What should I expect from a novella titled Bollywood Sperm? Anything Bollywood by itself is packed with controversy, spice, and silliness. Add Sperm and it becomes potent, ready to re-produce within you. Nikhil Tripathi’s first published work is good storytelling. An easy read that does not fail to raise uneasy questions. That said, this is not great writing. The dialogues are witty and entertaining, but there is nothing here, in terms of mechanism that has not already been done to death before. This is a clever book, not a classic. And maybe that is what the author meant it to be. Reason demands the question, “Is this far-fetched and almost fantastical?” Something tells me that if the sperm of a Bollywood mega-star were to become available, there will be takers. Sad, but true.
Nikhil packed a lot of re-readable sequences into this novella. I enjoyed the many shades and swings of the character of Farrukh Khan. I would prefer to see more layers in other characters but did not find any. Everyone else in the story is painted in monotone. They are either always greedy, always sad, always scheming or something along those lines. Maybe I am expecting too much within these few pages. A few other reviewers find Sumit to be a champion. I see him as a disaster. A loser who is clinging to a baby to find redemption. He marries a woman he lusts for when she is having a weak moment. Not much is said about his professional life but it seems it isn’t going anywhere. He then agrees to have his wife bear Farrukh’s baby. Okay, he does not see the baby as ugly. Unfortunately, that may not be because he is an evolved soul but simply because the baby is not demanding him to man up. He evokes pity in me and that, I know for myself, is not a positive. Sumit’s wife, Priya Kumar, Star Seed employees, and the Judge are all villains thrown in to further the plot.
The real hero here is Farrukh. Complex and charismatic, I find his character to be fascinating. He is more honest than anyone else in the story. Also enjoyable are the passages where Farrukh duels with his son, Salim.
I would rate this first novella at 3.5 / 5
Certain features/passages of the novella delighted me while some others were disappointing. Spoiler alert!
- The pilot program description left me with some very industrial images. A nicely ‘engineered’ delight J
- The lab scene in the commercial is pulp fiction taking a satirical jab at real life.
- “As you all know, babies conceived in cold weather are likely to be fair and attractive.” Wait, is that true? LOL
- The conception sequence left me smiling.
- “Sir, all the brands endorsed by you,” said Sumit. “Please take something.” Oh, how I’d love to see this put to film so that I can see Sumit’s and Farrukh’s expression.
- Sumit’s reason for not having sex with his beautiful wife was like seeing a beautiful flower along an evening walk. A moment of stillness, pondering, grief, and wisdom.
- The cover, by editor Sonal Gupta, does complete justice to what is inside.
- The use of “Idiot” by the judge is not a true representation. Indian judicial system is known to be many things not good, but I doubt a judge can get away with such language. This kind of put me off. Is the author falling into the trap of providing too much spice?
- Twice is the “…err…” trick used to depict humor. An easy device that left me cringing.
- Description of Sumit’s house is overly pulled down. Make everything look bleak and gain some sympathy device? Did not go well with me; need more realism here.
- Why would Farrukh say “Shall we go for a walk?” when he is going to such lengths to hide his identity? Seems like the author wanted us to draw the image of Farrukh and Sumit taking a walk.
- Sumit’s use of flat out party style English does not blend with his character. I simple cannot imagine this person blurting out sentences like: (1) “Of course,” said Sumit. “Just holler when you’re done talking.” and (2) “And the toolbox is in perfect working order.”
- “The baby chewed on the stem of the sunglasses that he had been given, wondering what the fuss was about.” Too Bollywoodish and needless.
- A dramatic Scene I. Maybe a little too dramatic for my taste, but entertaining nonetheless.
- Inexplicably, the description of Farrukh Khan reminds me of Elvis. The Shahrukh connection is not lost thought.
Nikhil and I go back a long way, some 19 odd years now. While Bollywood Sperm is his first published work, I have had the pleasure of reading him for many years now. For a first novella, Bollywood Sperm is very good. But I am not going to let him off easily, am I? :) I have found his short stories to be extremely well written. In my opinion, they leave this novella looking ordinary.