Book Review: The Tattooed Fakir by Biman Nath


The Tattooed Fakir
Author: Biman Nath
ISBN: 978-1447222859

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The Tattooed Fakir, by Biman Nath, set in 18th century colonial India, attempts to narrate the story of the rebellion against the British rule, by armed Muslim fakirs and Hindu sanyasis of India. I say "attempts to", because the book fails to convince.

Blurb from The Tattooed Fakir:

A young woman – Roshanara – is kidnapped by the village zamindar. The British sahib, owner of the indigo plantation, intervenes, but then takes her as his own mistress. She is not, however, any local woman – she is a fakir’s daughter.

Her fakir father and her husband Asif go to Majnu Shah’s band of fakirs to plead for help in getting her back.

The plot:

In Northern Bengal, during the eighteenth century colonial rule of India, while the villagers are struggling under the atrocities and over-taxation of local zamindars, several Indigo plantations have come up in the countryside. The owner of one such Indigo plantation in Jahangirpur is 'Makhlin sahib' (Ronald MacLean), who is assisted in the plantation work by his French manager, Pierre Gaubert. Pierre and his sister, Anne, had to flee Pondicherry because of the scandal caused by Anne's affair with a local Muslim boy, Yusuf. They are now keeping a low profile in Jahangirpur.

Asif, a young peasant, is married to Roshanara, the daughter of a renowned local fakir, Cherag Ali. The story begins when the local zamindar sets forth his plans to kidnap Roshanara for his lust, but fate takes the woman to Makhlin sahib's house, instead of the zamindar's. Asif and Cherag fakir plan to seek the help of a much-hyped warrior fakir, Majnu Shah, to rescue Roshanara.

The characters:

I have already given a brief outline of all the main characters in the book, except for the protagonist - 'The Tattooed Fakir'. This character is the mixed-race son of Roshanara and Makhlin sahib. An unwanted kid, emotionally insecure, full of rage and confusion. He apparently learns to vent his anger through his arrows, and becomes the prized archer of the band of warrior fakirs, but is not very convincing in the role.

As a matter of fact, all the characters in the book are under-developed and confused. Not a single strong character in the entire plot. So much hype about Cherag Ali and Majnu Shah, but neither of them are shown actually doing anything. Same goes for Asif and Roshanara. Pierre, Anne and MacLean are also portrayed with contrasting characters. It is quite impossible to relate with anybody in the plot. The rebellious skirmishes of the fakirs don't come across as very convincing. And in all of this chaos, the author has also thrown in Tipu Sultan and his innovative 'rocket technology'. (I wouldn't be able to comment on the historic validation of this aspect of the plot, because I'm no historian.)

In short, The Tattooed Fakir promises a lot of action, but consistently fails to deliver it. Roshanara's rescue mission was a complete fiasco, despite the fact that it took almost 7 years to happen! The storyline is shabby, illogical, and as confused as the characters. And the climax is most unimpressive. When I finished reading the book, I couldn't help wonder why it was written at all. Total "damp squib".

My rating: 1.5 out of 5. The Tattooed Fakir, by Biman Nath, was a complete waste of time. The author had a brilliant idea in the making, excellent writing style, and yet, failed to leave his mark.

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Disclaimer: This review is a part of the firstreads program at I received a free copy of this book for reviewing, but that has, in no way, affected my rating and opinions.

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Want to Add Something?

Roshmi Sinha said...

Nice review, will avoid :)

Not everyone can pen an ‘Anandamath’ despite pretensions to the contrary. Have you read it?

Chicky a.k.a. Kaddu said...

No, I haven't, Roshmi :(

Abhiroop Banerjee said...

Brutal, man. I'm never ever showing anything I write to you.

Chicky a.k.a. Kaddu said...

Yeah well read the book and then we'll see if you still feel I have been brutal in my review. Such a waste of a wonderfully good day.

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