Jay Malhotra comes a cropper with an investment scheme and finds himself out of a job.
An investment banker turned art market wheeler dealer, a Bengali art expert, a beautiful lethal widow and lurking somewhere a forger — these are the elements of Anurag Tripathi’s latest book Kalayug.
Jay Malhotra comes a cropper with an investment scheme and finds himself out of a job. Through his champagne and jacuzzi lifestyle, he comes to know that the art market is open to manipulation and decides that this is his way to fame and fortune. However his information comes from the cougar Priya Chawla aka Patty and she is furious when he refuses to partner with her but steals her idea and her art expert, the improbably named Biswas Mukherjee.
Given the high paced business world, it is quite obvious that all the characters are manipulative in their own way and the spoils go to the best of the Machiavellians. Kalayug is about simplicity — the only thing that sets it apart is its plot — it takes the art market as its field of operation and bases the story on a news item which came out in Kolkata not so long ago about a failure to authenticate many of Tagore’s paintings and a prominent art historian being discredited as a result.
Whether Kalayug is a thriller or not is debatable — there are gaps of years in between events, so the pace is not as fast as one would expect. Jay Malhotra’s scheme to corner the art market on the Navaratnas of Indian art is a fairly short long term plan but three or four years is a long time span in the thriller world.
To make his background believable, Tripathi packs intervening pages with facts on the art market and historical snippets about the lives of painters — like Tagore’s colour blindness for example which is becoming more and more apparent to modern art critics. Each chapter, in fact seems to unveil a new fact about art and its documentation and the types of people who collect art — more and more these days for money rather than passion.
The cover sets the tone, black and gold with a silhouette looking down on the urban glitter. That silhouette could belong to Jay Malhotra or to the mysterious artists who fail to make it in the trending art world and are forced to find other ways of achieving that five minutes of fame. There is interesting word play in the title — Kalayug for age of art as well as for dark times.
Anjana Basu is the author of Rhythms of Darkness