Unlike other major film industries of the world, the link between Bollywood and any literature has always been tenuous at best. With the rise and rise in popularity of Hinglish literature, however, it was but a matter of time before this lacuna would be fulfilled. Indian pulp fiction, too, needed the spunk of Hinglish writers to transform, from the regional language soft-core industry it had been pigeon-holed, into the racy read that is often that aporia in global popular culture which allows for reflections on immediate, contested, urban realities.
If a back cover blurb of journalist Oswald Pereira’s The Newsroom Mafia claims that ‘this book is a film crying to be made’, it’s because it does indeed take off from where any number of recent Bollywood gangland flicks set in Mumbai left, winks at every post-Radiia cliche about the corrupted Indian media, and harks at the long-list of regular Page 2 briefs, from sleaze to murder to mafia.
The story—a crime reporter’s first-person account of supercop Donald Fernandez’s war on underworld don Narayan Swamy, that draws in the familiar spectrum of characters from thugs to police officers and politicians to media hacks and seductive prostitutes—straddles the well-worn terroir of Bolly potboilers, easing the reader into a Mumbai environment, made recognisable to all Indians by Manmohan Desai and Ram Gopal Varma. It’s not surprising then, that this is where the author lets the demands of the plot overtake any need for taut dialogue and pithy descriptors—essential genre requirements. As a result, the story blazes along, with nods at all the crime headlines you had long forgotten, held together by a plot that takes frequent improbable detours.
The only arena which Pereira does some justice to, is the media, which he is presumably most familiar with. The fourth estate’s lust for exclusive headlines and its amoral manufacture of the same to serve vested interests—big money, politicians and criminals—is portrayed with an insider’s assurance. If only the sex scenes—another of pulp’s forbidden attractions—had been more imaginative.