Saturday, 21 February 2015

Item Girl by Richa Lakhera / Rupa Publications

Reviews, Vol. I, Issue III

Goodreads blurb: Sunheri and Suhana—twin sisters who share a horrific childhood—get caught up in a vortex of pain and deceit when Sunheri, a popular item girl in Bollywood, is accused of murdering her vicious uncle and is sent to jail. Suhana, an aspiring filmmaker, is determined to seek justice for her sister but comes up against Kala, their stepmother, who has hatched diabolical plans of her own. And when three other manipulative item girls—Nargis, Digital Dolly and Daisy—are identified as key eyewitnesses in Sunheri’s case, the matter only becomes more complicated.

Throw into the mix an explosive rape-tape, a brutal blackmailer, a cruel boyfriend, a cynical journalist who knows too much, and a hard-boiled cop, and what you have is a mind-bending psychological thriller that will hold you hostage until the end. An intense, gripping account of the dark side of showbiz, there is never a dull moment in Item Girl.

Rupa Publications’ recent release Item Girl by Richa Lakhera is a psychological thriller, an adventurous murder mystery coming all the way just after the success of the author's first book Garbage Beat. The novel has achieved commendable response in a brief time and is still creating waves.

Lakheria’s protagonist in this novel is Sunehri – a popular item girl from Bollywood, supported by her twin sister Suhana – an aspiring filmmaker. The novel mainly revolves around the gruesome murder of KD – the manager as well as step-Uncle of Sunehri and Suhana.  

While the plot revolves around the spine-chilling murder of KD, all circumstantial evidence suggest towards Sunehri Kashyap (Sunny). She is accused of murdering her uncle in drug induced frenzy and is taken under police custody.

It is Suhana, who is determined to seek justice for her sister Sunehri, but Kala, the evil stepmother of both girls, makes the matter worse with her diabolical plans.

The narrative becomes stem-winding when the investigating officer ACP Kabir Bhonsle suspects the whole affair and goes on to conduct a thorough investigation leaving no loose ends.

However, this suspicion lead towards the revelation of numerous hidden secrets from the past lives of all characters involved – Sunehri, her sister Suhana, their step uncle KD, his sordid business associates, his sister and Sunny’s step mother Kala and the three other item girls Nargis, Digital Dolly and Daisy – the key witnesses of the murder.

Hereafter follows a baggage of events and characters that pull ACP Bhonsle towards an unforgettable journey through the squalid under-currents of the Indian film industry.

Richa’s writing is apprehensive and balanced, as required by the theme and plot of this novel. Her brisk tone does an extraordinary job by making the readers much aware about the issues which are often discussed in hushed tones. She reveals the less known, darker, disturbing facets of the industry such as the casting couch, the absolute lack of integrity and morality with which the seamy elements of the industry operate as well as the presumptuous display of wealth and power displayed by them. 

The author deserves all accolades for weaving all these elements into a single narrative in such a way that it becomes a vital part of the plot without restraining the stride of the storytelling.

Richa Lakhera is a TV journalist by profession; hence, the strength of this novel resides in its storytelling technique as it reaches out from an insider’s perspective.  Her personal research and experiences are visible in the book, as she successfully makes most of her characters unforgettable by the subtle handling of their personalities, their inner-conflicts, their strengths, their weaknesses and much more.

The brief epilogues available at the end of this book speak volumes about the maturity and seriousness of the author.

This book carries all the essential elements of entertainment including a gruesome take on the Indian film industry, which was left unexplored by the novelists.  

Reviewed by Varsha Singh

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