A Starlet, a Conman and a Seedy Street

Jan 26 2013, 03:24 IST
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SummaryA Bollywood-ish mystery set in Bangalore’s underbelly

Book: Mr. Majestic: The Tout of Bengaluru

Author: Zac O’Yeah

Publisher: Hachette

Price: Rs 550

Pages: 290

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 who reminds him of a dead animal, and his droogs. Hari’s trials and trivialities are a romp through the seedy seams of society that seem to survive on little else but booze, sleaze and goat brain. Unable to rid himself of “the pointless male pride that was embedded deep in

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