Name: 8 Hours
Author: Upendra Namburi
Publisher: Westland Books
Price: Rs 350
Genre writing in India is still incredibly young. So the early thrillers written by an Indian and set in an Indian landscape still had the influences of classic international thrillers, from James Paterson, Robert Ludlum to Jeffery Archer. Soon, however, adventurous Indian authors made genre writing their own, gaining both popularity and acclaim. Among them, we have of our bestselling authors Ashwin Sanghi and Ravi Subramanian.
With his first novel, If God was a Banker, Subramanian created and perfected the sub-genre of corporate thrillers. With the country’s economy growing, time was ripe for stories set in glitzy boardrooms, with men in suits discussing multimillion dollar deals.
Now author Upendra Namburi, working on the broad template of corporate fiction, has brought his own twist, a real-time deadline. As the template of the plot goes, the protagonist must broker a deal else his entire world would come crumbling down. The stakes are unreasonably high.
In his three novels, Namburi adds a deadline to an already nerve-wracking plotline. In his debut novel, 31, Namburi spreads the shenanigans of a bank in a span of a month. In his next novel, 60 Minutes, the action takes place within an hour. It’s literally a race against time, and it is evident in Namburi’s new novel, 8 Hours.
As the title suggests, we have only eight hours from 1 am to 9 pm. We follow Aratrika Reddy, scion of a multibillion dollar conglomerate, started by her father Madhusudhan Reddy, a powerful and enigmatic businessman with some equally powerful enemies. Now, the company is on the verge of bankruptcy, and Aratrika has just eight hours before their rival, the Rathores, takes over. Add to it an estranged husband and a long-lost lover, and some serious family secrets, we have a potent thriller.
As far as corporate thrillers go, 8 Hours is adequate, if not great. Ironically, however, it’s the race against time element that gives the novel its real zing and ultimately takes away its sting. Each chapter begins with specific time title, and as the novel progresses, we meet different stakeholders doing their respective plotting, and you begin to feel time moving really, really slow, at the convenience of the author. You are expected to suspend your disbelief in such scenarios and you do it to a certain extend.
However, as the morning dawns, all of it, the phone calls, the random meetings between different characters become too much. It also doesn’t help that at intervals, the novel lapses into a flashback mode, breaking its own contrived construction of eight hours.
To his credit, however, Namburi manages to create in Aratrika a portrayed of a real woman in the midst of the high-stake world of men, money and power. Her zeal to prove herself, her doubts and concerns for family brings in much-needed emotional strength to this tale of corporate politics. This, I believe, what makes 8 Hours a great read!