, striving to make something out of them in the big, bad world and aspire to be actors. Bollywood is the seductress and they are easily seduced. Ravan is a taxi driver and Eddie is a bouncer-cum-bartender. They want it all – fame, money, easy rise from their chawl existence to the skyscrapers. At the heart of this, are their complicated love stories. Ravan who is in love with Eddie’s sister (yes that’s the one twist in the tale). Eddie on the other hand has to battle with both families to obtain the love of his life in the Anglo-Indian Belle.
That’s the gist of the story. The writing of course cannot be compared to anything else. Kiran Nagarkar has always been a master of his game. From Seven-Sixes are Forty Three to God’s Little Soldier; post-independence blues has always been at the center of his books (except Cuckold which was a Historical Fiction centered book). He knows the pulse of the city and can describe it beautifully. Nothing has changed much, except for the name of the city and a mall or two springing up in the past couple of years, and Mr. Nagarkar knows how to depict the sadness and claustrophobia in his book.
There are so many funny parts as well in the book – sardonic and dark at most times, and in-your-face funny too. Ravan and Eddie as characters evolve a lot more in this book and their motives are clearer. Nagarkar adds more stories to this one, though their families still remain a part and are always in the background. For me, The Extras was like a roller-coaster ride, full of unknown turns and bends. A definite read for all those who want to know Bombay in its early days.