The Wedding Photographer by Sakshama Puri Dhariwal is a light and breezy read that will make you smile throughout and laugh out loud at many places. For readers who love a frothy romantic comedy, this is the perfect book. A “feel good about life” kind of a book. Take a long glass of fresh lime soda and put your feet up, maybe lie down in a hammock and sip this book, page by page.
Risha Kohli a 27-year-old journalist works in the newspaper News Today and moonlights as a wedding photographer, because photography is where her real passion lies. While returning to Delhi from Los Angeles, Risha meets Arjun Khanna, a handsome, rich, real-estate tycoon, CEO of Khanna Developers, on a 17 hour-long flight. No, they don’t bump in the aisle nor coincidentally get seated next to each other. You meet the business hunk a few pages after the flight takes off after Risha is upgraded to business class from her economy-class seat, as Bunty, the small boy in the seat beside her, spoils his seat, pants and the atmosphere because he cannot control his bowels and bladder. So, we can consider the irritating small boy with a need to visit the rest room ever so often, to be the cupid. Because if it wasn’t for him, Risha and Arjun would never have met.
In business class, sparks fly between the stunning Risha and the dishy tycoon. She thinks he is undeniably the most gorgeous man she has ever laid eyes on and he thinks she is smoking hot. In the flight Risha comes to know that Arjun Khanna is the brother of Nitisha — her client for the next assignment. Designer Nitisha Khanna is getting married to Rohan Singhal, an Internet moghul and, of course, the paparazzi wants their exclusive pictures. After all, they are rich, famous and the media’s darlings. Luckily for both of them, their mutual attraction gets the chance to turn into a gentle fire (the reason I’m not calling it a blazing fire is because this is a sweet rom-com with a few kisses, not a raunchy novel).
The fun starts when the Khanna-Singhal wedding gets underway. What follows is a big, fat Punjabi wedding with an assortment of colourful characters and of course the attraction Risha and Arjun feel for each other. Thankfully, we are saved from naach-gaana as this is one elegant high-society wedding where no one breaks into a shava-shava.
The wedding photographer uses a lot of tropes, the mandatory cricket match (remember Hum Aapke Hain Kaun?) the match-making nani and mom, misunderstandings (misunderstandings fuel love stories, don’t they?), the unscrupulous boss (in this case Risha’s boss), Risha’s gay best friend who gets mistaken as her boyfriend, the modern guru Sri Sri Priye Ma with long hair extensions, blue contact lenses and thick winged eyeliner, (whom Dhariwal describes as looking like an older version of Celina Jaitly) with her satsang mandali.
Dhariwal’s style reminded me a lot of Anuja Chauhan’s, though Chauhan is a veteran storyteller and has made it her business to write heroines who are too spunky, whereas Dhariwal’s Risha comes across as a sweet, “can’t tell lies” type of a girl (the kind of a girl whom a guy can happily take home to meet his mama).
The reason I make the comparison is because both have their stories firmly based in Delhi, both have the same penchant for a liberal use of Hinglish and their older characters speak English in a very odd way (remember Amma from Battle for Bittora?). Here it’s Arjun and Nitisha’s nani. I guess this is a ploy used by the writers to make the dialogues feel as realistic as possible. Like Chauhan, Dhariwal too creates some full-bodied characters: like nani (who says “hendsome, crect, tattu, single bachelor”), who can knock off Patiala pegs one too many and be none the worse for it and Pinku, one of Arjun’s cousins, who is fond of introducing himself as “Myself Pankaj Sabharwal” and handing out his business card to everyone he is introduced to at the wedding.
At some places in the book, I could predict what will happen next, perhaps that was my writer brain taking over, or maybe Dhariwal and I had developed an uncanny telepath! But that’s one grouse I’m not going to harp about, because the steady pace of the story and the snarky quips, made me want to keep reading and turning the pages. I just wish Dhariwal had added a little more sizzle in Risha and Arjun’s attraction. At times, their attraction felt a bit subdued. But I guess she may have wanted it that way, because both Arjun and Risha came across as calm and cool people, not given to moments of impulse.
I liked the way The Wedding Photographer makes good use of new-age communication methods like instant messaging, emails and chat to take the story forward in some places. Nothing like connecting with the readers using their means of communication.
The critics and the litterati may harp about diluting pure writing with these innovations of technology, they may even crib about these writers using a conversational tone in taking the story forward, but I say bring it on! None of these modern writers are making tall claims about their writing. All they are doing is just telling a good story, making the reader smile and, maybe, staking their claim to the title of good storytelling.