Before I start talking about the book, I would like to shed a bit of light on the author. Mostofa Monwar is an award winning director, celebrated scriptwriter and former creative director at Asiatic JWT. He left a successful career in advertising behind to finish this book. And his copywriting skills are well-reflected through painstaking details and impish wordplay.
Monwar’s work is reminiscent of Dali’s surrealism and Rushdie’s magic realism. Almost all of the stories have an element of paranormal, where reality shakes hand with the supernatural. The book uses coarse language in dialogues, a juxtapose of urban slangs and flowery Bangla. The characters are vibrant; bearing an eerie resemblance to real life people we meet every day.
This book vividly describes what mainstream media tries to shy away from. A culture of drugs, debauchery and desperation for freedom has been reflected through literature. And it isn’t pretty. Yet the mood is far from cold and gloomy; it’s actually riddled with dark, gritty humour.
The prose is smooth and effortless, the dialogues refreshingly quirky. The author’s decade long stint as a Creative Director is brilliantly visible in the last story titled “Ghoom” (Sleep). The ins and outs of advertising are dissected with incredible precision.
“Melodrama” revolves around a whimsical lover, who finds himself trapped in an endless loop. Eternally waiting outside his lover’s house. “Parur Sathe Matal Shondha” (A drunken night with Paru) is a story created around a generic artsy-intellectual group of friends who hangout in Charukola. A drunken night with Paru swings in and out of a surrealistic setting, without actually taking leave from reality.
“Otiprakritik Heyali” (Supernatural Reality) tells the story of a boy who left his home, died in a drug induced stupor while hiking the treacherous trails of Banderban. Drifting as a lonely soul, the boy digs his way into the land of the living by possessing a sacrificial cow.
But the best story of the lot is “Golmaal”. The protagonist is a comic actor in his late thirties. He earned his nickname for being rotund and being a virgin. On his 38th birthday, one of his close friends decides to send a prostitute to his room as a gift. Mostofa Monwar tells this story through the perspective of the protagonist, who gets ridiculously nervous at the prospect of intercourse. This rib-tickling tale of love, sex and alcoholism is guaranteed to leave the reader’s breathless.
All in all, “Melodrama” is a satisfying read. A rare window into the lives of modern urban youth.