Sikandar: 10 Players, 68 Days
I have read books of many Indian authors, (not just Chetan Bhagat mind you) but this book reminded me of the renowned author- Manoj Das & to be honest even a simplified version of Paulo Coelho! One advice to those who pick this book-do not attempt to finish it in a day. This is a book that needs to be understood, each page holds so much meaning that you can’t help being overwhelmed by it. So even though I’m a girl who finishes thick Harry Potter book in a matter of hours, I took my time to gulp down all that Binayak Banerjee offered in Sikandar, for a full week! The book is an English translation by Soma Ghosh of the Bengali novel of the same name.
Big Boss has become rather popular (for reasons unfathomable to me). Now imagine you could see what is exactly going on inside the head of Shakti Kapoor! Well, this is the Bengali version of Big Boss, where 10 very diverse personalities participate & spend 68 days in a confined house ‘Jatugriha’. It will be impossible to try & sketch the characters of all the 10 participants so I’ll stick to my favourite ones. There is a young man Shubhrangshu, who is brave yet gullible, unaware of his own strength. Duped by his very best friend & scorned by his love, his spirit has broken. Although he comes across as pitiable, his personality has a streak of righteousness that one can’t ignore. A simpleton is the best word to describe him.
Kanishka is the famous actor who is narcissism personified. Maybe the harsh cruelties of life has made him this way, maybe this is just another face he’s wearing to shield himself. He is looking for love, searching for that face which will free him from this barrenness in his soul. Elizabeth Mitra is another interesting character in the Jatugriha. She is known for her fierce sense of independence, standing up to authorities for her rights. And yet she too longs for love, for someone to take care of her. Sikandar also has an ascetic amongst the participants-Swami Samyuktanad who acts as a counsellor for everyone in times of need. But then not everyone has an answer to every question. My favourite is Lovely-a prostitute who takes as much pride in her profession as an engineer or a doctor would. She is pragmatic, devoted to her job & willing to die to protect someone who she loves. There is also a mother Rangajoba-of a little girl in need of an expensive operation, wife of a revolutionary who fell to the bullets of the police. The show also has politicians, industrialists & many others, yet these few people leave a mark in the story.
If I were to comment on the plot, there isn’t much to say. The story is about the lives & secrets of those people confined to that house & forced to live with each other. Each one brings out some secret of the other, every life affects another in ways unimaginable. Some fall in love, some in lust, temper flare & fights breakout. Every character speaks for themselves & reveals the intricacies of human thought. It is interesting to see how one man’s actions & their intentions are interpreted by another. I mostly enjoyed the conversations between Samyuktanand & the other participants-specially the ones he had with Lovely.
But in the end there will be only one winner who will walk away with the tag of Sikandar & the prize money. But then those who win are not always happy & those who lose are not always empty handed. Sikandar is all about the challenge life throws at us & makes for a really interesting read. Easily a 4/5.
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