Book Review: Sahara – The Untold Story


Sahara – The Untold Story, at first glance, seems like an attempt to cash in on the newsworthy sordid mess that Subrata Roy’s affairs have become… but at first glance only. As one begins reading the book, it becomes apparent that Tamal Bandyopadhyay, a career journalist, not only has done meticulous research to write the book – including interviews with several of the key players including Subrata Roy himself – but also manages to write about Sahara and the RBFC (Residual Banking Finance Company) sector with a steady journalistic hand.

Bandyopadhyay leads one through the complex maze that Sahara was, is and has become – a gigantic conglomerate encompassing 4799 entities – all of whom have been (seemingly) created with the sole purpose of dodging one regulator or the other. In Bandyopadhyay’s words, ‘Roy is an entrepreneur who, when the regulator closes one door, opens another.’ Bandyopadhyay describes, in a style that reminded me of Michael Lewis’ non fictional financial sector thrillers, how Roy has managed to dodge one regulator or regulation or law after the other and stay afloat.

What reminded me most of Michael Lewis was the almost painstaking detail with which Bandyopadhyay painted all of the central and some of the peripheral characters; he even went ahead and devoted a whole section of the book to describing the lives, careers and character quirks of the various officials belonging to the SEBI, RBI, Supreme Court, Sahara, Peerless (another Residual Banking Finance Company like Sahara), etc. Also what I loved about the book was that one could almost always feel the palpable tension in the room whenever the regulators (SEBI/ RBI) met the regulated (Sahara/ Peerless).

What slows the book down somewhat is poor editing; in fact in places, the book almost reads like a thesis submission. There are pieces that are repeated thrice in the book and some sections are completely unnecessary. At a hundred pages too long, crisper editing could have made the book a breezier read; instead it seems fit to be the work of a first timer. (Though this is not Bandyopadhyay’s first work; this happens to be his third.)

What works for the book: Bandyopadhyay’ keen journalistic curiosity, his innate ability to tell a story and the fact that decent non fiction financial thrillers are rare in India.

What doesn’t work for the book: The book is slightly disjointed and one feels Bandyopadhyay could have told the story in one go instead of dividing it into various sub-sections. Also, sometimes the financial jargon gets a tad too loaded; so people without a degree in economics or MBA might find a chapter or so too heavy to read.

Even so, Sahara – The Untold Story is a decently good non fiction book that reads, at times, like a thriller.

Title: Sahara – The Untold Story
Author: Tamal Bandyopadhyay
Publisher/ Imprint: Jaico Books
Pages: 412
Genre/ Sub-Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 3.00 of 5
Reviewed for: Publisher

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