WRITING STYLE: 4/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
Some mistakes at work are just unaffordable. But at times, sometimes and many times all of it is blissfully forgotten.
Opening on the premises of an engineering college inaugural programme, The Final Year Project introduces the reader to a bunch of male friends who are in their final year and want to make the most of it. While making memories is on the top of their priority list, they always manage to bend some rules and constantly get in and out of trouble with the authorities. But well, they are seniors and rules are meant to be broken.
Things take a surprising turn when in the fervour of a dare (which is also their final year project) one of them gets into a serious tiff with a female junior from the civil department. In a male-dominated field, this particular Miss Morgan is an exceptionally gifted young woman and her opening ceremony speech bowls the audience over. Despite her indifferent attitude to their approaches, they manage to annoy her and she gets into a hand fight with one of the boys. From here begins the rest of their journey in which the male ego is agitated and the female aspiration for empowerment and independence of choice pushes the fresher to make her place among her peers which she undoubtedly deserves.
In a need to be even with the group, she returns as their certified fitness and nutrition coach. Tempers flare, egos escalate and anger billows as the unhappy boys create much brouhaha with this decision taken by the Principal whom they’ve nicknamed Mottai. Amidst all the commotion, the new coach Morgan trashes their lockers and gets the place reorganised; making the already infuriated boys lock her up in the storeroom of the gym. Morgan is flabbergasted as Mottai intervenes and they are threatened of being charged under Section 342 of the Indian Penal Code. Hurt but not defeated, they have no option but to follow her commands silently. As training sessions begin they are left baffled with her expert boxing, sparring and defence skills that could not have been learnt from the internet. The story follows with day to day detailing of their training camp classes. What is remarkable from the very first page of The Final Year Project is the extent of cataloguing that has gone into it. It is so graphic that it can almost be visualised before one’s eyes.
The humour is varied with rib-tickling youthful college jokes, subtle mimicking of teachers and other non-teaching staff such as the hostel watchman (that all students indulge in) and at times satiric or maybe even crude. Not a single page goes without the use of a swear word. It gives the idea of an adolescent vigour in the thrill of defying censorship which makes young people feel cool and also goes with the kind of notoriety the characters create. This does not mean that the boys are to be looked down upon. Yes, they are naughty but they are also not evil. It is their impatience and fondness for adventure that leads them to make rash choices and frequently receive disciplinary action.
The incidents at the camp are light and humorous but the fun doesn’t last long. As they slowly learn how to get along with each other, it is in an episode of truth and dare that the confusion kicks in and relays back to the alarming prologue titled A Year Ago. Morgan is asked about her high school and she mentions that she was homeschooled after dropping out in class 11 from St. Julia’s. Some let out gasps as the rest of the place falls silent in speculation. One of the boys, Sid, is sure of her true identity and claims to have seen her as a junior in school. She turns out to be a two-time inter-regional jujitsu champion and rumours have it that she had an affair with her 36-year-old coach Daniel. The pictures clicked by the paparazzi were blurred and so was her case.
The prologue of The Final Year Project is confusing, petrifying and emotionally harrowing but does not come with any disclaimer asking readers to carry some shock absorbers. It requires the reader to take frequent breaks from the reading experience which is quick-fire. The dialogues are well written and add to the dramatic suspense that is upheld throughout the end of chapters. The revelations are hard-hitting and absolutely impossible to guess. Rani almost redefines suspense in a thrilling manner.
The reader is in no control as he is dragged into the eventful happenings of an unconventional story. As much as one wants to know what has happened, there is a yearning to run away from it any moment. A student at St. Julia’s bears the brunt of bullying for an entire year. All the burden and blame of a scandal is on the shoulders of a little girl who’s been abandoned by her family. She’s just a teenager who doesn’t even know how to care for herself let alone care for another life that is now completely dependent on her. If at all there’s anything that she can ask for then it is the wish to be let off from a further trial. The reader is a helpless witness to this private confrontation between the student and her teacher Daniel. Leaving her behind, his resignation lets him escape the glaring eyes of a thunderstruck student-teacher and parent community. Unhappily, unknowingly and unwittingly he has imprisoned her again and she is his prisoner. Being her only possible guardian, she requires his signature on her transfer certificate but he disagrees. She wants to drop out of school and he wants her to complete the final year. Her frail figure and under eye circles scream the difficulties she’s been through and he is beyond guilty. But will there be justice when things look so irreversible already?
Though suspenseful, the prologue is highly misleading and barely anticipates the epilogue that is a breeze of relief. The Final Year Project takes a complete U-turn as all conflicts are resolved to end in a denouement that is light and easy to digest. As doubts get cleared, stronger bonds are formed in a labyrinthine storyline that leads to a happy and hopeful ending. The entire reading experience is a melange of emotions from shock, horror, guilt and bafflement to agony, distress, hopefulness and respite. One must read to find out how things eventually fall into place.
Rani avoids playing the third person narrator as much as possible and lets the story unfold through the verbal exchanges. The Final Year Project is divided into two semesters of the final year. The pages of The Final Year Project are filled with long sections of dialogues making the novel more play-like. The events are episodic and there is no sense of repetition. Though a lot of information may seem unimportant, chapters end with vital exposés and it all builds the momentum of the story. The nuances of campus life are interestingly and realistically depicted. The narrative is labyrinthine with rapid twists and turns. Not a moment goes by without a new development cropping out of nowhere.