Bombay · books · Opinion

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

I finally got my hands on the book I wanted to read for a long time now.I had read rave reviews about this one, and it being about and around Bombay, I was only happy to have finally read it.Suketu Mehta did exactly what I did about a month back.He revisited his most favorite place on earth after a long long time. The only difference being, he revisited after about 20 years,I did after 4 years(yeah,not long long but,well, a long time!).

The Bombay that he knew and experienced as a kid was not present before him.It had changed a hell lot.There had been some bloody riots.There were some massive blasts that rocked the city.There is a new political party that is in power and a man who is controlling it with a “remote control”.And things like that.

Mehta starts with how he fit into the new Bombay he sees around him.How it has now become Mumbai.He talks about the cramping for space and struggle for basic amenities in his newly moved in flat.Or for that matter anywhere in Bombay.

He befriends some men from the Shiv Sena,from the slums,gets deep into why and how the riots happened.He even meets Bal Thackeray.And blames him for a lot of things.Bravo?From here the focus shifts to the blasts, how the gangwars started,the formation of the D-Company, the split of Rajan and Dawood.He meets some professional shooters,explores their characters,their psyche,how they do their job and finds answers to a raging question-How does it feel to take a human life?Mehta also looks at the whole thing from the other side.With the help of the vision of ACP Ajay Lal.Mehta has changed most of the names in the book,but who is Ajay Lal- you can guess easily,especially if you have seen Black Friday or been following the papers whenever a blast occurs in Bombay.

From here, Mehta travels to another developing(around 1999-2000) phenomenon of Bombay.The dance bars and the bar girls.He gets up,close and personal(not literally!) with a bar girl he names Mona Lisa.The whole bar girl fantasy,how it happens,whats in it for men(especially when you know bar girls are not sex workers) and the business part of it is discussed in this segment.The most logical shift from here is to jump to Bollywood and thats exactly what Mehta does.

This part has Mehta working on the script of Mission Kashmir along with Vidhu Vinod Chopra,how Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan were initially a part of it,the rise of Hrithik Roshan and the subsequent attempt on his father, Rakesh Roshan’s life and why it was done.He discusses about the underworld-film world nexus,the funding of films etc but doesn’t get too deep like he does in the previous part.Maybe he ran out of names to name some too obvious people!

The last part is where the book drags.It deals with a Jain family attaining diksha and I have no idea what this has to do with Bombay.Utterly useless.Less said the better.

Yes.The book does make you question the veracity of Mehta’s findings.Whether he really met these people.Whether these things really happen.I think they do.But the way Mehta found out.Hmmm, pretty interesting!Vidhu Vinod Chopra isn’t too happy about the things written about him in the book.He rubbishes some of the things Mehta has written about his life. Even Vikram Chandra,the author(Mehta’s friend and Vinod Chopra’s brother-in-law),apparently, disagrees with some parts of the book.

There were hell lot of things to learn about Bombay in this book.A very small example.I came across the name of a saloon in Goregaon me and my dad visited years ago.Guess what all happens inside that place!Stunned!Read the book!

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6 thoughts on “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

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