Disclaimer – I am a friend of the author and a fan of his blog. Also, to my utter surprise and delight, my name is mentioned in the acknowledgement section of the book. In spite of the above I will try and review the book as impartially as possible.
First things first, this is not a novel but a collection of discrete chapters, like a blog. A format Arnab revels in, as is evident from his unanimous victories in consecutive IndiBloggies. In fact some of the chapters are taken from his blog itself. A very good introduction to his work for those who don’t read his blog (and plausibly blogs in general) and even for those who do, not to despair as there’s plenty and more of original content.
He has played to his strengths in his first book by keeping the chapters mostly in the Bollywood, Television, Mock Fiction on Current Affairs & Society and Frustration (of the sexual kinds usually experienced by young men in India) realm. The other usual suspects – Politics, Religion and Religion are conspicuous by their absence. But if I were to slot this book in any one category in the library it would have to be India, without a trace of doubt. Maybe I would create a specific shelf called ‘India in the ’90s’ and place it there. If you grew up during this period (I did) then you’re bound to identify with almost each and every chapter of the book at a very personal level. More importantly if you spent a good part of those wonder years watching rented videos on the VCP/VCR then this is a guaranteed path down the nostalgia lane as I can say with a lot of certainty that no other book has dealt with the B grade movies, songs and dialogues of this period and in as much of a personalised details as MIHYAP has. I do not want to give out spoilers, but when it comes to Arnab I am sure it won’t surprise anyone that this book is to the Mithun starrer Gunda what our constitution is to the Republic of India.
The language used throughout is colloquial Indian English with a very generous dose of Hinglish as well, but with an obvious and healthy disregard towards both. What comes across as most genuine and touches a nerve somewhere is the passion the author has and shown for the movies mentioned above (poster on the left as well). The aptly introduced lines from these masterpieces in set piece situations blow your mind away. A good portion of the book also tried to establish a connection about how these shaped the author’s life. You almost believe all that he says!
This aside, the humour and wit displayed throughout is of a very refined order. Well, actually not always refined maybe, and those few deviations towards the crass and lowly style of humour is just so bad that it falls in the good category (a terms coined by the author in his blog). There is wordplay involved in almost every nook and corner of a sentence and you sometimes pass it, pause, come back and feel silly at how could you miss that one. Then enjoy a hearty chuckle.
So, is all well with the book? No ‘areas of improvement’? Not really. I for one believe that a certain style of humour and references has been repeated a little too often and what started off as stomach achingly funny, became somewhat predictable towards the end, if not in content but in style. Also, having read his ‘serious posts’ in his blog I will be keenly looking forward to his next book perhaps where, with the comfort of a bestseller behind him, he can write about issues in his sharp, incisive, analytical and no-holds-barred style that makes him a complete writer.
Did I enjoy the book? Once I got over the euphoria of finding my name on print (in the acknowledgement remember?) I went about the business of reading the book, and finished it in three sittings interspersed by preparation for an office exam, falling asleep on the laptop one night and the KKR victory over Deccan Chargers in the first match of IPL 3. It is my completely personal opinion, like all opinions in this blog are, that this book is the single most entertaining book I have read since I completed the Sherlock Holmes omnibus in college. No, I am not comparing this to the greatest detective series of all time, but in terms of sheer entertainment value I was hooked. Will I gift it to my friends on their birthday? Given it’s priced at just Rs. 149 maybe I will add a pen or something similar that they’ll never use, but will spread the joy of this book for sure. I can guarantee that anyone with a passing interest in India and it’s culture and the ’90s will have a jolly good time reading ‘May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss’.
P.S: I intentionally avoided making any sort of reference to specific parts of the book, however I have done a detailed autopsy, in a chapter wise manner here. Please go ahead and read this only if you have read the book and have sufficient time on your hands.