The Crime of Reporting

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The Newsroom Mafia by Oswald Pereira, book reviewTo paraphrase a quote from the Sharukh Khan film Don, ‘capturing the Don is not difficult, just impossible’. Oswald Pereira’s Newsroom Mafia explores a perennially fascinating terrain for fans of any kind of Mafia fiction. Pereira used to be a crime reporter in Mumbai before he retired, so he draws on his experiences to tell his story. Newsroom Mafia is the tale of the invincible Don Narayan Swamy and the struggle of ‘supercop’ Donald Fernandez to bring him to book. Narayan Swamy is based on the infamous godfather of Matunga Vardarajan Mudaliar and bears full testimony to the accuracy of the gangster films that crop up in Bollywood. Supporting him the Don has an entourage of journalists who run planted stories in exchange for lucrative remuneration and bottles of scotch.

The story in fact begins with a newsfeed that goes wrong – the Supercop tells his reporter protégée Oscar Pinto, who has the same initials as the author and who is a staffer on the paper Newsroom, that he will be arresting the Don after the paper has been put to bed. He wants the story to run on the front page in the morning, so it is written before the event. Unfortunately, the Don escapes but the story cannot be recalled, so everyone at the paper, particularly Oscar, has egg on their faces.

From this promising beginning, the story of the Don unfolds. Narayan Swamy is a man torn between good deeds and bad – by laundering black money and supporting various charities, he hopes to atone for his murders and gang killings. However, he has no intentions of giving up his lucrative life of crime and his tentacles of corruption in the media run far deeper than those of the police. One of Mumbai’s top industrialists in fact, at one point reportedly had at least 50 star reporters on his payroll. What Pereira emphasizes is how difficult it is for a good reporter on the crime beat to stay uncorrupted. Almost as difficult as it is for a cop.

The result is the tale of cops and robbers that Vikram Chandra explored more vividly in Sacred Games. However, by exploring the subject from the media angle, Pereira manages to put a new slant on a much explored theme, His narrative is racy, but Oscar Pinto, after his promising beginning gets lost in all the plots and subplots and is not developed at all. Then there is the too good to be true Stella Kutty from Narayan Swamy’s hometown in Chennai who materializes to add a slice of sex and sleaze to the story.

What this book deserves is to be made into a film, somewhat along the lines of Page Three, but with a gangland difference. Pereira’s narrative while racy, occasionally scatters so that it becomes difficult to follow the lines of the plot and there are far too many characters to keep pace with. Despite all this, the ending comes as somewhat of a surprise, though it perpetuates the Don’s myth of invincibility. For gang warfare fans the book is a quick easy read that’s just the right length for a flight.

The Newsroom Mafia by Oswald Pereira
Published by Greyoak Westland in India, 2011


Buy book online
Buy book online
Newsroom Mafia, The
by Oswald Pereira

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Written by Anjana Basu
Anjana Basu

Anjana Basu works as an advertising consultant in Calcutta. In 2003, Harper Collins India brought out her novel Curses In Ivory. In 2004, she was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in Scotland where she worked on her second novel, Black Tongue, published by Roli in 2007. In February 2010. her children's novel Chinku and the Wolfboy was brought out by Roli. She writes features for travel magazines and reviews for Indian newspapers.

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