Three friends separated at an early age by unusual circumstances come together years later, a result of the sort of happy coincidence that make good Hindi movies. Love, longing, local politics, social mores mix in an easy narration that gives Sharad Paul’s Madras an intimate small-town portrait.
Indian culture—Tamil in this case—its complexities of caste and class, the difficult dilemmas and conflicts of south Indian politics are all treated as opportunities and hinges for the story. mgr, Karunanidhi, hijras, the language issue, marital taboos, incest—all appear in fleeting glimpses, and give the narrative its due as comic farce. The book is written at a sort of breathless pace. As if Paul, having discovered a precise story line and its rendering, is only willing to race to its quick and final denouement. At times, the result leaves the reader a bit exhausted, and yearning for more contemplative passages. However, the author’s farcical treatment of Tamil society is both delicate and deadly. In simplifying, he reduces all primary causes and debates to caricature; which in truth is the reality of India.