Once again, I am reviewing a novel of my favourite Hindi mystery writer – Surendra Mohan Pathak. Amongst his novels categorized under 5-6 different series, I love the Sunil Series novels the most. Sunil Kumar Chakravarty is an investigative journalist and holds the position of the chief reporter of a national daily – Blast which is published from Rajnagar, a fictitious metropolitan city situated somewhere in India. This hero has been so popular that Mr. Pathak has penned more than 100 novels under this series. Sunil is a Bengali youth and a bachelor whom the receptionist of the newspaper – Renu romantically teases every now and then. He has earned the trust and fatherly affection of his employer – Mr. B.K. Malik who happens to be the owner and the chief editor of the newspaper. News editor – Roy is an aged Bengali who happens to be the immediate boss of Sunil but Sunil never allows him to dominate over himself. In his investigative endeavours, Sunil is mainly assisted by his junior reporter – Arjun and his friend – Ramakant Malhotra who is a Punjabi youth of his age group. Ramakant runs a night club (named as Youth Club) but helps Sunil through the services of his trusted staff members and whenever possible, partakes in Sunil’s adventures himself too. Due to his typical working style, Sunil almost always crosses the line of the police due to which police inspector Prabhu Dayaal (whom Mr. Pathak has shown as a dutiful, honest and efficient police officer) always remains annoyed with him. However the superintendent of police (now Mr. Pathak has redesignated him as the Deputy Commissioner of Police) – Ram Singh is Sunil’s old friend. Sunil’s adventures run through this fictitious city of Rajnagar and the nearby fictitious cities and towns too, viz. Vishalgarh, Vishwanagar, Iqbaalpur, Taarakpur etc. and also some nearby tourist places viz. Jhery and Sunderban.
Peela Gulab (yellow rose) is the 92nd venture of this crime reporter hero. The title of the novel is as such because the plot is based on the murder of a film actress – Medha who was admiringly called ‘yellow rose’. She was a sweet and good-natured girl and her complexion was not very fair but yellowish like molten gold which enabled her beautiful face to be given the analogy of a yellow rose. Well, Mr. Pathak has imagined such a girl whose fairness can be compared to that of a yellow rose. Writers and poets can imagine anything. However, I am in agreement with Mr. Pathak that a beautiful girl can be given this tag because once I also used to call a girl as ‘yellow rose’ in my real life. Mr. Pathak has praised the yellowish tender beauty and the fragrant good nature of Medha through description but not shown her in the novel.
Peela Gulab deals with the murder of Medha who aspired to become a top heroine but could not and got reduced to the level of second female lead only in the movies done by her. She got murdered when she was going to marry another unsuccessful actor – Ashok Suri. In addition to his investigative journalism profession, Sunil has one more reason to try to unearth the mystery of Medha’s murder. He was fond of her due to her sweet nature and she was his friend. He delves deep into the case with the help of his hand-in-glove heavy drinker friend – Ramakant and also seeks the help of his known film-journalist – Shyam Varma. There are many suspects in front of him – Ashok Suri, Medha’s fiance and would be husband; Manoharlaal, Medha’s greedy maternal uncle; Khoob Chand Somani, an aged film-producer who wanted to marry Medha; Shaarada Bansal, a rich widow who wanted to marry Ashok Suri; Nirmal Kumar, Medha’s true lover etc. Sunil examines the activities of every suspect through his investigative eye and finally exposes the real murderer. In between, his regular tussles with police inspector Prabhu Dayaal who is his love-hate buddy for a lifetime, also take place.
Like almost all the novels of Sunil series, Peela Gulab also renders a spicy reading to the reader and thoroughly entertains him. I can guess that Mr. Pathak might have borrowed the plot of the novel from some foreign pulp-fiction work. However his style of Indianizing the story and characters has an originality of its own and the decorative tassels added to the main narrative are his and his specialty only that no other author can copy. The language used for narration and dialogues is simple but impressive. Mr. Pathak’s hero Sunil is a witty person who overpowers the other one through his smartness and quick-wit. He is never awed by the wealth or status of the other person and never hesitates to call a spade a spade. Mr. Pathak has always termed Sunil as his counter-ego and asserted that he says those things which Mr. Pathak himself wanted to say on similar occasions in his life but couldn’t dare to. And it’s this smartness and gutsy approach of Sunil which makes the novels of this series so special.
The only minus point that I see in this novel, is that the mystery is not great. The reader can guess the real culprit with some intelligent deductive reasoning. However despite this weakness, the novel makes an interesting reading from the very first line to the very last line. I unconditionally recommend this novel to the readers of Hindi fiction of crime detection genre.
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