Hindi novelist, Surendra Mohan Pathak’s serial hero – Sunil Kumar Chakravarty is in no way any less than the popular heroes / heroines of the foreign crime-detective fiction world. The way detectives like Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Perry Mason etc. are popular in English crime-detective fiction readers, the same way Sunil has amassed unprecedented popularity among the Hindi crime-detective fiction readers. The fact that 122 ventures of this extra-ordinary hero have been published till date, is a record and a solid proof how popular this hero has been during the past half a century. His first venture – Puraane Gunaah Naye Gunaahgaar was published in a crime based magazine – Neelam Jaasoos in 1963 and his latest (122nd) venture – Conman hit the book stalls in June 2018. This hero is as popular today as he was decades back. Mr. Pathak has shown him as an investigative journalist and he is the first one of his kind in the world of fiction.
Today I am reviewing the 100th venture of this idealist hero who works for a national daily – Blast published from the fictitious metropolitan city called Rajnagar. The title of the novel is Goli Aur Zahar (bullet and poison). Since the 100th venture of this unique hero was a special occasion, Mr. Pathak wrote a lengthy novel to commemorate the occasion, spreading the murder mystery on very thickly printed (in small font) 327 pages. The novel is damn interesting with the close friend of the hero – Ramakant Malhotra who runs a night club (called Youth Club) being present in several scenes of the novel, giving a heavy dose of humour to the already spellbound readers.
Goli Aur Zahar starts with the arrest of a young girl Jyotsna under the charge of theft who calls Sunil for her help. Jyotsna had worked for a short period in the office of Blast as a trainee journalist some time back and thus Sunil is her ex-colleague. The police has arrested Jyotsna on the complaint of a very rich man – Narottam Thakur who has lodged an FIR against her for stealing some precious jewellery from his residence. After talking to Jyotsna, Sunil comes to know of many facts. Jyotsna’s father is a jalbird, spending his sentence for the alleged embezzlement in the firm of Narottam Thakur and his partner Bhooshan Kansal. Recently Jyotsna had come to know that the embezzlement was not done by her father who was head-cashier in the firm but by the cashier working under him – Deena Naath Chauhan. However when she approached Narottam for making an attempt for her innocent father’s release from the jail; instead of helping her, Narottam got her arrested under the false charge of theft of jewellery from his house. The ground on which Jyotsna wanted to pressurize Narottam in this regard is the fact that the property possessed and enjoyed by him is actually not his. Its real owner is his sister – Chandrika Thakur who has been missing for the past ten years but seen by Jyotsna in an asylum a couple of days prior to her arrest. Narottam is actually the adopted son of Chandrika’s parents.
After knowing all these facts from Jyotsna, Sunil understands the scenario that to prevent Jyotsna from exposing the fact that the real owner of Narottam’s property – Chandrika is alive, Narottam got her arrested under a false charge. He talks to Narottam and traps him through his wit in such a way that he withdraws his complaint against Jyotsna and she gets released. Smelling a sensational story in this scenario, Sunil starts the search of Chandrika with the help of Ramakant on one hand and deputes his junior – Arjun to examine the incident of theft that is said to have taken place in the household of Narottam. However the same night, Narottam Thakur is found as shot dead at his residence. Now the investigation of this murder takes place by the police under the leadership of Sunil’s perennial love-hate buddy – Inspector Prabhu Dayaal on one hand and Sunil with his companions on the other. The suspects are many, viz. Jyotsna herself (who gets arrested for it), the deceased’s motherless daughter – Pankaj, her boyfriends – Kunwar Yuddhveer Singh and Ankur Seth, the deceased’s second wife – Namrata who is much younger to him and used to be his nurse in his ailing days, her alleged ex-boyfriend – Shyam Bhaiya, two young maids of the household – Krishna and Bobby, the deceased’s business partner – Bhooshan Kansal, his very young wife – Kalpana etc. There has been a trained pet dog in the house which runs away after getting released by the police from the kennel made for it in the victim’s study (where his dead body has been found). During the investigation, it is found that someone had also arranged for the victim’s death through poison that night through the Ovaltine (a branded malt beverage mix) that he used to consume with hot milk before sleeping every night. Hence two murder attempts were planned to eliminate him that night – one through bullet which succeeded and the other one through poison which went redundant after the victim’s getting shot dead.
As the investigation of this intricate murder case proceeds on both the sides (Sunil and the police), the mystery gets further entangled by the murder of Pankaj’s boyfriend – Kunwar Yuddhveer Singh who is said to be the heir of some ex-princely state. Meanwhile one young maid of house – Krishna is dismissed from her job and people like Narottam’s lawyer – Pradeep Saxena and his driver – Subhash who happens to be the boyfriend of first Krishna and thereafter Bobby (the other young maid in Narottam’s household), also get involved in the happenings. As the story heads towards its finale, Bobby also gets murdered. Meantime, Sunil is also searching for the dog of the house which has run away because he believes that the dog is the key to unlock the mystery of Narottam’s death. Finally, our hero succeeds in lifting curtain from the mystery of all these murders.
As said earlier, to grace the grand occasion of the 100th novel of his serial hero, the author has written the novel on a very large canvas, adding side stories too to the main plot. Perhaps this excessive length is the only thing which goes against this otherwise brilliant mystery. Though I was able to pick one or two errors in the novel; the length, the pace and the colourful canvas of the novel does not allow the reader to pay attention to them. Right from the opening scene to the climax, the novel keeps the reader glued to it. It’s like a long but pleasant train journey in which almost all the aspects of human life – the discrimination between adopted child and own child, step-relationships, greed, pretension, betrayal, decoy, repentance, father-daughter love, romantic love, lust, loyalty (of both human-being and animal), friendship, quick-wit, humour etc. come across the reader. We can also compare this novel to a delicious dish in which all the spices and ingredients are present in the perfect ratio.
Written in simple but enjoyable language and studded with witty and humorous dialogues, this novel is a very big treat for not only the admirers of this popular hero who can never see a damsel in distress and who believes in the high moral values of life and enjoying every moment of living but the mystery fans in general also. The Hindi readers will find it no less enjoyable than an entertaining movie. First published in 1993, this novel has not lost its shine even after two and a half decades. If you can read Hindi and want wholesome entertainment, then grab a copy of Goli Aur Zahar and start reading it.
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