Like every other Indian, I have watched the movie, Sholay, more than once. Not that I liked the movie so much that I wanted to watch it repeatedly but when we were still stuck in Doordarshan era, you wanted it or not, you had to watch the movies that they played during weekends on television because everyone watched it. I watched it too. It was a funny movie; the Thakur, the Gabbar and his Samba-everything about Sholay was funny.
The book “Prey by the Ganges” written by Hemant Kumar got two Thakur- one, who plays the Gabbar & another, his victim-in it. It also got a Thankurain, glamour, gore, men driven by emotions, lust and power.
No, I’m not comparing it with Sholay though there are few elements that are common in both the stories like Shambu and Ravi’s friendship that reminded me of Jai and Veeru. Trust me; they are just not-so-important similarities.
Vaidya Shambhu Nandan along with his man-servant, Hariya, spend the night of Sharad Purnima on the bank of Ganges, waiting for his friend, Ravi, who had gone to Janak Ganj to trade with Thakur Suraj Singh. A blood-curdling scream shatters the stillness of the night. Shambhu, helplessly, watches his friend being beat to death. When the bandits, finally, leave the victim, Shambhu brings the body, washes it and buries it. Ravi took all that beating - his jaws are broken, an eye is out of its socket, legs and hands are broken- still he takes his last breath in his friend’s arms that makes you wonder how could someone have any life left in him after taking all that beating. Anyway, he doesn’t giveaway what happened to him or who killed him (such things always happen in Bollywood movies, don’t they? But it didn’t happen in this book. Good.) Shambhu puts one and one together and figures out what might have happened to his friend and then, he starts to Janak Ganj to learn the reason behind his friend’s death from the murderer himself. He resumes his friend’s half complete plan and that brings him in face to face with the cold-blooded murderer, Thakur Gajanan.
Thankur Gajanan was a cold-blooded dictator of Janak Ganj and Narainpur alright but he was handsome too and every woman whom he beds is left craving for him – they might hate him but they just cannot help but enjoy the encounter with him. One such victim, Etwari, decides to pay back for what Gajanan did to her and her family. Rajni, the learnt and beautiful Thakurain, decides to revolt against her husband, Thakur, after Shambhu comes into picture. When Baabu, the psychopath among Thakur’s men, decides to have Chanda, Thakurain’s maid, on finding her alone and up to something, her father, Laalten, rips his body and thrashes it against a wall as if it is a doll. That was the goriest scene after Ravi’s death.
There are others too, waiting silently for a nemesis to arrive at Gajanan’s doorsteps and when Shambhu arrives, everyone pushes him towards Gajanan but for the cold-blooded murderer he was, he never learns what it is to be a friend, a husband or a brother, until the end. Shambhu is different from Gajanan; sex, money, power doesn’t drive Shambhu, and that made Gajanan fear Shambhu and the fear confuses him. The prey goes after the hunter and even the hunter is looking for the prey, and the game is quite enjoyable.
To talk about the writing itself, I quite liked the narration and the language. For a beginner, Hemant Kumar has narrated the story beautifully. It doesn’t leave you with a feeling that he wrote the book for he wanted to be an author too. He wrote the book for he wanted to tell you a story that was in his mind since forever.
I shall rate the book 3.5 out of 5 and would suggest everyone who can digest gore read it too.