In my review of Ritu Lalit’s book ‘Chakra’, I have mentioned that the book is a pioneer in the genre of urban fantasy based on Indian mythology. I must take back my words from there and say it here now for this is an earlier book, though of course I read ‘Chakra’ before ‘Hilawi”. There is actually lot of similarities between the two books – lead female characters with an attitude, story centering on conflict within magically powerful families and last but not the least – pulse pounding action. While Chakra draws from Raja Yoga, Hilawi draws from the well-known story of Samudra Manthan.
Hilawi has a rather interesting premise – that of humans acquiring some of the objects emerging from the churning of the divine ocean by the Gods and Demons. Hilawi is a shield a human woman acquires out of the churning which brings great power to her descendants. The power makes all her descendants successful in various spheres of life. However, only one female descendant can be the holder of the shield. She would have much greater power than the others and would be the queen of the clan. The protagonist is this female descendant. Like Harry Potter, her parents are killed during her childhood and her grandfather sends her and her brother away to UK to be brought up ignorant of her legacy.
The story starts with her grandfather summoning his grandchildren back fearing his end. The story follows the adventures of the two siblings and the brother’s girlfriend as they discover their legacy. The story is really fast paced as peril awaits them at every step with the rest of the family members seeking to dispatch off the siblings and acquire the complete power of Hilawi for themselves. The story becomes even more complicated with the emergence of a powerful villain from outside. Will the family rally around or play into his hands? Will the siblings and their allies find their way through the maze of intrigue woven by the power hungry family members and powerful external foes? I can’t answer all these questions as that would make this a spoiler. You need to read the book to find answers to these questions.
This is after all a review. So I need to come to the hard part: the verdict. A review after all has no value without the element of judgment. The positives are the pace of narration, the basic premise and the language. Some shortcomings can be seen in the areas of characterization and world building. Also some readers may feel the plot is rather too simplistic for their tastes. But I would say it is just right for fans of Bollywood movies such as Nagin series, Jaani Dusham, Rudraksh etc. Off late we have not had too many such movies coming out from the Bollywood stables. But then things move in cycles and we have seen the revival of genres such as mindless action flicks. So far all we know, this genre might revive as well. If it does, Rutu’s books are ideal picks for any director hunting for the right script. I do hope someday I see Ritu’s books as successful Bollywood movies.