11 May, 2021

Precisely, Shama

Precise, ironic, engaging. A stylist who could unravel a whole tangle of relationships with a telling phrase, the complex world of traditions and incoherent modernity through a tiny gesture.

Precisely, Shama
Frontiers, which opens this collection of Shama Futehally’s short fiction, is one of the most gripping long short stories I’ve read in a long time. It is, we are told, an incomplete novel. But even in its present state, it makes for a perfectly crafted novella, and a terrifying one. Since it is based on the tragedy at the Uphaar cinema in Delhi a few years ago, the reader knows the actual course of events and I rather think Futehally meant the story to end where it does. It begins innocuously enough, with a young couple on their first date in a cinema hall, groping toward each other in the flickering darkness, surrounded by a noisy group of school children. The narrative then ‘cuts’ to the rather dubious goings-on in the building’s parking lot. ‘Cut’ is the apposite word since Futehally constructs the narrative through cinematic montage; sequences of events are placed ‘parallel’ to each other with the narrative cutting back and forth, building up slow, relentless suspense.

The events of the next couple of hours—and...

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