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

No comments: