The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan
The enchanting new Baby Ganesh Agency novel sees Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick investigating the dark side of Bollywood.
Mumbai thrives on extravagant spectacles and larger-than-life characters.
But even in the city of dreams, there is no guarantee of a happy ending.
Rising star and incorrigible playboy Vikram Verma has disappeared, leaving his latest film in jeopardy. Hired by Verma’s formidable mother to find him, Inspector Chopra and his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, embark on a journey deep into the world’s most flamboyant movie industry.
As they uncover feuding stars, failed investments and death threats, it seems that many people have a motive for wanting Verma out of the picture.
And yet, as Chopra has long suspected, in Bollywood the truth is often stranger than fiction…
This novel is the third in the Chopra and baby Ganesha series. It is set in modern-day Mumbai and it is easily one of my favourite series. I read the second novel whilst in hospital with severe DVT. I was bedbound and in agony, yet when I opened the book I was able to completely escape. This series transports you to India and with the clever plot, keeps you engaged in the plot and the characters.
So here goes for my review. . .
Inspector Ashwin Chopra is back! His wife Poppy’s heart is filled with love and happiness due to addition to their family Irfan. Poppy really develops as a character within this novel. It is brilliant to see her becoming a more central character in the series. I am a huge fan of Poppy, she just comes across, so incredibly well to readers.
Poppy has convinced Chopra to take her to see a local Bollywood show. The show will feature a comedian Jonny Pinto and notorious Bollywood playboy Vikram ‘Vicky’ Verma. There is a magical disappearing and re-appearing act, which leaves Chopra with a bee in his bonnet!
‘He had met many privileged individuals in his life – so often their lives were shadowed by unhappiness’
Shortly after the show, Chopra is intrigued to learn that Vicky has been confined to his house by a mysterious illness. Then Chopra finds himself summoned to Vicky’s mother’s exclusive residence in the Malabar Hill area. He learns from Bijli (Vicky’s mother) that Vicky has gone missing with no trace of his whereabouts. The set of his latest Bollywood movie is on standby until he returns.
‘This was India, after all, where the impossible became merely improbable’
Bijli Verma is quite the Bollywood sensation herself. She was a huge star and gained a cult following, until raising a family with her husband Jignesh Verma became her sole priority. Bijli is regarded as outspoken and brave. Often courting controversy in her wake and not afraid to stand up to the right-wing organisations in India’s political circuit. Bijli is not a woman that can be controlled, dominated or told. But now she finds herself in a difficult position. With her son missing and a movie backed by the Indian Global Bank. Bijli can not turn to the police force and needs complete discretion. Chopra finds himself in-charge of his most glamourous case to date!
Chopra begins his investigation by meeting with the various professionals in the Bollywood movie scene. He discovers that Vicky is not well liked. He may have the looks, style, wealth and playboy image but that doesn’t always generate the right kind of attention. Described as ‘mentally unstable’ and a loner, Chopra is coming to see a different side to Vicky altogether.
‘That boy collects enemies like the rest of us make friends’
Chopra is informed of a series of threatening notes sent to Vicky. With one sent on the first day of each month and signed from ‘the people’s judge’. Is this a simple ransom demand? If so where is the demand?
Chopra also learns from assistant director Farukh Mehboob in film city, that he was forced to hire Vicky at his mother’s demand via producer P.K Das. The only person that Chopra can establish as a friend of Vicky’s is fellow Bollywood starlet Poonam Panipat.
‘Bollywood is a nest of vipers, and what vipers feed on is the milk of scandal’ Poonam Panipat
When Poonam explains to Chopra the inner workings of the Bollywood elite, he comes to see that it is far from its glamorous image held in the public eye. Chopra is further shocked, when Poonam recounts exactly how she got her break in the movie industry.
It’s not just Hollywood, that holds its shady and seedy secrets.
‘Revenge has its consequences, not just on those it was extracted upon’
As Chopra continues his Bollywood case. Across Mumbai his right-hand man, Abbas Rangwalla has a unique case of his own. Rangwalla has been asked by close friend Gerry Fernandes to investigate the eunchs of Mumbai. It is a case that will challenge everything he previously believed in.
At Chopra and Poppy’s residence, Irfan comes to the rescue of a homeless woman. Who in return, saves Poppy’s sanity! Chopra’s business and home life continues to thrive, thanks to Poppy.
Bijli receives a ransom demand for 20 million rupees, with threats to return Vicky in pieces if she fails to comply. The case of the missing Bollywood star, is heating up and a mother would do anything to protect her son, wouldn’t she?
‘The best way to get your head shot of was to stick it above the parapet’
As Chopra tries to assist Bijli with the ransom demand, he finds more unanswered questions and will come up against an old nemesis. Chopra’s will find his opinions on justice and power are fundamentally challenged.
‘A lifetime of policing had taught him that the word of a criminal was worth nothing’
The plot takes you on a journey through the Bollywood industry. Where stars will sell their soul to the devil for fame and status. The novel also has some strong emotional themes. The theme of parenting and raising offspring is a central theme. For a series that never boasts of having the ‘perfect couple’, Poppy and Chopra certainly are one!
The novel builds to a dramatic ending, layered with thought-provoking moments and a deep sense of unconditional love.
For me, this proves that Chopra is one of the finest diverse series.
‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’ Gandhi
Coming Soon. . . . . .
Murder At The Grand Raj Palace
In the enchanting new Baby Ganesh Agency novel, Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick investigate a murder at Mumbai’s grandest hotel.
For a century the iconic Grand Raj Palace Hotel has welcomed the world’s elite. From film stars to foreign dignitaries, anyone who is anyone stays at the Grand Raj.
The last thing the venerable old hotel needs is a murder…
When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead – the day after buying India’s most expensive painting – the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Chopra is called in – and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead.
Accompanied by his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, Chopra navigates his way through the palatial building, a journey that leads him steadily to a killer, and into the heart of darkness . . .
Due for release 3rd May 2018 #CantWait