Friday, April 17, 2009

Maximum City by Suketu Mehta

"There are many Bombays; through the writing of a book, I wanted to find mine."
I had three days to read about the ins and outs of Bombay as I had to return Maximum City to the library on Wednesday. So I only managed to take a few notes from the book. It is dense and quite intense, but definitely a worthwhile read.

After 21 years spent overseas - in the US, in Europe, writer Suketu Mehta returned to India, to Bombay or Mumbai, to raise his family. "Home is not a consumable entity. You can't go home by eating certain foods, by replaying its films on your television screen. At some point you have
to live there again. The dream of return had to be brought into the daylight sooner or later."

In Maximum City, Mehta looks at Bombay through the very diverse stories of gangsters, bar dancers, movie stars and directors, and slum dwellers. These were tales of hardship, of love, of frustration, of violence, of family, of corruption, of happiness, of sorrow, of Bombay. I was most moved by the stories of Monalisa and Honey/Manoj, bar dancers from difficult backgrounds whose career saved them from destitution, and quite intrigued by the making of a Bollywood movie (Mehta co-write the screenplay for the film 'Mission Kashmir'). The book is a labour of love - from the in-depth research to the dangers the writer put himself in when speaking to gangsters.

Maximum City was a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist and a winner of the Kiriyama Prize.

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