Humour is a very difficult genre to write. There is a fine balance between making crass jokes and actually creating laugh-out-loud jokes. And perhaps, the best kind of humour is the one that is developed with the plot in mind, the one they call situational comedy. On any scale, the highest point would be occupied by P.G. Wodehouse and on the other end, you would find any number of pretentious writers who think a couple of below the belt jokes makes them excellent comedians. NOT.
Vedashree Khambete’s There May be an Asterisk Involved is firmly on the higher end of the scales in terms of humour. In fact, even when you read the blurb at the back, you know that this is going to be a very good read. Of course, there have been many a time when the actual book itself was nowhere close to the blurb; this was, thankfully, one that lived up to its promise. The entire book was laugh out funny and there was no part of it where you felt bored or wanted to skip through the pages.
The story revolves around Ira Bhat, who is a copywriter at J. McCarthy, which is one of the country’s leading advertising agencies. Ira Bhat finds herself trying to negotiate all the pitfalls that come, trying to make a successful career in advertising. Along with friends/colleagues, Aditi and Sameer, she deals with all the office politics, ex-boyfriends, bosses, ex-wives of bosses, office rumours, etc. while still trying to maintain her sanity.
The comedy that is created in There May be an Asterisk Involved is clean and yet hilarious. While most humour books follow one character and put him/her in impossible and clumsy situations to generate the laughs, the author had no need for such a crutch. What she does is try to tell a story, and let the plot and her writing skills create the intended humour. No part of the book feels as if the situation has been forced and there is a smooth tempo throughout. You will feel for Ira as she goes through a maze of complicated scenarios that she faces, and laugh with her when the pointlessness of it all hits you.
Another plus point for this book is that you get a peek inside the world of an advertising agency. While for most of us outsiders, advertising may look like a glamorous job where you get to meet and greet with the celebrities, the author shows what it actually is like when you are not exactly a big wig in the industry. You will get to know all the pains that the copywriters and the art directors have to go through to create one ad for the client, and how, with just one wave of the hand, your grand idea can be thrown into the dustbin. Also, where needed, the author provides explanations for jargons that people outside the industry may not understand, and even that is done in a funny way.
Usually, when it comes to comedy, I am very critical and do not generally like most of them. But it is hard to find fault in this book. While the character development is not exactly off the charts, the point of There May be an Asterisk Involved is to have a laugh, and the 200 odd pages do complete justice.