Deva, Mukul, 2012. RIP. Westland. Chennai. Pages 286. Price: Rs 200/-
RIP is the story of the India of our times. It is the story of corruption of our politicians and civil servants. It holds a mirror to their vulgar greed that makes them stop at nothing including eliminating whistle-blowers, and even partners-in-crime if they were thought to be a 'security risk’. In spite of jumbling locations and people, the scams and the dramatis personae the novel depicts are too recent to be missed. The names were thinly disguised. Then there is the dowager, ruling party president who inherited the mantle from her dead husband, a former prime minister.
From Bofors to Adarsh Society, (through fodder, 2G, CWG et al.) the book weaves every scam and political persona involved in them into its intricate, riveting plot. It includes Anna Hazare’s ‘Indians Against Corruption (IAC)’ movement too. The only surprise perhaps is the title. It does not mean, as one would have thought ‘Rest in Peace’, but ‘Resurgent Indian Patriots’. ‘RIP’ itself may be a take-off from Anna Hazare’s IAC. But unlike Hazare’s docile, middle-class followers who abhor violence and are not given to direct action, Deva’s ‘Resurgent Indian Patriots’ do not baulk at taking direct action and meting out exemplary punishment to the guilty.
The theme is not entirely new. Venality and corruption, or rather meting out vigilante justice to the venal and corrupt in public life has been the subject of several movies. The Hindi movie, Aan, Men in Action portrayed the politician-civil servant-underworld nexus and to some extent the issue of corruption. Movies like Bharatiyudu (Tamil, Telugu and Hindi), Aparichitudu (Tamil and Telugu) and Tagore (Telugu) dealt with the subject of corruption and vigilantism. It was in Aparichitudu, Bharatiyudu and Tagore that retributive justice in a violent form was mooted as an antidote to corruption. If Bharatiyudu and Aparichitudu had one-man vigilante armies, Tagore mooted the idea of an anti-corruption army named ‘Anti Corruption Force (ACF)’, similar to the ‘RIP’ in the novel. The success of these movies reflects the public mood. If the viewing public cheered and approved a violent form of vigilantism it was because they were vexed and saddened by their impotence to rid the society of the scourge of corruption.
In RIP, a team of former army commandos sets out to purge corruption. The corrupt politicians hit back by setting the official law enforcement agencies (isn’t the CBI to do their bidding?) and another set of former army commandos to chase them. Therefore the first set of (vigilante) commandos have the second set of (mercenary) commandos and the official CBI on their back, as they pick and choose targets to strike. Then there is the beautiful woman who links the two commanding officers as they vie for her charms. From the caveman to the modern man, men have been vying for beautiful women and a story which has this element never failed to charm readers. The female protagonist in RIP is a beautiful television anchor, fighting for her divorce, and by chance caught between her former husband and new beau.
The book is peppered with a large number of idioms – disproportionately large number – and appears to be a laboured attempt to write idiomatic English. It is however not devoid of jumbled expressions (calling it a night) and borrowed jargon from SAS, the elite British army commando unit (break a leg).
Mukul Deva strikes a chord with the clichéd common man when he says that his book was ‘[…] born out of an extreme sense of anger and shame. Anger at the appalling, naked greed so shamelessly displayed by the Indian political class. And shame that they happen to be fellow Indians.’ He certainly resonates with a majority of our countrymen (and women) when he says he would ‘certainly not condemn anyone who rid our country of such leaders.’ The book is definitely worth a read and not priced very high either.