Title: 60 Minutes
Author: Upendra Namburi
Number of pages: 361
Price: Rs. 350
60 Minutes by Upendra Namburi is a corporate drama where all the action unfolds within 60 racy, and sometimes chilling, minutes. Primarily a tale chronicling the intense rivalry between Agastya and Sailesh, two Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) at leading FMCGs, it touches upon the other trappings of corporate life with finesse; the thrill of addictive trading in the stock market, the fast cars, spurned women out to avenge hurt, humongous egos, deception and the lust for money, power and hegemony.
Agastya is in the midst of a new product launch, perhaps the most important one of his career, when Maithili, an ex-flame, walks into his office threatening to turn his marital life upside down. Maithili comes with her own share of emotional baggage and it’s almost amusing to see her lose herself, gradually.
Simultaneously, other events in the office and the marketplace, set into motion at various points in his career, threaten to jeopardise Agastya’s professional life. And he has only the next 60 minutes to salvage it all.
The book is set in contemporary Bombay, travelling to other cities occasionally. Although all the action takes place within 60 minutes, the narrative continually shifts into the past to sometimes indicate the context of the current events. Sometimes, it is just additional background information on an individual, occasionally tying a loose end together. It is an intense read, often asking the reader to connect some dots.
While Namburi does a fine job of detailing the characters of the two rival CMOs, replete with their angst and insecurities, some of his other characters are quite vague. They make fleeting appearances and hasty exits, sometimes without an adequate backstory. I also felt that the characters spend too much time ruminating on their thoughts, motives and intentions, taking away from the main plot. There was much telling rather than showing.
It is a complex plot. Namburi attempts to pack in too many details about too many events. I think a slightly less complicated plot with better characterization, particularly of the two women in Agastya’s life, Maithili and Nandita, would have been more effective.
But I enjoyed Namburi’s writing. It is direct, crisp and engaging. However, I did spot some sloppy writing in a few instances though, which some careful editing could have weeded out.
60 Minutes is high on emotions; disappointment, rejection, elation, fear, relief. It is a revealing window into corporate life in India, exposing the slime and deceit in corporate relationships, the oft-shady transactions, the back-stabbing and the vested interests. It would make for a fantastic Bollywood plot, with all the drama, subterfuge and intrigue.
Take your time to relish 60 Minutes. There is much to enjoy in the careful plot that Namburi weaves. You will find shades of yourself and your colleagues in Agastya and his world. And increasingly you’ll find yourself as a voyeur in this corporate action-packed drama.
It is the type of book that you want to curl up with on a lazy weekend and read it at a stretch only because you are impatient to end the suspense, but relish it.
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