Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sentinel House - A critique by senior jounalist Mrinal Pande

If you thought there were strange events with amazing twists and eccentric, power-drunk characters in our politics, wait till you read Allen Mendonca’s searing novel about the intrigues within the Indian media. The novel cuts close to the bone as it dives into the depths of Cromwell, Kirby & Jackson, the biggest media and publishing house in India. Despite the usual disclaimer by the author and publishers, the events and character that people the novel, are bound to remind knowledgeable readers of actual life and blood characters.

The charismatic and vile Chairman of the company, Harry aka Harivanshrai, is one of them. He has inherited the business from his father Romesh who had died a broken man after being indicted for fraud. Harry’s estranged wife Pinky is also dead in a car crash and his severely handicapped son Siddharth, the only human being Harry adores, faces one major health crisis after another. Angered by his misfortunes: his son’s illness, his father’s indictment, his wife’s betrayal Harry becomes more and more nasty, manipulative and cynical. With his deep seated hatred for editors and the System driving him, Harry hurtles ahead of all competitors while climacteric events of the late Twentieth Century unfold all over the world. Harry will stop at nothing to gain his desired objects. He bullies, bribes and literally orders the killing of all who stand in the way. The end, when it comes for this Prince of Darkness, seems preordained.

The world of the media, as Mendonca’s novel presents it, is a world of Byzantine intrigues, sleazy affairs and violent deaths carrying within it a veritable hornet’s nest of preening egos and cut throat career moves. Innocence and tender love can make only a rather unconvincing guest appearance here. Harry’s son, who makes a miraculous recovery with the help of a nun, has all the humane sensitivity and honesty his father and grandfather lacked, but comes out as a pale shadow. We’d like to believe that after his father he and Sister Agnes will make a difference in the Board room, but alas we can not. Despite his dark and evil mind it is Harry who catches the readers’ fancy.

All said and done, this is an honest novel driven by the moral outrage of one who truly cared about the time honoured journalistic values. But those who are not familiar with the atmosphere of intrigue and animal fear that Harry’s kind have instilled India’s editorial rooms with, may have difficulty understanding Mendonca’s rage. Allen Mendonca certainly did not go gently into the night.

- Mrinal Pande, Senior Journalist

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sentinel House launch in Kochi, December 20th

Sentinel House is having a phenomenal road trip, with another city falling to the irresistible pull of the book. The last leg of Reliance TimeOut’s roadshow took us and the book to Kochi, and this time too, it was just perfect.

Resident Editor of Asianet News, Mr. Manoj Das, made the audience see the tumultuous life of the protagonist with his reading of a few excerpts. He was so enamoured with the book that he said, “Sentinel House should be made prescribed reading for media studies.”

Mr. T. Jayakumar, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Government of Kerala, released the book and confessed that he had “fallen in love with Allen Mendonca’s writing.”

Mr. M. D. Nalapat, Senior Journalist and UNESCO chair, Manipal University was also there, and he too professed his love for the book and its author by saying, “Allen exemplified the true value of journalism.”

Those who attended this launch included Commander John Phillipose, Commander CT Kuruvilla, Commander Vijayan, leading architect S Gopakumar, businessman RM Nair and many other book lovers.

Sentinel House launch in Gurgaon, Dec 19, 2009

On a chilly December evening in Gurgaon, eminent personalities, journalists and book lovers came together to celebrate the launch of Sentinel House.

As renowned classical dancer Prathibha Prahlad released the book, a hush fell over the crowd. She regaled those listening with tales of how she met Allen, his journalistic prowess and infectious affability.

Sunit Tandon, well known TV personality and current Director of IIMC, read a few excerpts from the book in his baritone voice. He left the audience in suspense, compelling them to buy a copy of the book.

The launch was well attended by book lovers, including Jiggs Kalra, gourmet chef and food writer, senior journalists Krishna Prasad, Suryaprakash, Pushpa Girimaji, Girish Nikam and BS Arun.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sentinel House launch at Reliance TimeOut, Bangalore, 17.12.09

Excerpts from Harish Bijoor’s critique:


“Allen lived an extremely eventful life, travelling, writing, puncturing modern myths with his incisive commentary, loving, and having a blast. He reveals several facets of himself in this book and it can be a surprise to the ones who think they know him. There is the secular Allen, at ease with all the religions and customs. Allen was equally adept at dissecting the Upanishads as he was with explaining the nuances in the Bible. The book is a testament to his secular views, with several references to both the good and ugly face of religion.

