Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review – Focus Sam by Rohit Gore

Reviewed By Gaurav Parab

Focus Sam makes a good case for letting the messenger live and ignoring the message. The debutant author, Rohit Gore, is a storyteller from the classic mold yet his message is somehow force packed into a book meant for today's market. The author is clearly a writer of the future, and one wonders if when he looks back at this attempt, whether he would be amused or whether he would consider it as a natural step towards his destiny.

As a writer trying his hand at fiction, I think Focus Sam is a wonderful attempt. However, as a reader, I find it as a book that has something going for it- yet has something missing. Right throughout, it is here and hereabouts. For a moment if I were to unfocus from Sam, I am willing to stick my neck out and say that Rohit Gore, if he gets his due, would one day become a writer’s writer. A legend, perhaps. And remember, you heard it here first.

It is not the best book out there, but it has its brilliant moments.  Take the plot for starters. What is refreshing is that there is one! Now, I know what you will say,

“GP Uncle, GP Uncle. It is a book right. With a story right? Of course it will have a plot”

Unfortunately, the way things stand today, Engineer + MBA is spelt PLOT for a book. So we have hundreds of manuscripts passing out of Engineering college gates every year, when we should have engineers passing out to do the software coding that keeps our banks running and porn websites up. Today’s books are on the first kiss, on the first date, on the second date, and the khadus principal, and how to date behind the khadus principals back.

Forget the plot; even the basic premise is flawed. Has anyone ever dated in Engineering colleges? And kiss?

But then all engineers cannot be story tellers beyond their viva exams. No matter how less we attend our classes, or how bad we are - our heads tend to get wired in a particular way. The bolt is more important than the way it is bolted. Yet engineers keep writing. And the books keep selling because there are a gazillion of us searching for content that seem to take our mundane lives to something more exciting. If you are as smart as Chetan Bhagat, and you are reading this, write your next book about the Indian Railways. The Wheeler stalls would run out of them even before the presses cool down. You don’t even need to be as gifted as Chetan.

And don’t even let me get started on the MBA bit. The only reason MBAs are getting published so much these days is WAC or the Business Plan courses. Idiots, all of us.

Back to the refreshing Focus Sam. Sam or Sameer Sathe is an accident-prone young man. Once every year he is involved in an accident. When a mystic warns him that the next one would be his last, unless he reconnects with every girl in his life – Sam’s journey to save himself starts.  Even if at times it is repetitive (how Sameer considers every girl the most beautiful thing in the world and how every girl has a big oaf around somewhere), Rohit Gore sketches some of the characters well.  There are real people in the book, with real problems – and thankfully none have to do with an impending exam or pimple. Little mercies.

And Rohit, who seems to have a flair for crisp writing somehow manages to weave the concept of the mystic’s extraordinary warning around ordinary people. It is a difficult trick to pull as a writer, and Rohit does it well. At no point do we doubt what the book is about and if is possible. If there is anything I would like to change about the plot, perhaps one girl less would be it. I can’t even imagine I am saying this, but yes. One girl less would be better.

Sam has a sidekick, called Jai (Nice fanboy touch ) and there are references to lot of good writers, movies and books.  There is an old saying I will just make up, and it goes something like “Trust a writer by the book he reads” and it is evident that the moments when Sam mentions book is actually Rohit mentioning his reading list. And one realizes that the author is reading the right books.  With every subsequent chapter, you realize that the writing and story improves – which is heartening.

The problem with the book, and way readers would approach it is that it would be very easy to see it through the glasses of it being another coming of age tale. If one can get around to the fact that there is a story being told, then one would enjoy it more. And that is why I recommend it. If you are a movie maker, this will make a darn good movie. It has the right does of taking leaps of faith, and enough excitement to fill 90 minutes of reel. Just keep Abhishek Bachan out, ok? What an Idea GP!

The intended audience maybe an issue though. The book is not really for the market which buys books for a light read, or for the serious big glass, satchel hanging, book-on- steroids type. It is somewhere in between. Like you and me, who often start a book and are unable to finish it.

And I guess that is Focus Sam’s biggest USP. It was the first in the last twenty odd books that I bought, which I could read from cover to cover. It was, for the lack of a better word, breezy. Not still and stuffy like the big books that English professor get all sentimental about, or as stormy as a twenty year old writing on how he got laid (which he never did). It is just right. A good starting point to start reading books again. It is perhaps the Honda Jazz of books. Small but with a big heart.

One senses that there are many more stories that Gore has in him, and perhaps this debut novel is just a sign of more substantial works to follow.  I will wait and gladly buy the next one as well, as I burn dozens of chick lit novels that dominates shelf space these days. 

You can buy the book from here. or any leading bookstore.

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