My Days in the Underworld – Agni Sreedhar – Book Review


AgniSreedhar

Title: My Days In The Underworld

Author: Agni Sreedhar

Book Blurb: Agni Sreedhar is an underworld don turned writer turned journalist turned filmmaker.

He studied law in Bangalore and was intent on entering the Indian Civil Service when circumstances forced him to turn to crime. Starting from the early 1980s, Sreedhar found himself entrenched in the bitter gang wars that shaped the contours of modern Bangalore. This book is an intimate, first-person account of the two decades he spent in the world of crime. But My Days in the Underworld isn’t just a tale of murder and blood. It is a study of a system that runs parallel to the world ordinary people inhabit; a lateral universe, one with its own police force and laws, one where the criminal justice system has all but failed.

This is a story of a city as seen through the personal histories of politicians who ruled Karnataka, men like Gundu Rao, Ramakrishna Hegde, Bangarappa and Deve Gowda, as well as those who were responsible for shaping Bangalore’s underworld: Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Rajan, Sharad Shetty, Kotwal Ramchandra, Jayaraj and Muthappa Rai.

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I read this book on the rave reviews and recommendations from a couple of friends, one of whom I borrowed the book from and another who had seen a movie based on a few incidents from this book. And to be very honest, I found it a tad disappointing.

The book itself reads more like a memoir into how the author gradually makes inroads into the Bangalore underworld without really knowing what he was getting into and gradually metamorphosing into one of the city’s most influential underworld figures of the 1980s and 1990s. Starting off with Sreedhar’s brushes with Kotwal Ramachandra and Jayaraj, the story goes into great detail about his friendship with the latter and how Jayaraj proves to be his mentor in the underworld and someone who teaches him quite a few tricks of the trade. In fact it is as Jayaraj’s protégé that Sreedhar makes a name for himself in Bangalore.

The story then moves on to Muthappa Rai’s entry into Bangalore and how Sreedhar gradually gets pulled into his gang and his activities, and his ultimate fall out with the don from Mangalore due ideological differences. While Sreedhar favored more unity among all the warring gangs of Bangalore, Muthappa Rai didn’t seem to care as long as he was not targeted by any of them.

The last few chapters of the book deals with how Sreedhar finally gets in touch with Ravi Belagere, the reporter and journalist, and how he ultimately gets around to starting a weekly of his own, Agni.

While there is nothing new in terms of content and Sreedhar’s story is pretty much in line with what gangster movies like Satya have already told us, what struck me as a little unusual was the fact that Sreedhar seems to have become a big name in the Bangalore underworld without necessarily being one of the most cut-throat or ruthless among his peers, or at least, that’s the impression I was left with after reading the book. He also makes an attempt to uncover a little bit of the police-politician-underworld nexus in this book by naming politicians, policemen and how they dealt with members from the underworld. He was especially scathing on a couple of policemen who apparently had made it a mission to make his life miserable in the 80s and 90s.

Would I recommend this book for a casual read? No. Read it if and only if you are really interested in knowing about the Bangalore underworld of the 80s and 90s. Sadly, this book doesn’t really provide too much insight into a gangster’s psyche and his methods of operation, etc which is why I read this book in the first place.

Related information

Name My days in the underworld : The rise of the Bangalore mafia
Author/s Agni Sreedhar
Publisher Tranquebar Press
Year published 2013
ISBN 13 9789383260348
Goodreads link Link
Flipkart link Link
Amazon link Link

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Verses for Introspection: 7

न चक्षुषा पश्यतॆ नापि वाचा

नान्यैर्दॆवैस्तपसा कर्मणा वा।

ज्ञानप्रसादॆनविशुद्धसत्त्व-

स्ततस्तु तं पश्यतॆ निष्कलं ध्यायमानः।।

Na chakshushaa pashyathe naapi vaachaa

Naanyairdevaistapasaa karmanaa vaa

Jnaanaprasaadenavishuddhasatthva

Statasthu tam pashyathe nishkalam dhyaayamaanaha

Mundakopanishad – 3.1.8

Meaning:

The self cannot be perceived by the eyes and the senses, described by words, nor revealed by penances and rituals. When the understanding becomes calm and refined, one’s whole being is purified and then engaged in meditation, one realizes Him, the Absolute.

Inspired by Swami Bhoomananda TirthaJi’s talks and satsangs. 

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2 thoughts on “My Days in the Underworld – Agni Sreedhar – Book Review

  1. It’s good that you’ve cautioned potential readers not to expect too much from this book.
    I have been disappointed by some good books, plays or films mainly because rave reviews led me to have very high expectations.

    • @Proactive Indian, yes, even I read this book due to a rave review given by one of my friends and hence thought it wise to tone down expectations that others might have just because I reviewed this book 🙂

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