Author– Vikas Khanna
Book– The Last Color
Previous Works– A Tree Named Ganga
Publishers– Bloomsbury India
Number of Pages– 246
It’s Holi, 2012, the Hindu festival of spring, and back in Varanasi after twenty years, a young advocate is celebrating a nation-wide Supreme Court order against an age-old tradition of social injustice meted out to the destitute widows of India – to whom even the simple joys of color were denied.
It was in this city that, twenty years ago, Choti, a sassy, tight-rope walker befriends an old widow, Noor. As a member of the ashram, she lives a life of complete abstinence, but her young friend’s innocent exuberance and joy of life fills her with renewed hope.
The two form an unlikely bond, with Noor looking out for Choti, inspiring her to ‘fly high’ by seeking an education and fighting for her rights with dignity. Choti listens enraptured by the memories her friend shares: of playing Holi dressed as Radha, the consort of Lord Krishna, and flinging great bursts of her favorite pink-colored gulal into the sky. Choti promises her that they will play the next Holi together.
But then, one night, another friend of Choti’s, Anarkali, is murdered by the heinous police chief and his goons. Being the only witness to her murder, Choti is imprisoned on the eve of Holi. Everything falls apart in the ensuing chaos.
Will Choti be able to keep her promise of playing Holi with Noor?
Pitting the smoke rising from the funeral pyres of Manikarnika Ghat, against the joyous color-bursts of Holi celebrations, Vikas Khanna’s marvellously layered story of the survival of a delicate friendship, is brilliantly told and poignantly life-affirming.
The Last Color, by Vikas Khanna, is the story of Noor, the light that never let the burning desire to fly, in the heart of a street urchin, to die out. Choti, an abandoned child, in the streets of Varanasi, in the early 90s, walks on the rope to earn her food. Her life takes a turn, when her tamasha partner, Chintu, runs away, taking her share of the earnings with him. The little child, meets an old widow, during her bouts of rage and becomes friends with her. Choti’s friend, Anarkali, a transgender who was her only ally, after Chintu, goes missing. Afraid of losing everyone she cared about, Choti wishes to fly away and not be invisible anymore, but then, fate has other plans when Anarkali returns and there are a serious turn of events in the life of Choti.
Vikas Khanna’s The Last Color, is not only a beautiful story of hope, but also the tale of suffering of those who comprise of the invisible on the banks of the river Ganga. The characters are the most precious asset of this book. Two orphans who wish to have a life, a transgender, a widow, a woman who never wishes to mother a devil, a woman who lives to bring justice, you get read a set to admire.
One of the biggest treasures of this book, are its characters. Every single positive character is placed in such a creative way, that they do not even seem out of place. It seems like it’s the best the plot could provide. The story is touching, the reader is definitely going to shed a tear of two, when Noor gets her holi.
The book has a good narrative, the ambience of Varanasi has been effectively described, though at times it felt a bit too descriptive and overdone.
The cover portrays Neena Gupta, bathed in pink colour, her smile, so genuine, so beautiful, that it has the potential to attract the readers who judge a book by its cover, something I am guilty of doing as well.
The title has a beautiful explanation to it, when Noor describes Choti, about the last color of human existence, the one that she would choose to be her favourite.
There are certain pictures in the book, that were taken during the shoot of the movie, I must say that the people chosen to play the characters in the book, certainly provide a satisfactory face to be imagined while reading the book.
Cover- 4 stars
Title- 4 stars
Blurb- 3 stars
Plot- 4 star
Writing and Presentation- 3.5 star
Overall- 3.7 stars out of 5
The book takes the reader back in time, when choti was a small orphan and after that, it becomes easy to predict the story.
The blurb is way too descriptive, and gives too many spoilers, the book would have been boring for me, had the characters not been so enrapturing.
There were times when Choti seemed too mature to be a little girl, and then there were the times when she behaved as her age, as a little girl. The balance of words, that could have been maintained in order to make Choti innocent and yet experienced, was somewhat compromised.
I will be eagerly waiting for the movie on this book.
Reviewed by- Banaja Prakashini
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About Vikas Khanna-
Vikas Khanna is a Michelin Star Chef and James Beard Award nominee. He is the host of MasterChef India, Twist of Taste and Mega Kitchens on National Geographic. He has also appeared on television with Gordon Ramsay, Martha Stewart and Bobby Flay.
He is the creator of the Holy Kitchens documentary series and Kitchens of Gratitude which have been screened at The White House and several film festivals and universities around the World.
The Last Color is his first work of fiction, which he then went on to make into his first full-length feature film.