Shantaram is the longest book I have read in a while, which speaks about my impatience as well as my reading habit. Considering the book is still fresh in my mind, I suppose I must write a quote at this point: “If Shantaram were a movie, it would be Lagaan and What’s Your Rashee in one”.
I had the nagging feeling that I am meant to like this book, but I could not get myself to. The author’s incessant championing of Indians begins to feel tiresome: If an Indian drives a motorcycle, he only glides through the traffic. If an Indian lives in a slum, he is only the cleanest of clean. If an Indian is involved in child trafficking, it is only for the greater good. If an Indian “makes his toilet” into the sea, it can only be the most calming act. If an Indian smiles, it is only guileless and beaming. Really, this endless romanticizing starts to grate a little; not to mention the see-sawing between saint and sinner portrayals of the protagonist himself and the philosophical discourses which are too many to count.
Funnily, the thing I liked most about Shantaram was its length, though that was what prevented me from reading it all along. I may dislike the novel, but I cannot deny it keeps you turning the pages (even though you are worried that the character you had begun to like would be killed next). For all its excesses though, the book left me vaguely dissatisfied – maybe after 936 pages, you want a real ending. [Quote #2: Shantaram could be the Australian equivalent of a K.V.Anand movie.]
One concern though: Do Indians with little fluency in English really speak the language that way? Do it the dancing, have it the sex and many more such gems (as though Gollum decided to set up residence in Bombay and start driving a taxi).
Tip: Start typing Shantaram in the Google search box, and Shantaram quotes is the second prompt.