Surendra Mohan Pathak can quite justifiably be called the Agatha Christie of Hindi novels. Though he has written a number of action-packed thrillers, he is mostly known for his whodunnits or mysteries. Perhaps he has taken inspiration from the novels of some foreign writers for his certain novels. However this fact cannot snatch the credit of writing engrossing novels in highly interesting language and style from him. I am a huge fan of this legendary Hindi novelist who has penned down more than 200 Hindi novels and still his pen is on the job while he is now in the seventies of his life. Some of his novels viz. Teen Din, Dial 100 and Kaagaz Ki Naav are so good in their content and treatment that sometimes I compare those pulp fiction novels with the high profile and award winning literature of renowed litterateurs. Mostly he writes novels taking serial heroes like Sunil, Sudhir and Vimal (like Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple of Agatha Christie, Perry Mason of Erle Stanley Gardner or Sherlock Holmes of Arthur Conan Doyle). His Vimal series is the most popular one among the Hindi pulp fiction readers. However he has also written a number of novels without any of his stock characters (known as thrillers in the lingo of Hindi pulp fiction). I am reviewing one such novel today which is a low profile one from this master mystery writer but which is one of my favourites. The title of this novel is Saazish (conspiracy).
Saazish is the story of Marathi characters living in Lonavala and Mumbai. Anil Pawar shifts from Pune to Lonavala to get employment as an industrial chemist in the factory of Avinash Joshi and happens to meet Mugdha Patil who is an orphan and lives with her two years older unmarried sister, Nonita and her ailing Bua (father’s sister). They get married but Nonita also moves to Anil’s house alongwith her sister under the pretext that Mugdha needs company and some personal care because of her recent history of fits. Everything is moving well except the fact that the sister-duo is more extravagant in its living style than the earning of Anil. The real story takes off when Anil, coming back from a gambling sitting of some close friends at the residence of his employer, finds both the sisters missing from the house in that rainy stormy night. Now, to his painful surprise, all and sundry, including his neighbour, Dashrath Raje; his employer, Avinash Joshi and the local police inspector, Munde; are of the opinion that the sisters have left him for good (because of his deteriorating financial position) and run away with their boyfriends in quest of a better life. However Anil is ready to buy every opinion but one that his loving wife left him for good without telling him. He has utmost faith in his wife’s love. He smells a kidnapping conspiracy behind the disappearance of the ladies and decides to move out of the town in search of them, especially Mugdha who is dearer to him than his life. How he meets different people, how the mystery of kidnap is unravelled and how he is able to find his loving wife, forms the narrative of this novel which is thoroughly engrossing and touching as well. The husband’s trust in his wife’s fidelity forms the backbone of the novel and the way he unearths the whole conspiracy, makes a very interesting reading which also includes the murders of Nonita and an old friend of the sisters, Harsha.
Surendra Mohan Pathak has written the novel in his famous style. The legendary Hindi author who has been penning popular Hindi novels since 1963, has left no stone unturned to make the story a thoroughly interesting reading. He writes Hindi novels but the fact is that he is an expert of four different languages – Hindi, English, Punjabi and Urdu. This knowledge has a very positive impact upon his writings. Even though the characters of this novel are Maharashtrians, Pathak’s pen has not faltered in penning the incidents and the dialogues in the utmost interesting and realistic fashion. I compare him to Agatha Christie because he possesses an admirable knack of unravelling the mystery on a layer-by-layer basis, following the footsteps of the immortal mystery-queen.
The novel tells the story in first person (Anil) and because of that the story moves alongwith the hero only. The other characters are either supporting characters of the story or they come before the reader through the narration about them. The author has been able to exasperate Anil’s character in the best possible manner. He is an educated and sensible person who married a local girl without knowing much about her or her past. But even then he has so much trust in his wife’s love and fidelity towards him that he defies everyone who points out a finger towards her character. And his trust in her proves to be true in the end. The climax is very touching in which Anil appeals to the ex-boyfriend of Mugdha for help and that ex-boyfriend sacrifices his life for the sake of the life and happiness of his ex-flame.
Surendra Mohan Pathak has his own unique style which turns most of his novels comparable to Bollywood’s masala movies containing comedy and sarcasm as well. The novel does not contain a single boring para. The complete chain of events takes place within a time duration of six days. The narrative is fast and the reader remains engrossed from the first page to the last page.
The novel also gives a glimpse into the Bollywood world and its affiliates, i.e., the T.V. serial making and the theatre group activities in Mumbai. It also informs about the cabarets performed in Mumbai. A good account of the Bollywood strugglers’ life has been presented through the incidents taking place in the lives of Nonita, Mugdha and Harsha (told through flash backs). The corrupt character of Indian police as well as the private detectives mushrooming in metro cities has also been exposed properly.
Unlike many high profile and immensely popular novels of Surendra Mohan Pathak, Saazish is a low profile and not-much-talked about novel which was first published in the year 1999 and since then its second edition has not come. But it is quite praiseworthy and all the readers of Hindi fiction will find it worth much more than the peanut like price of it.
© Copyrights reserved