Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Review | Mafia Queens of Mumbai

Crime | Non-fiction | Tranquebar Press | 308 Pages | Rs. 250

Mafia Queens of Mumbai | S.Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges

Imagine Dawood Ibrahim running like a headless chicken scared of his police constable father. Imagine him going to the safe havens that a freedom fighter turned smuggler provides in her shanty building in the most criminally active area of Mumbai. Imagine another petite lady - with no experience other than domestic - trying to revenge the death of her husband by going after Dawood and doing more damage to his business than any deadly gangster ever.

Imagine Haji Mastan nervously smoking cigarette after cigarettes, waiting for a seventy-year old woman to give him business advice. Imagine a mainstream Bollywood actress leaving everything behind for a gangster and ending up in international penitentiaries for more than five years. Imagine an ambitious wife showing her white-collared husband the way to underworld. Imagine a prostitute brutally raped by an animal Pathan time and again before she valiantly visits a feared gangster making him her Rakhi-bhai, and then using the influence to emerge as the most known name of Kamathipura, improving the sex workers’ lives like none other. Imagine contraband finding it’s way to holes dug under gas cylinders.

Imagine millionaire bar dancers, molls, vixens.

Such and several other stories find place in this collection of mini-biographies of 13 ladies who defy logic, sense and perceived notions to become the cornerstones of the underbelly of Mumbai. For everyone who loved the gruesome detail of Black Friday, Hussain Zaidi is back with another chill down our spines.

Despite the authors’ early disclaimer about how their aim is not to glorify these women but to responsibly give an impartial account, they falter consistently. There is a visible effort to impart them a minor-celeb status, although there is no attempt at sensationalizing. Well-researched facts expectedly find favour. There is laudably little creative license taken and the narrative tone is still aptly picturesque. There is a photo feature, too, that puts faces to the names. Zaidi, especially, has succeeded in showing those sides of some hugely notorious dons that we’ve never been aware of and with a sense of authority that is never doubted even for an instant.

Having said that, the reader would undoubtedly feel a little cheated as the book progresses. The first three stories are detailed, exhaustive and simply un-putdown-able. It is then the narrative loses steam. The rest are a little rushed where one could do with a little more meat.

Overall, it’s a must-read for both the uninitiated and keen observers of Mumbai’s organised crime world not just because it spans the entire crime landscape of Mumbai but also because it is done differently, with extra feminine spice.


About the authors

Currently the resident editor of the Asian Age, S. Hussain Zaidi is one of the leading crime reporters of India. He has worked for several mainstream dailies and is the author of the bestseller Black Friday: the true story of the Bombay blasts. Jane Borges is a journalist with Asian Age.

There is a foreword by Vishal Bhardwaj, one of the most respected Indian film directors, who’s going to make a full length feature film on one of the protagonists.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!