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A Quaint Tribute to a Quaint Idealism

G. Sampath

By Arundhati Roy
Penguin Books, New Delhi, India, 2003, pp. 112, Rs. 295.00


Arundhati Roy has a long history of evoking extreme reactions from those who have read her, and even more extreme reactions from those who haven’t. People either hate Roy or love her. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a writer, it makes almost impossible any pretensions to objectivity on the part of the reviewer. Try asking an Indian cricket fan to be ‘objective’ about Sachin Tendulkar. He is an amazing player. He almost never delivers when India needs him the most. But he is an amazing player. Arundhati Roy is the Sachin Tendulkar of Indian Writing in English. But she isn’t interested in being an ‘Indian writer’ – anymore than she is interested in being ‘Indian’ (she’d just as well ‘secede’ from India) or being a ‘writer’ (“another book? Right now?”). But she is an amazing Indian – perhaps because she is an ‘anti-national.’ And she is an amazing writer – perhaps because she refuses to become a career-novelist.   In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones is the screenplay of a film directed by Pradip Krishen. It was written by Roy in 1988. It was screened once, “late one night on TV (Doordarshan) when most decent folk were fast asleep.” But it faded into oblivion soon after. Now, for all those who missed the ‘screen version’ of the film, Penguin has come out with the book version.   First of all, would a reader who hasn’t seen the film, enjoy reading this screenplay? My unqualified answer is Yes. Why? Because if we forget for a moment that this whole piece was supposed to have been (and was) made into a film, and just read the book – it works. It works as a piece of writing, as a narrative. The text doesn’t have the literary markers that signify ‘novel’ or ‘play’.   The story revolves around a group of “dope-smoking, bell-bottom-wearing, vaguely idealistic” final year architecture students – Anand Grover (Annie), Arjun, Radha, Kasozi, a student from Kampala, and their assorted batchmates – all of whom are gearing up to present their final year thesis before the ‘jury’. How good their thesis is, and how they present it to the ‘jury’ – will determine whe-ther they graduate, or fail. Annie is in his ninth year. He has still not managed to impress the jury – for certain reasons. Will he manage to pass and get out of the School at least this year? ...

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