Book review: Nanavati, the gentleman killer

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By Bhaichand Patel

bachi 2On April 27, 1959, Kawas Nanavati, a young handsome Parsi commander in the Indian Navy, dropped off his wife and three children at the Metro cinema in Bombay. While they watched Tom Thumb at the matinee, he went back to his ship, INS Mysore, and requisitioned a revolver and six rounds of ammunition from its gunnery. He then drove to a posh flat off Napean Sea Road and fired three shots that took the life of Prem Ahuja, a Sindhi bachelor and somewhat of a ladies man. Once the deed was done he handed himself to the police.

The criminal case that followed grabbed the attention of the country like few others have before. It went from the sessions court to Bombay high court, and then all the way to the Supreme Court. It required the intervention of the topmost echelons of power, including the Prime Minister, the defence minister and the admiral of the Indian Navy. These interventions were not necessarily on behalf of justice. During the trial, the accused was put under naval custody, not police lockup. He remained in uniform and continued to receive all the salutes due to a naval officer.

At least two films have been made on this sordid story, none of them any good, and there have also been a number of unsatisfactory books. Now Bachi Karkaria has dug deep and ferreted out details of the case that were previously unknown. She is a master storyteller who keeps us under her spell, beginning to end. In Hot Blood: The Nanavati Case That Shook India reads like a thriller. She keeps her sentences short and simple — no humbug — with an occasional dash of wry humour. It’s a style of writing she learnt at the feet of Khushwant Singh, her editor at the Illustrated Weekly 50 years ago. Read more

Source: The Asian Age

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