“Blood is thicker than water” is a German proverb (originally : Blut ist dicker als Wasser.) which is used by the English too quite frequently. It refers to the importance of the blood relations of a person and their superiority over the other worldly relations.
Today I am reviewing a crime-thriller penned by Hindi novelist – Surendra Mohan Pathak whose theme is based on this proverb only. This novel is – Gawaahi (witness / testimony). It narrates the story of two cop brothers in Mumbai set-up. The elder brother – Neelesh Gokhale is a corrupt cop and features on regular payroll of the underworld gangsters. The younger brother – Rajesh Gokhale is an idealist and being aware of his elder brother’s dishonest character, maintains a distance from him. The brothers have lost their parents and both of them are single in life, living in separate residences in separate localities of Mumbai. Rajesh loves a Goani girl – Honey Biyanko who is an employee in a bar. The thing which Rajesh never realizes, is that Neelesh, despite his own corrupt character, has a great regard for his honest younger brother and loves him from the core of his heart.
Narcotics trade is running at its peak in Mumbai and the real story starts with the underworld dynamics related to the established practice of exchange of drugs and their value between the dealing criminals, leading to the murder of a gangster by a professional contract-killer who is working for the rival of that gangster. Coincidentally the murder takes places in front of Rajesh and now he, being a dutiful and honest cop, is hell-bent upon giving his testimony against the murderer, Shivraj Saawant in the court after he is arrested and put on trial. The gangster behind Saawant and this murder calls Neelesh (because Neelesh works for him) and asks him to stop his younger brother from giving this witness, else he will be sacrificed.
Now Neelesh who loves his younger brother very much (though Rajesh does not believe it), pursues him to abstain from witnessing against Saawant, else he will lose his life. Rajesh treats his plea as the sales-talk of a corrupt cop who is himself sold in the hands of the gangsters and does not change his decision. Neelesh even advises him to go for double-crossing and giving witness after falsely agreeing to the gangsters that he will refuse to identify Saawant in the court but Rajesh, a man of conscience, refuses to double-cross anybody. Since Neelesh knows Honey Biyanko as the ex-keep of a Goani gangster in her past, he presurrizes (on the basis of his knowledge of this fact of hers) her to stop Rajesh from whatever he’s going to do. Honey refuses first but when Neelesh appeals to her love for Rajesh and emphasizes this fact that she may lose the love of her life because of Rajesh’s obduracy on this issue, she agrees to do something in this regard. But like Rajesh, she is also not trusting Neelesh fully.
Despite all his efforts, Neelesh is not able to save the life of Rajesh because the gangsters cheat him and kill Rajesh (though they still try to misguide him by saying that it’s not their deed). Already burdened with grief, Neelesh finds everything going against him when a new DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police) joins the office who is renowned for his efficiency and honesty and he starts his mission of spotting all the corrupt cops in his jurisdiction and then taking action against them. Neelesh feels that though his younger brother was a cop, the police force may not work diligently to arrest the people behind his murder. What he does thereafter leads the story to its climax. He loses his job in the end but before that he takes the gangsters to the destination they deserve.The highlight of this very very interesting crime-thriller is the crafting of the personalities of both the brothers with finesse, the realistic portrayal of the activities of the Mumbai underworld including the procedure of the drug trade in detail and the sacred talks of a religious personality known as Acharya Ji who has been very close to the family of the brothers.Mr. Pathak has divided the novel into two parts – 1. Praakkathan (preface), 2. Gawaahi (witness). The opening part which lays the foundation of the second one is, in fact, the more interesting one which keeps the reader spellbound during some 60 pages dedicated to it. This part of the story runs so speedily that there is no time for the reader to stop and think as to what is happening. It details the blows and counter-blows between the gangsters, the procedure of payment for the drugs by the buyer and his getting the goods (drugs) by giving the receipt of payment and showing his proof of identity to a middleman who is concerned with his commission only and not the dealing persons. The reader has to go through at least this part in one sitting only which renders him the experience akin to that of a roller-coaster ride. The second part is also quite interesting and generating curiosity page-by-page but it contains ample emotions too other than the thrill.
While reading this novel, I just fell in love with the character of Neelesh, the elder brother, despite his being a corrupt cop. Mr. Pathak has been able to underscore his loneliness with admirable subtlety. Nobody trusts him, neither the gangsters, nor his immediate boss in the police station (though he too, among the other cops in the police station, is corrupt), nor the newly appointed honest DCP, nor Honey Biyanko, nor Acharya Ji (the religious man who’s the friend of the brothers’ late father and always concerned about their welfare on personal ground) and nor his brother who is dearer to him than his own life. In fact, everybody misunderstands him. While reading the story, I effortlessly empathized with Neelesh and felt his true love for his younger brother. His concern for his brother’s life is real which nobody acknowledges. How lonely he is ! And that’s why when he goes after the criminals to settle his score, his attitude sounds quite real and devoid of any kind of hypocrisy.Through the small episode of Neelesh’s solving a murder case and then getting the unnecessarily arrested innocent person released from the police custody, Mr. Pathak has vividly presented the style of functioning of the Indian police stations and the Indian cops and above all, the Indian police system.
The only thing I felt as a minus point in the novel, is the lack of suspense. Though Mr. Pathak has generated something like a secret through the character of the gangster’s moll – Nidhi Mirani, there is no big revelation in the end which the reader does not know already. All the same, this minus point is not that big because the author has given the novel the shape of a fast-paced thriller and not a mystery.
The movie buffs reading this review may find the plot resembling to the Hindi movie – Parinda (1989) in which there were two similar brothers – Jackie Shroff and Anil Kapoor. However this novel has an entirely different milieu alongwith different basic grains and a unique, unparalleled treatment. The satisfaction it provides to the readers, has a category of its own.
There are several kinds of relationships in this world. Now-a-days, in this global scenario, the distant relations alongwith the relations of friendship and love are emphasized a lot. Still, I believe that the blood relations cannot be matched by any other type of relationship which the novel emphatically underscores. After all, blood is thicker than water.
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