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Manisha Chaudhry

By Anushka Ravishankar
Year 2016, pp. 136, Rs. 199.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

The charmingly titled Dhanak follows a time honoured tradition of a journey story. What is different about it is that it is also travelling through different media like a hot knife shot through butter. I haven’t seen the film, but after Anushka Ravishankar’s seamless novelization (a fine new coinage), I feel like I have. Anushka introduces the two lovable heroes, Pari and Chotu with swift ease. The piece of jaggery that a sightless Chotu catches unerringly, their walk to school that is the very first journey, reveals the family situation and their bond with an efficient economy of words. Shahrukh Khan also makes an entry in this early and we know that he is going to drive the action in some unexpected way. And you are hooked because it promises to be deliciously improbable but also really entertaining, like good cinema should be. From Homer to Chaucer, journeys are a great way to bring in new and interesting characters into the universe of the protagonists. Each character brings the possibility of introducing new foibles, strange but probable situations that stretch you almost to breaking point, but stop short of breaking the illusion of reality. The two young siblings, Pari and Chotu have a very compelling reason to keep going in spite of all the troubles that are presented with a light touch. After Pari’s education is interrupted by a seemingly heartless Chachi and a good for nothing Chacha, it is only a matter of time before the two set out to keep a promise that Pari has made to Chotu. And Shahrukh Khan, no less, is going to help her to do that. As they set out towards Jaisalmer where Shahrukh is shooting a film, a kind truck driver helps them but he also warns them about the dangers of being out on the road alone. The scene moves abruptly to a fat Indian wedding where there are festivities and quantities of jalebi and ghewar and Chotu of the insatiable appetite thinks he has come to heaven. Next we have a touch of local colour with their stop at Shira Mata’s temple where there is a Baba and a real live goddess who actually knew Shahrukh Khan! Hmm...of all the odds…After another chocolatey encounter with a guitar playing eccentric white man, it was time for some hard lessons. A Kalbeliya dancer with a pistol ...

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