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Vodafone-Crossword Book Awards

From the press release

The Vodafone-Crossword Book Awards 2008 shortlist is star-studded — and finding place are ‘The Enchantress of Florence’ by Salman Rushdie, ‘Sea of Poppies’ by Amitav Ghosh, ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ by Jhumpa Lahiri, ‘Past Continuous’ by Neel Mukherjee and ‘Escape’ by Manjula Padmanabhan.

This was announced by a panel comprising publisher-writer Urvashi Butalia, authors Mani Shankar Mukherji and Namita Devidayal and founder of Crosswords Bookstore R. Sriram in the capital Thursday.

The shortlisted nominees were selected by a panel of judges from a long list of 176 entries submitted by publishers.

The eligibility criteria for the award is that entries must be works of prose fiction, excluding teenage and children fiction, the entries must be either full-length novels or collections of short stories, they must be original works in English and the authors must be of Indian origin.

‘The role of the awards is not just recognising the authors. It is almost like the Oscars. We want to take contemporary Indian literature to a new level and involve people,’ said Namita Devidayal, winner of the award in 2007 for her work of fiction ‘The Music Room’.

How do they shortlist? is it on popularity of the book or the fame of the author? I can understand Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh and even Jhumpa Lahiri, no one dare leave them out of an award such as this. But Escape by Manjula Padmanabhan???? Even a google search for reviews of the book will put the book in perspective.

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Posted by on June 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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Escape – Manjula Padmanabhan

Two budding flowers and few drops of blood, the cover says it all. It took me a while to make the connection. Deep, I must add.

Actually the only new IWE book the Bangalore Airport had was this one. Only later did I hear that most critics had trashed this one anescape-manjula-padmanabhand not without some reason.

Escape is the story of teenager Meiji who is the only surviving female in a country that has wiped out the fairer sex. The land is ruled by a general and marshalled by his marauding Boyz.  Meiji has been kept hidden in an estate and reared by her three Uncles – Uncle Zero, Uncle One and Uncle Two. When keeping her hidden further gets tougher by the day, the Uncles decide to move her to freedom. Uncle Two, the youngest is entrusted with the task of taking her to her freedom. The entire plot is built around this journey. Fairly decent plot at that, has several layers of symbolic meaning – Meiji’s the journey to womanhood and maturity, Youngest’s struggle with his carnal feelings and propreity, etc.

The characterisation is decent too. Meiji, as the confused girl suddenly having to accept bitter truths while at the same time handling her bodily and emotional changes is the pivot. In her mood swings, a petulant child one minute and a high strung woman the next, Manjula has made this character authentitic and realistic. Youngest plays his role well too, the older uncles dont occupy too much of stage time. The narrative tends to drag sometimes. I must point out a totally superflous tactic she has used – the story is interspersed with parts of an interview with the General. It has absoluetly no connection with the story and could have been left out, she may have had a tighter story. The end is a let down after all the build up.

So what is the problem, you ask? The setting dear Watson, the setting. Manjula has taken a potential winner story and messed it up with the setting. My view is that Indian Writers appear uncomfortable with the Sci Fi genre and they should stay away. She has over-reached and tried to be creative but is found wanting. There are several instances where she appears confused about her view on a futuristic world and her attempts to keep it real. For example at several times during the journey, the duo have nutrition or food pills and the next meal they have to heat and eat paratas. Youngest wears high tech clothes and at home wears kurtas. There are several such instances. This plot would have worked better in any other setting, it could have been an Arabic country in contemporary times  and it would have still worked.

A big let down.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2009 in Disappointing

 

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