Book: Mr. Majestic: The Tout of Bengaluru
Author: Zac O’Yeah
Price: Rs 550
Hari Majestic is a knight in a polyester shirt and rubber chappals. Only he doesn’t know it. Punctured with relentless desi humour and splattered with gobs of dirt from the dissolute underbelly of urban Bangalore, Mr. Majestic: The Tout of Bengaluru is a mystery spun around a small-time crook hooked to the internet and its million scams. An orphan raised and schooled in the wicked ways of the world by Uncle Mamool, a big-mouthed drunk, Hari makes a living fleecing foreigners, whom he likens to “Hotmail accounts”, password-protected but not immune to a good hacker. And he fancies himself to be one, hacking away at their dollars until, one day, his con artist personality crumbles around him like a wet biscuit. When hired to find a missing wannabe starlet he unwittingly wronged, he dives right into the scene, a hero who does “the right thing”. Nothing else matters: not the shaming fact that he got conned into accepting the job, or worse, the prospect of dying a virgin.
It’s a narrative so filmi, you almost expect a song-and-dance sequence. What you do get is a taste of Bollywood: burly hit men, car chases, albeit featuring white Ambassadors and retrofitted autorickshaws, suitcases full of freshly Xeroxed money, an undercover burqa routine, and a model in a bikini who is Hari’s damsel in distress. Despite the suspension of disbelief that is necessary here, it is a trip worth taking.
Set in a Bangalore where everything is dirty — “999 per cent fishy”, as the English-speaking Hari says — the mystery of who kidnapped the starlet, an American of Indian origin named Madhuri, drags a little, unravelling with a twist towards the end. Jane Griffin, who approaches Hari pretending not to know him, claims to be Madhuri’s sister and hires his detective services while also double-crossing him. Hari, being a self-styled “hero headed for doom”, is determined to save Madhuri — from a wasted boyfriend, from the clutches of the south Indian porn industry, from Mr Rhino, a notorious goonda