Bhendi Bazaar

Bhendi Bazaar-1
Walk through the darkest alleys of Mumbai’s ugly underbelly with supercop Rita Ferreira as she uncovers a gruesome trail of trafficking, revenge and murder

Words Aninda Sardar
Photography Roshni Manghani

Rita Ferreira is an anomaly. She’s a girl as girl can be with her dresses and her dreams of romance and her vulnerabilities. Yet, she’s a DCP in the Mumbai Police’s homicide department, working alongside some of the toughest most hardened men in the most gruesome circumstances and loves her Jim Beam’s. She’s as at home carrying a clutch as she is wielding a gun. No, Rita isn’t your average Indian woman. She’s also the protagonist of author Vish Dhamija’s book Bhendi Bazaar. 

The story starts when Rita is called in to investigate a random murder that soon turns into a trail of serial killings. The elusive killer is of course always a step ahead of the investigators and to further taunt them, leaves tantalising clues about his own identity. What follows is Rita’s descent into a world of human trafficking and the commercial capital’s red light area as she passionately follows every clue, every evidence in her hunt for the assassin.

The first thing that you find interesting as a reader is the prevalence of a female police protagonist in an Indian context. That’s when you realise that Rita is a trailblazer and follows the traditions of Kate Beckett of the popular TV series Castle and Eve Dallas of J.D. Robb books. I was in fact intrigued enough to pose the question to the author when he spoke to Just Urbane  last month.

Bhendi Bazaar-2
Title – Bhendi Bazaar
Author – Vish Dhamija
Publisher – Harper Collins
ISBN – 9789353572808
Price – Rs 299

“It’s the characters that narrate the story, and not the author. When I thought about writing Bhendi Bazaar, one of my major considerations was: who would tell the story?” Dhamija had told us before explaining that DCP Rita Ferreira was the answer he was looking for. Interestingly, Rita’s creation was a completely organic act and the result of an author’s creative licence rather than any efforts at canny marketing. The rest of the characters in the story also come across as completely organic and entirely believable, including the other principal female character Viviane Casey.

Despite the complexities of the plot, or perhaps because of them, Dhamija links the characters in his thriller with each other. The actions of one impact the lives of another. As a result, there are never any simple answers to even the most rudimentary of questions. It’s almost like a game of mental chess where the reader almost becomes Rita’s shadow, trying to think what she might be thinking, do what she might be doing. The author is also able to create an element of tragedy as the story is told. As a result what you get isn’t a black and white idea of pure evil versus pure good. Instead you get this vast grey of actions and consequences, problems and resolutions.

To be honest, Bhendi Bazaar isn’t elevated literature but more of an entertaining read. And it serves this purpose rather well. There are enough twists in the plot and enough craftiness in the author’s storytelling to keep you hooked till the end even if the culmination of the story actually becomes a tad predictable towards the fag end of this 350-page book. Either way, you will not regret picking this one off the shelves.