Allen’s sense of branding is amazing. With his Karl Lagerfeld sunglasses, Dom Perignon champagne, Rolex watches and Tourmaline Green Toyota Land Cruisers, he has built a rich world full of very precise and specific references to the ambience.

History, seen through Allen’s words, takes on a new dimension. The story of the founders of the newspaper is surely one of the better structured pieces in contemporary fiction. This is not merely one man’s history, but the history of the world that seamlessly blends with the main storyline. Every segment of narration in this book is a little battle, a small but important part of the bigger war.

Allen deals with death in several ways in his book. There is the sad death, drawn out and painful. There is the sudden death, with no more than one line to describe it. And then there is the gruesome death, the flesh and blood creeping on to the pages of the book with disturbing clarity.

The book is populated with several women, lusty, passionate, emotional, strong, weak – and the world of media has always been fuelled by adrenaline and libido. But the search for true love forms the core of the book, and elevates it from mere fiction to a work of heart and soul.”


Reliance Time Out was the perfect place to sit down and talk about a good book. On the 17th of December, with the sounds of the city muted to a distant buzz, surrounded by thousands of books at the Reliance TimeOut building, Allen Mendonca’s Sentinel House was given another red carpet welcome by the book lovers of Bangalore.

Journalists, editors, aspiring writers and ardent fans got a sneak peek into Allen’s novel as the doyens of theatre, Jagdish and Arundhati Raja, read out three passages from the book, bringing to life the ruthless media baron and the other colourful characters that populate Sentinel House. One could picture the fictitious media scion’s swanky penthouse as the duo unleashed the rage and the passion.

The copies of Sentinel House were once again flying out of the counter. The head of Reliance TimeOut, Mr. Deepinder Kapany, was also seen holding a signed copy up to the camera delightedly. With such a warm reception, Sentinel House is sure to find many more ardent fans.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sentinel House launch

A warm glow seemed to light up Ranga Shankara on the balmy December evening of the 16th as literati, technorati, colleagues, fans, family and friends gathered for the launch of  the Sentinel House.

As Arundhati Nag, actor, read out excerpts after unwrapping the first copy, the gathering that was sprinkled with stardust heard her with rapt attention. Her theatric voice resounded as she gave wings to Allen's words. Launching the book as part of the Bengaluru habba festivities was a fitting tribute to 'Bangalore's boy' as Arundhati Nag referred to Allen. 

Prakash Belawadi, actor and journalist, enlivened the audience with anecdotes about Allen. An old friend of Allen, Belawadi spoke about the world of journalism then and now, and how Allen's words would remain indelible footprints.
It was heartwarming to see Allen's friends and fans crowding around the book sales counter, each coming out clutching a fresh copy of the Sentinel House. Actor, writer, and playwright Girish Karnad was also seen leafing through the first few pages of the book while Yasmeen Premji, director of the Azim Premji Foundation, had her book autographed by Sandhya Mendonca.

With such distinguished guests as Mr. Subroto Bagchi, the co-founder of Mindtree, former IT secretary Mr. Vivek Kulkarni, the ubiquitous fashion guru of Bangalore, Prasad Bidappa, Mr. Prem Koshy of Koshys, the evening was a splendid one, as good as the book that was being launched.

To read an excerpt from the book and a review, visit this link.
To buy Sentinel House online, visit Indiaplaza.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Join us for the launch of Sentinel House

Bangalore, Dec 16, Wednesday, 06.30 at Ranga Shankara
Book release by Arundhati Nag as a part of ‘Bengaluru Habba’

Bangalore, Dec 17, Thursday, 6.30 pm at Reliance Time Out
Dramatized reading by Jagdish and Arundhati Raja of Artists Repertory Theatre
Critique of the book by brand consultant, Mr. Harish Bijoor

Gurgaon, Dec 19, Saturday, 6.30 pm at Reliance Time Out, Ambience Mall
Book release by Ms. Pratibha Prahlad, renowned Classical dancer
Reading by Mr. Sunit Tandon, Director, Indian Institute of Mass Communication

Cochin, Dec 20, Sunday, 6.30 pm at Reliance Time Out, Oberon Mall
Book release by Mr. T. Jayakumar, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Government of Kerala
Introduction and Reading by Mr. Manoj Das, Resident Editor, Asianet News, Kerala