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From small-time extortionists to dreaded dons

From small-time extortionists to dreaded dons
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Why should “Mumbhais” have all the fun, the book seems to ask. ‘The Bhais of Bengaluru’ prove to be no less proficient in “bhaigiri” than their Mumbai...

Why should “Mumbhais” have all the fun, the book seems to ask. ‘The Bhais of Bengaluru’ prove to be no less proficient in “bhaigiri” than their Mumbai cousins. But they are a tad different breed, probably because they are operating in a slightly diverse culture and city. And Jyoti Shelar does a great job of capturing the stories of both the gangsters and the city itself.

What makes the book fascinating is the amount of research that has gone into it. We get to know the circumstances under which the main characters emerged and thrived, the specific incidents which pushed them into notoriety, and the intricate plotting and planning that goes into their deeds.

All this makes for a densely packed book, filled with power struggles, backstabbing and ego issues. We also get a fascinating insight into the psychology of these gangsters. We can see the conflict playing out not just between the gangsters, but within each of them too. For example, the gangsters of Bengaluru can be ultra-violent and gruesome when they need to be, but they also want to be seen as do-gooders by the society. And they seem to be able to walk this paradox pretty well.

The story of the gangsters is nested within the story of Bengaluru. The author does a brilliant job of setting up the context from which these gangsters operate, and it gives you a better perspective of the whole phenomenon of rowdyism. We see how the seat of power moves from the wrestling arenas to political organisations, then to the cabarets of Brigade Road, and ultimately to a plush real estate and newspaper offices. In some ways, the rise of these gangsters overlaps with the rise of Bengaluru.

The main characters of this book are MP Jayaraj, Muthappa Rai, Shiva ‘Oil’ Kumar, Agni Sreedhar, Kotwal Ramachandra, Faiyaz Ahmed and a policeman named Ashok Kumar a.k.a Tiger. There are a lot of other small characters who add chutzpah to the narrative. And like crossover episodes of a TV series, the Mumbai dons also make appearances in the book. A very important part of the conflict between Chhota Rajan and Dawood Ibrahim was influenced by the Bhais of Bengaluru, and Muthappa Rai takes help from Dawood to carry out a major assassination.

The book makes for an entertaining and insightful read, and not just for Bengalurians. Certainly a bang for your buck.

By:Navin Pivhal

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