This is the second time I got the opportunity to get my hands on Sapan Saxena’s book. The young author who has enjoyed quite an excellent debut with his book Finders, Keepers, now tries to charm his audience with UNNS – The Captivation. Does he succeed? Does he live up to his readers’ expectations? He does/doesn’t. You have to read it yourself to form an opinion on this.
Plot: Unns (definition for dummies like me: An Arabic/Farsi/Urdu word for love, attachment, friendship) – The Captivation is about Atharva Rathod and Meher Qasim and their story of 28 years (my assumption: one year in school, fifteen years of separation, twelve years later.) Okay, it can be 29 as well. (I leave it on the author to correct me.)
So, it starts with an old Atharva Rathod filling another page in his daily diary with a hope that it would be his last entry. In the scene, there’s a small boy whose identity remains undisclosed. Having almost given up his fight against insomnia, he takes out one of his previously written diaries and reads out his story. He talks about his last year in school along with his friends (who hardly have a captivating role to play) and his teen relationship with a girl from his batch, Meher Qasim. Like every school love story, they fall in love with each other and fall out due to pressure by either of their parents. The girl flies away to Germany at her aunt’s place, and the boy grows old to become a RAW officer.
Fast forward fifteen years later, Atharva, one of the best and most trusted RAW officer, is sent on a mission to Germany related to national security. Through mere coincidence or an act of destiny, Atharva and Meher meet again and his ebbed feelings for her rise again. In the process, the mission turns out failure and the military court sentences Atharva to jail for fourteen years.
Fast forward to twelve years further, Atharva procures an early release from jail for his good conduct and law-related reasons. This time, his ex-boss gives him another mission in America (not as an officer though). It is then the child’s identity is revealed, and Atharva decides to take care of him. By the twist of fate yet again, Atharva and Meher find themselves together under one roof. But then, everything has changed between them.
What is their story? Why did they separate? Was their reunion a mere coincidence? The answers lie in the book.
My Take: It is very, very difficult for me to rate this book. As the book starts, one wonders why does the author narrate the story in a manner that is less riveting than his debut book. Why does he use school-boyish kind of conversation? As the pages progress, I realize this is how children from the school usually communicate. One needs to push himself/herself hard to read the school part of the story. The ‘fifteen-years-later’ part is without any doubt, the best part of the book. He brings out a lot of raw emotions, drama, and thrills during this setup. The reader (if alert enough) does find easter eggs in the form of tributes by Sapan to his favourite authors/films. The only con I feel is that the climax could have been much better. The tension set in the middle part fizzles out as the book reaches its climax. Hardcore movie and book buffs can relate many loose instances in the book to movies like Sanam Re for the teenage part, Ek Tha Tiger for Germany part, Champion for the American part. Also Lootera, Harry Potter and Eternal Sunshine (as pointed out by Sapan himself) find their names in the list of tributes paid by Sapan.
What I despise in this book are the characters Atharva (how can he lack outburst in spite of treatment meted on him?) and Meher (possibly the most easy-to-brainwash person as well as a manipulator). And I hate to admit that this book managed to take away my strength and leave me teary-eyed. Sapan scores in emotional quotient. Also, the book would have been easier to read if separate were used for the past and present scenario in all the chapters. (One really gets confused at times to understand the scenes.) Oh! By the way! I never mentioned that Unns is one of the seven stages of love people in serious relationships pass through. The reader understands its meaning as the book ends.
Peace, Poetry and Power.