When I was doing Shakespeare in school (Julius Caesar to be precise), our teacher had pointed out that Shakespeare painted his characters in shades of either black or white. Yet Brutus stood out as he was neither black nor white-a person so manipulated that he came to believe in the wrong cause. Here was a noble man walking down the evil path who ultimately commits suicide (figuratively its suicide only).
So we have Gopal the protagonist of Chetan Bhagat’s latest novel playing the role of Brutus. An average guy who like countless others has twice failed to get through entrance exams. He is surrounded by numerous manipulative, venal men who take him to great heights yet ultimately drive him further away from the love of his life Aarti. Then there is the noble & upright, not-for-sale crusader of the revolution-Raghav. His character is as noble & honest as they can get. He is a topper-material engineering graduate who kicks a job to become a journalist & even starts his own newspaper-cum-pamphlet-the Revolution 2020. As this story is set against a political backdrop, we have the power & money hungry MLA Sukla acting as the true villain & Cassius of this story.
The story begins with CB’s trademark epilogue introducing the present day Gopal-Director of the renowned GangaTech college of engineering in Varansi. The subsequent conversation reveals a young, rich, powerful Gopal who is lonely within, as empty as the mansion he lives in. As is often the case, Gopal tells his life’s story right from where it all began-when he was in school. The love story is rather clichéd yet you can’t help feeling sad for him. Aarti’s confusion is well-depicted. At some point one may feel that Aarti is to blame for all this yet well, but that’s how girls’ minds work! Raghav appears in the third person, often only mentioned by Aarti. We can see he is the typical hard-working journo minus the khaki kurta & with an engineering degree.
CB has blended all 3 problems of India into this story-there’s the faulty education system, bribery & corruption. The initial half focuses on the first two evils-the infamous JEE/AIEEE obsession of the Indian masses & their poverty. Every non-IITian would have a sense of déjà-vu reading these pages. And everyone who has ever built a house or started a company would relate to the next pages showcasing the bribery hierarchy of our country.
Personally I miss the old CB. The witty one-liners, laugh-aloud kind of story. If you are looking for some serious kind of reading, the one that would almost depress you, go ahead & read it. I’d have liked it more if it had been balanced well, like The 3 Mistakes of my life may be. Even the climax of the story is Bollywood style.
I’d give it a 3/5.
I am no big shot critic to sit & review books. This is almost like an essay on which book you have read recently & liked. It’s just meant for bookworms like me who are looking for a good paperback to settle down with, in this heat any other outdoor activity is a pain & being an avid reader pays off!
So to begin with, let me give you a brief glimpse into the plot. The story revolves around two officers in the army & their quest to settle in. Now what’s so unique in that? Only they are girls! And among the first ones to join the army. And it doesn’t end there. Deepa is an officer who is out to prove her mettle & in the process doesn’t mind compromising on her gender. She prefers being referred to as ‘Saahib’ by her juniors. And her buddy is her opposite if there ever was one. Mills & Boons rules her world. Anjali isn’t willing to shy away from the fact that she is a woman. She is lazy, a dreamer, a fashion diva & has an ever ready smile plastered on her face. Needless to say she is the centre of attention as well as ridicule.
She’s A Jolly Good Fellow revolves around their lives in the army, how each one reacts and adjusts to different situations. While Anju is more willing to take the easy route, Deepa is OG(Olive Green) to the core. Deepa’s determination earns her respect but at the cost of loss of her feminine identity. And of course when lady officers are involved, can love be far behind. But then again arises the question- is love more important than duty?
Sajita Nair explores a whole new world of adventure combined with romance. The book had me in splits at one time, morose and even scared at one point( bound to happen when you sit with a book till 2am). The story telling is good, I didn’t skip too many paras, only some when the description of the surroundings got a bit weary. This book reminded me of a TV serial that used to air in Doordarshan-about lady cadets training for the navy. She’s A Jolly Good Fellow is similar in content, as it would have you engrossed in the activities of these officers-when they end up saluting a junior by mistake or dance in the rain & the entire unit gets to know of it or when Deepa races on her bike and ends up in a cast.
But Sajita’s manner of presenting facts is well balanced. It doesn’t sound feminist when Deepa complains about the ‘special’ treatment meted out to them. Rather you would empathise with her(yes guys too). Other characters are well developed, though I would have liked the character of Major Sandeep Singh to last a bit longer. There are some crooks around too. Of course what’s a story without villains? And some ghosts as well.
My favourite character is the protagonist-Deepa Shekhar, though I don’t always agree with her views. Yet she achieves what she desired no matter what route it took. Anju on the other hand evokes sympathy in me. Yet Sajita does justification to her character towards the end of the story & I regain my respect for her. The men in the story have not been neglected & each has his own trademark –a flirt, an egoist, a chauvinist, you will find them all here.
All in all, this book make for a good read and is worth the 250 bucks. Girls will enjoy & nod their heads all through while guys may agree or disagree with Nair’s point of view. But enjoy you will, She’s A Jolly Good Fellow after all!