Till the last breath by Durjoy Datta tells the story of life from the window of awaiting death round the corner scenario using four central characters and chapters swinging around their lives in separate and mixed narratives. The book its own set of highs and lows just like the life of people it talks of.
From everything that Durjoy has offered in the past, TTLB is the kind of story you would least expect from him. Unlike his immensely successful Deb and Avantika trilogy, TTLB’s central theme is not revolving around relationships, lust, infatuation and modern day college couple’s lives, instead it talks of something much more serious than that – terminal illness and change of life as a consequence of it.
Most of the book is set around the events and turbulence of thoughts experienced in room 509 of GKL hospital where two patients Dushyant Roy and Pihu Malhotra finds themselves facing death. The doctors operating them – Armaan Kashyap and Zarah Mirza are both young, charming and successful in their different ways but as they work on case of Pihu and Dushyant, they find each other facing their respective past demons and get their own lives permanently altered in the process.
I will talk about separate characters and book as a whole in the course of this review further. Dushyant roy is a spoiled young muscular boy, he is an addict and has self destroyed himself while taking substance abuse as a support after things have gone wrong in the course of his life. His jaded girlfriend Kajal Khurana and his past visions of a dysfunctional college life romance with and around her is used to show a picture of why Dushyant is where he is. Their story is written in easy college narrative, using typical Durjoy phrases and slangs of campus life. Insights of Dushyant become predictable and irritatingly repetitive at many instances as there are many drag portions featuring his life and Kajal’s post their separation. Durjoy is less innovative and offers no new substance using their college era narrative in major part of the book and sometime the sudden change of emotions experienced by both of them, donot appear believable. They are too radical and fluctuating if you ask me.
Zarah Mirza, working under Armaan treats Dushyant. There are descriptions about her skin and appearance at various instances and she appears to be cut across as the most visually delightful person in the book. In the first half there are unanswered questions around her immense hatred for men, but those are answered in some predictable ways. Even her sudden too much liking for Dushyant and her possessiveness for him when Kajal re-enters Dushyant’s life is not written in much detailed way. Someone who was brutalized by drunk men cannot solely have a soft change of heart for another drunkard on mere possibility of his painful association with a jaded lover. The entire concept of their liking for each other is too shallow and could have been rewritten in much better ways.
Pihu Malhotra is a medical student. She is too good to face the painful and merciless disease that she gets at a ridiculously young age. She is a bright light in the otherwise dark setting of the first half of book (The second half has everyone bright, who was grey or even pitch dark in the first one – weird!!)
Pihu is my favorite character in the book, irrespective of how cliché her flirting text with operating Doctor Armaan appears to be, there is a heart to it in the right place. She is cute, funny, optimistic and stands for the courageous aspect of facing death in the book. The description of her ways of winking like a child, flirting like an amateur, desire to experience love once before death is all written in simple yet beautiful way. She is a charmer and with her letter at the end of the book, would find place in a soft corner of your heart – much after the book gets over.
Armaan Kashyap is half well cooked and half stale. I could not help but notice how he borrows his first name from a lead character of a hit hindi soap “Dil Mil Gaye”(Armaan Malik, I guess was the name of the doctor there) and how his initial behavior of rudeness and physical build reminds of of Dr. Rahul Mehra in first episodes of Sanjivni on star plus, when in 2004 – Gaurav Chanana used to play his character.
Armaan Kashyap is brilliant and successful, as quoted again and again but he shows too much fluctuation in both his acts as a doctor and a coworker with respects of his scenes with Pihu and Zarah. He is boringly rude and predictably funny and charming in other parts.
One of the key problems of the book is repetition of texts and phrases as well as lack of originality in the inner plots, while a heartwarming ambition on the over all message – much of which is delivered only by one of the four major characters. In the middle somewhere you get sick of repetitive introductions while writer switches between life of these four and again and again tells us the same things about them in the initial lines of each chapter named over them. The concept is crisp and has been followed by master storytellers of commercial fiction like Sidney Sheldon but Durjoy though ambitious, fails to leave much impact in the style he chose because of the maximized things he tries to express using minimal internal visions and subplots. Apart from Pihu, all other characters have somewhat friction stricken relationship with their parents and considerable time has been time to how grateful life can be if your parents love you, something that starkly shapes why Pihu is different from Armaan, Dushyant, and Zarah – and has lesser mood swings and aggressive impulses. For a writer whose mass following is in 18-23 aged readers of young college going crowd is huge, that is an appreciable point to touch in the story which continuously remains close to subject of satisfactory and unsatisfactory diversion of death.
I would give a 3 on 5 to Till The Last Breath by Durjoy Datta - 2 and a half of this is for Pihu Malhotra and her explanations of life and death and half of which is for Durjoy for attempting a change in theme. I expect better things to come from the popular author in days to follow. He is a young publisher of himself and can experience or experiment change in betting upon him again on a different pitch of a story in future again.