A trial is going on in full swing with the courtroom filled with the people involved as well as the common audience. And then suddenly the person standing in the witness box pulls out a revolver from somewhere from his clothes and shoots the public prosecutor interrogating him. If you happen to witness such a scene, how will you feel and react ? How can someone carry a firearm (or any arm) with him in the courtroom? And why should a person giving his testimony in a case shoot the public prosecutor in front of several people during the course of the courtroom proceedings ?
Hindi novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak has chosen this very interesting premise for a novel under his popular Sudhir Series. This novel is Ghaat. Hindi word Ghaat (or Ghaath) has many meanings. The meaning of the title used for this is trap or ambush, i.e., a strategy. This ambush or strategy is used twice in the story of this novel. First, a criminal uses it to kill the public prosecutor and trap the defense counsel in the conspiracy for that killing. Second, the law-enforcers use it to uncover the hidden hand behind this ghastly act as well as a criminal act carried out in the past (which is closely linked to the present developments) and get the confession of the culprit.
The hero created by the author for this series of his is a private detective operating from Delhi. He is approached by an old client of his – Nataasha Khanaal, a young woman whose had become his client two ago when her brother – Aniruddh Khanaal was arrested under the charge of looting a departmental store and killing the young son of the owner. He’s said to be having an accomplice in carrying out that crime but neither he could tell the name of his accomplice nor he ever confessed for committing that loot and murder. He kept on saying that he was innocent throughout his trial and the private detective hero also could not help him. Finally he got life imprisonment from the court.
After two years, when a hardcore criminal Vishnu Shukla who is responsible for many crimes including murders and got the capital punishment from the apex court, is going to be hanged, he issues a statement that Aniruddh Khanaal is innocent and it was him who had carried out that loot and murder in association with an unknown person. He is ready to give this statement under oath so that Aniruddh’s case is re-opened and in turn, he gets exonerated from the charge and released from jail. To go into the nitty-gritty of this new development and help her brother in coming out of jail, Nataasha approaches the hero again.
The case is re-opened and Vishnu Shukla is produced before the court as a significant witness now. When the public prosecutor is interrogating him in the court, all of a sudden, he pulls a revolver out of his cloths and shoots the public prosecutor Shankar Laal Agrawal dead from point blank range. When asked by the court as to who gave him the revolver in the court to carry out that murder, he openly accuses the defense counsel of Aniruddh – Kapil Makwaana. Kapil Makwaana is arrested and to get rid of this unexpected charge, he hires the services of the hero. How the detective hero reaches the truth and obtains the confession of the accomplice of the killer who was also his accomplice in the loot and murder that had taken place two years back is the remaining part of the story which is very interesting. The hero is able to do it in connivance with the law-enforcing agencies – the police and the judiciary who help him so that the truth comes out and a wrongly sentenced innocent gets justice.
The USP of Ghaat is the courtroom scenes which are not only authentic but also have been portrayed very interestingly. The author has presented a true account of the functioning of the courts in India with the attitudes and gestures of the rival lawyers as well as the magistrate. The courtroom scenes including that covering the murder of the public prosecutor are the most important part of the narrative and the highlight of it.
Without touching the issue of the originality of the plot, I admire the novel for its gripping narrative though the take-off is slow and there is a little bit of edginess in the beginning portions. However once the main track (i.e., the murder of the public prosecutor) starts, the narrative moves fast alongwith the investigative activities of the hero and his involvement in the courtroom proceedings till the climax arrives.
The reader can guess the identity of the culprit by method of elimination because the number of suspects is small. However it does not dilute the entertaining quality of the novel and the narrative is able to keep the viewer hooked throughout.
Through the interaction of the hero, i.e., Sudhir Kohli with his young secretary – Rajni, the author has induced humor also in the novel and their discussion on the case adds a lot of spice to the narrative. In this novel, the author has underscored that the secretary also likes her boss very much but she is not ready to become his life-partner.
The hero is a money-minded person, a free-loader and a confirmed womanizer but still he has kept his conscience intact to a great extent and not sold his soul to the devil. He takes pride in calling himself ‘Lucky Bastard‘ who is in a class of his own (the only one). However he is not that bad as he appears to be. He is known as the philosopher-detective because he keeps on mouthing his philosophy (regarding life and women) during the course of his activities. And his philosophy is very interesting for the readers (whether or not they agree to it).
I recommend Ghaat to all those who can read Hindi and take interest in reading murder mysteries-cum-courtroom dramas.
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