>Dreams in Prussian Blue by Paritosh Uttam
Author: Paritosh Uttam
Publisher: Penguin India
First-year student Naina is utterly smitten by her senior, Michael, acknowledged genius and resident rebel of the Fine Arts College, Mumbai. So when he proposes that they drop out of college and live in, she readily agrees. But life with Michael soon turns into an emotional roller coaster. Temperamental, opinionated and incredibly selfish, he expects Naina to run the household so that he is free to paint. Naina tries her hand at several odd jobs, but when an accident leave Michael blind, their life together begins to come undone as she can only helplessly watch. And in trying to pull it together, Naina is driven to being what she has never been – a liar and a cheat. Will Michael forgive her when he learns the truth? Will she forgive him for what he has done to her?
This is one Metro read or young India fiction which is done correctly. At 200 odd pages, it is fast-paced, emotionally compelling and takes you to an enjoyable roller coaster ride. I have often complained earlier in my book reviews about debut novels being overly long and self-indulgent. However, this book is a perfect example to show you don’t have to write more to engage the readers… no spoon-feeding is required, people are intelligent enough to understand subtle nuances. Shuffling between the past and the present, we are simultaneously told the story of how the couple fall in love and how they are dealing with their marital life. This happens till the middle of the book when both the screenplay collides and merge into one, in which Michael is now blind and making rigorous efforts to paint again.
The character of Naina is written with warmth and affection. Her long suffering live-in life with Michael and continuous struggle to make the ends meet touches chord in your heart. You will instantly develop a dislike for Michael, who is obnoxiously self-centered but can’t help sympathizing when the accident leaves him blind. He hardly cares for materialistic pleasures because in his own inner world, he is contend with just painting and being fed by Naina. It is commendable that the author even though skating on a thin plot on paper, still manages to develop these characters sufficiently enough so that you can relate to them. Their bickering and complications, grief and irony in their life is what stays with you till the end.
On a deeper level, blue colour plays an important role in delving into the emotional psyche of Michael and his relationship with Naina. I don’t know how much the author knows about painting, but even if he has researched it to write this book and incorporate into screenplay, it is quite enthralling. I almost wanted to know a little more about painting after finishing this book. The description of Prussian blue colour paintings almost defines the temperamental nature of their relationship; the whims and fancies attached to it, the bouts of anxiety and anguish related to it. Also, how the art work is defined in terms of perceptions of the buyers and NOT really on the basis of quality is almost a satirical take on the thriving painting business.
There are some niggles right at the end. The climaxed is wrapped up with such ease, it just appears the writer was running short of ideas or time or both. It is never fully comprehended how Naina’s illicit relationship to a friend’s wife is exposed. The writer goes for an hurried ending, not investing enough in the emotional metamorphosis which Michael suffers when the truth is out in the open. The climax is all good in the poetic-justice sense, but since it is done so conveniently, it looks contrived. Apart from this, certain dialogues at times are far-fetched and almost clingy to read. But as i said, these are mere nitpickings in an otherwise competent, confident debut.
I am going with 3.5/5 for Paritosh Uttam’s debut novel, Dreams in Prussian Blue. It reassures the pleasures of a urban story, rightly told. For most of the narrative, it moves swiftly without any issues till the bump right in the climax. But still i make a strong recommendation to read it, won’t take much time and will left you with a goody-good feeling. Sometimes, that is the best thing of reading a book, isn’t it
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