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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The 65 Lakh Heist

Surender Mohan Pathak

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To purchase The 65 Lakh Heist

Title: The 65 Lakh Heist
Author: Surender Mohan Pathak
Genre: Novel
Written: 1077 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 208 pages
Original in: Hindi
Availability: The 65 Lakh Heist - US
The 65 Lakh Heist - UK
The 65 Lakh Heist - Canada
  • Hindi title: पैंसठ लाख की डकैती
  • Translated and with an introduction by Sudarshan Purohit
  • Includes a Glossary

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Our Assessment:

B : reasonably gripping small-time thriller

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The main character in The 65 Lakh Heist is named Vimal, but at the beginning of the novel, "Here in Amritsar, he was Ramesh Kumar Sharma". At other times he's been:

Surender Singh Sohal of Allahabad, or Vimal Kumar Khanna of Bombay, or Girish Mathur of Madras, or Banwarilal, the tonga-wala from Delhi.
       He's working as a driver, laying low because he's a wanted man and can't afford to be recognized. He has quite a track record: as one fellow-criminal notes admiringly:
In our profession, you’re a big gun all right. At such a young age, you’ve successfully pulled off crimes no one else in India has dared to try. The embezzlement at Eric Johnson in Allahabad; the breakout from jail; Lady Shanta Gokuldas’s murder in Bombay; the robbery of fifty-five lakhs in Madras; the sensational fifty lakh bank van hold-up in Delhi.
       Vimal's story apparently isn't quite as straightforward as this goon thinks, as:
Ever since Allahabad, where his wife Surjeet Kaur and her lover had conspired to get him jailed for embezzlement, fate had been playing cruel games with him.
       And once Vimal has been recognized by Mayaram Bawa he finds himself again forced to get involved in a criminal enterprise, though he'd much rather steer clear of it.
       Mayaram has a plan -- to rob a bank, where the minimum haul they can expect is a whopping fifty lakh (one lakh is a hundred thousand, so fifty is five million -- a lot, even in rupees) -- and he wants Vimal on his team. Reluctantly, Vimal joins the motley crew, which includes such characters as the hard-drinking Sardar Labh Singh, a.k.a. Matar-Paneer (because of his fondness for matar-paneer).
       The first half of The 65 Lakh Heist is a bank-heist story, from organizing the crew to getting the information necessary to pull off the job to putting the plan into action. If parts are somewhat unlikely -- while the bank is well-guarded, there are no guards in the building itself during the night, and the vault they want to cut into has a door two and a half feet thick -- it's still pretty well presented, from the guard who reluctantly supplies information to the actual carrying out of the plan.
       Of course, as Vimal expected, Mayaram isn't as keen to share in the proceeds as agreed once the job is finished, and things go sour (and people wind up dead) in quick succession. And The 65 Lakh Heist becomes a cat-and-mouse game, as Vimal is both on the run and in a chase, wanting to make Mayaram pay (and hand over the cash). Matters also get complicated -- and dangerous -- when the notorious dada, Harnam Singh Garewal, whom Mayaram has worked for, gets involved, as Vimal seeks him out to find Mayaram but Garewal decides he wants a piece of the action, too.
       Vimal is quick on his feet, but still finds himself drawn into this ugly and violent business. But, as he tries to explain:
I’m just an ordinary man who’s been kicked around by fate too often.
       The 65 Lakh Heist is part of a series, and if Vimal doesn't quite walk into the sunset the loner-hero does walk out of a garage, "with a grim smile on his face", in the satisfyingly open-ended finale, ready to be buffeted by fate again in the next volume.
       The 65 Lakh Heist is uneven, tripping over itself a bit in the chase-half, after the more deliberate build-up to and around the heist itself. The comic elements and romantic (or at least sexual) encounters aren't integrated too well either, but the occasional female touch does help -- as does the figure of the security guard, Karnail Singh, who gives the gang the inside information and is the best-drawn character in the story.
       Overall this is a solid, fast-paced thriller that offers a few true thrills and is an enjoyable read. A bit simple and unpolished, it's nevertheless quite good fun.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 April 2010

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Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Surender Mohan Pathak (सुरेन्द्र मोहन पाठक) is an enormously popular Hindi-writing author. He was born in 1940.

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