Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
She’s tall, beautiful and one of Bollywood’s leading ladies. He’s goofy, loves to wear outlandish clothes and is constantly getting into trouble with reporters.
These two sentences on the back cover of Saranya Rai’s debut novel Love, Take Two (Penguin Books 230 pages Rs 250) have uncanny resemblance to the classic M&B romances (wherein the male and female protagonists just cannot help falling in love with each other) that I read during my college days. It put me off a little for I have no patience with copycats and similar sounding stories just bore me. But then I being me, a die-hard optimist, one who believes in giving people not just the benefit of doubt but second, third and fourth chances, picked up the book. May be it has something fresh to it, I thought…
The lead characters, Vicky Behl and Kritika Vadukut, are both film actors. They meet on the sets of the period drama Ranjha Ranjha and the cackling chemistry they have, both on screen and off it, is for everyone to witness. A past relationship has made Kritika very iffy about entering into a new one even though she head over heels in love with Vicky. The same is the case with Vicky whose life is being scrutinised every minute, thanks to nosey paparazzi and his own misplaced sense of humour that often puts him in a tight spot.
There are two other love stories going on alongside the lead pair, and that is of the film director Sudarshana Samarth and her DoP Arun Jadhav (who gets under her skin with his radically different ideas on cinematography and another of Vicky’s sister Mrinalini and his best friend Jahan Malek (she has a huge crush on him while he insists on seeing her as a little sister).
How these different characters discover their love for each other, accept, confess and then try to hide it from the world is what this novel is all about.
Now why I didn’t like the book despite being a sucker for love stories is because the story offers nothing new. The plot is old so is the script. The biggest dampener is the liberal mix of commonly used Hindi words and sentences which are too jarring. (achcha; aha mera raja beta; itna badtameez hai yeh ladka). C’mon, isn’t it a English novel?
Further, different characters have been moulded on the lines of present-day film stars though the author has been very careful in doing so — she has not given the entire personality of a film star to character but interspersed different characteristics into different characters. So Kritika Vadukut, a gorgeous model/ badminton player-turned-actor who has had a failed relationship with a Bollywood heartthrob, has an uncanny resemblance to Deepika Padukone while Sudarshna Samarth and Arun Jadhav look too similar to choreographer director Farah Khan and her filmmaker husband Shirish Kunder. It is clearly evident that the author, as has been written in her intro on the first page, did spend most of her impressionable childhood, adolescent and teenage years watching TV serials and Hindi films and gorging on film magazines.
But one thing for which I must give credit to the author is her portrayal of entertainment journalists. She has quite honestly written about how ‘news’ is made to grab the readers’ attention, how mundane remarks are twisted to carve a fresh scoop. Full marks to her for that!