What do you get when you put together a story of a megalomaniac promoter, a cult-like corporation in the crosshairs of financial regulators, billions of rupees, and Bollywood? The answer should be a read that’s racier than Formula 1 cars. Instead, Sahara: The Untold Story (Jaico Publishing House, Rs 450) is a watered-down version of what could have been an outstanding, colourful business fable. It’s not for lack of effort. Author Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s research is evidently painstaking and thorough. But an insipid narrative kills the reader’s interest.

On rare occasions, promising nuggets float to the surface. In an interview with the author, Subrata Roy, Sahara’s top boss, says his company owns 36,000 acres of land and claims to operate more than 1,100 offices and thousands of companies. It also sent a 10,000-page reply to an IT notice once, and 127 trucks with 31,000 cartons of papers in response to a request for information from the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

We get to know about Roy’s fondness for Grey Goose vodka and Davidoff cigarettes, but get no insight into how he assesses risks and weighs opportunities. The two-hour interview with Roy has been whittled down to a couple of minutes of transcripts. What happened to the rest? Who are the key players in Sahara? What do former employees have to say? More answers, a tighter narrative, and deeper insight could have made this a compelling read.

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