Safi Sizzles - A Review of the book "The Dangerous Man" Contd
by Geetashree Chatterjee
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Safi‘s supporting characters are majorly used as props to escalate suspense and thrill but pale in significance when it comes to adding weightage to the climactic content. I refer here to Durdana, a mysterious beauty, who pops in and out of the Act, providing unexpected twists and turns to the story. The author, having introduced her as the heroine (of the first novella, “Mysterious Screams”),conveniently side-lines her later in his pre-occupation with his pampered idol, Imran. There are side-kicks to lend comic relief like Hoopoe who takes exaggerated offence to whatever he considers a slight on his aristocratic antecedents– a pointer at those who are still caught up with their past/lineage?
Safi succeeds in creating a multi-layered persona in Moody, the firangi, with a blind infatuation for antiquated glory – a reminder of the early British seafarers who came to the sub-continent with mercenary gains in mind, to be soon bedazzled by the opulence and grandeur of the ruling aristocracy – we may still find many Moodys right in our midst even this day. Moody’s alcoholism and eccentricities, his intermediate spells of fickle lucidity, Imran’s impatience with him and the resultant brawls between them, are perhaps indicative of Safi’s personal biases.
Roshi, the heroine of the second novella “A Dangerous Man” is gutsier and more realistic. There are varied shades to her character. She is inviting at first, then intrigued by the mysterious “Parrot”, nervous and diffident in danger yet showing sparks of courage as and when required. Safi’s heroines are not exactly dainty weaklings.
Considering the genre, the spotlight may as well be diverted on the rogues. While in “A Dangerous Man” the villain is perpetually in the shadow pulling the strings from behind till the last Act, in “Mysterious Screams” hisexistenceis vindicated by underhand acts ofvandalism.One does not know who to suspect and the one you rest your finger on, Safi ensures to exonerate him of all charges, in one swift move. About the Author :
Asrar Ahmed wrote under the pen name of Ibn-e-Safi at first from India (1940s), and later migrating to Pakistan (Karachi 1952), after having incurred the suspicions of the Authorities of subversive activities in the independence and post-independence period. His major creation is the 125 book series Jasoosi Duniya (Spy World) and 120 book Imran series achieving massive popularity and readership across South Asia. In the early 60s he suffered a bout of severe depression (some say Schizophrenia!) but recovered soon to write more best-sellers. Interestingly, during the 70s, he is said to have unofficially assisted the Inter-Service Intelligence of Pakistan on methods of detection. He died in 1980 of Pancreatic Cancer.What Others have to say:
The noted lyricist and script writer Javed Akhtar says, "Safi’s novels created an imaginary city that could have been the San Francisco of the 50s in India. His penchant for villains with striking names like Gerald Shastri and Sang Hi taught me the importance of creating larger-than-life characters such as Ghabbar and Mogambo as a scriptwriter.” The statement is a sweeping survey of Safi’s works, an indicator of his stylization, his bent towards dramatization, an easy influence on mainstream Hindi Cinema.
Dawn, the Pakistani Daily, writes about Safi, ”The stories give modern day readers (particularly younger people) a sense of what Karachi was like in the 60s with its Night Clubs, Discotheques and Casinos.”
For urbanites, used to Western stereotypes, the suddenness of Safi’s style, his quaint expansion of plot, his playfulness with words, the almost bizarre storytelling and the fascinating manner in which he binds his wayward pen with one mighty chord, the climax,may perhaps be unsavoury to many but is nevertheless absolutely individual and hard to imitate. It is when you think the mystery will never be resolved that Safi springs a surprise end.
Regional literature generally remains obscure in want of masterful translation. Again success of a translation lies in the quantum of interest it is able to stir in the reader for the original. Taimoor Shahid does a wonderful job of it with elan.One wants more of Safi from him.
A hell of a roller coaster ride, picking up Safi, may spice up your addiction for this particular genre.