Book Review: ‘Johnny Gone Down’
If there was ever someone who deserved a T-shirt that read “Been there, done that,” then it’s Nikhil Arya, the hero in Karan Bajaj’s latest book Johnny Gone Down. He survived the Pol Pot regime, the mafia in Brazil, a monastery in Thailand, created a videogame that sounds exactly like Second Life and a Delhi version of Russian roulette. Plus, he studied at MIT, lost an arm, married a supermodel, has a good head for fund management, and is a martial arts expert. He’s also an idiot, considering the number of times he gets into trouble because of his own faulty judgement.
Johnny Gone Down is written like a Bollywood movie: it makes no sense and hurtles from one catastrophe to another without paying any attention to logic, character development or literary flair. Brazil reads far too much like a slum as portrayed in a Ram Gopal Varma movie, while Steven Seagal appears to be the model for the monk who helps Nikhil in Thailand. Nikhil is a curious combination of Forrest Gump and Rajnikanth’s Sivaji: nothing beats him, despite his stupidity. Bajaj tries to give him gravitas by adding an existential crisis to his already overflowing cup of troubles. Unfortunately, this only serves to make Nikhil sound whiny and repetitive. None of the other characters in the book get much love and attention from the author and exist only to propel Nikhil towards the next disaster.
In Bengali kiddie literature, there is a character called Ghana-da. He is a surly know-it-all and between him and his family members, they’ve done it all: from being there when the Inca civilisation collapsed to scaling the highest Himalayan peak. Witty as the stories outlining these escapades are, they seem rather unbelievable. Next to Karan Bajaj’s Nikhil Arya, however, Ghana-da is entirely credible.
Johnny Gone Down, Karan Bajaj, Harper Collins, Rs99.
Deepanjana Pal is a journalist and the author of The Painter: A Life of Ravi Varma. She is currently developing a keen appreciation for lazy brunches and coffee breaks in Bandra while working on her freelance assignments.