Death in Mumbai by journalist Meenal Baghel is a gripping account of the sensational murder of Neeraj Grover, a successful television executive, who was killed by his lover’s fiancé in her flat in Mumbai in 2008.
The chilling manner in which the cold blooded murder was planned shook the entire nation.
Neeraj’s body was butchered into pieces and later burnt. What unfortunately made this incident even more gory was the media frenzy about the number of pieces his body was cut into than the details which actually mattered.
The effect of the revelation on the public made the criminals seem even more monstrous.
Hailing from Kanpur, Neeraj had come to dream city Mumbai to make it big,like thousands of others who come to this city.
His lover Maria Susairaj was an aspiring Kannada actress, who was boastful and used the opposite sex for sundry gains and her fiancé, Emile Jerome, the upright and handsome navy lieutenant known for his bad temper.
Somehow, Emile does not come across as a cold blooded killer, in the sense that Maria was a manipulator and Neeraj a womaniser.
Baghel’s narrative is engaging and strong and though there is nothing about this case we haven’t heard or seen, the author takes a step further-by involving other people in the accused and the victim’s lives which throws a different light on the murder mystery.
Meenal’s investigation includes interviewing Ekta Kapoor which gives you a glimpse of her crazy lifestyle (Neeraj Grover used to work for Balaji Telefilms), Moon Das, an actress who was approached to play Maria Susairaj in a film and Ramgopal Varma, who took the story to the big screen.
An entire chapter has been dedicated to Moon Das.
Her life too was struck by tragedy where a jealous lover had barged into her home and shot dead her uncle and mother.
Apart from killing and investigation details, the book delves into everything-Neeraj’s personal life, his career, Maria and her background including her relationship with her previous lovers, conversations with Emile’s Navy friends.
The extensive fieldwork by the author gives an indepth understanding of the case which otherwise was always considered an openand- shut-case without any complications.
Meenal met and gained impressions from friends, associates, colleagues, roommates, neighbours, police and a psychologist. The highlight of the story lies in the details-interrogation, confession and finally the trial.
The finer details relating to the investigations carried out by the Mumbai police led by Rakesh Maria (reknowed for his ‘gut feel’), then the Joint Commissioner of Mumbai Crime Branch, in cracking the case makes for a good read.
It was refreshing to see how Mumbai police are shown cracking the case efficiently when generally police get a bad rap.
The book provides an understanding of the milieu that shaped the characters and what drove them to such lengths, to do what they did.
The author gives us the background about traumatised parents left behind who can’t believe that their “dutiful son or daughter” could do anything wrong, let alone some gruesome or immoral act.
The part where Neeraj’s father goes around the city helplessly looking for his son, after he goes missing, is heartbreaking.
The book is, hard-hitting, well structured which gives you a detailed account of the entertainment industry in Mumbai and reveals the other side of our modern urban existence that is horrendous.
Meenal’s writing is honest, precise, unbiased and she manages to ask the right questions. We found the book simply unputdownable. The book launch took place recently at the Reliance TimeOut outlet in Mantri Square.