That a picnic can go so wrong is so totally wrong!
What happens when you mix one lonely princess, three friends, one car-crazy boy, a villainous lunatic raja, an equally madcap of a son and a secret recipe book? A somewhat mediocre, but enjoyable story of friendship and adventure that is reminiscent of a typical Hindi movie out of the ‘1980s. No, really. At one point, one of the protagonists actually says “We can frolic in the waterfall just like Hindi film heroines!”
Ranjit Lal’s The Deadly Royal Recipe is about five kids — Zafira, the princess of Kamargarh, Yogita, Ragini, Lana and Yogita's little brother, Yogesh, who is endearingly called Barfi. And of course, the scrumptious food, more or less an omnipresent ‘character’, which brings these children together taking them through a rollercoaster ride.
Zafira’s uncle, the Chhote Maharaj’s run-in with some shady people leads to unexpected events during the children’s weekend outing. The kids, with the supervision of the Chhote Maharaj and cooks, set out to a national park in cars and on elephants loaded with enough food to make it a feast fit for kings. But it doesn’t end with wolfing down yummy food. Things get royally messed up when the princess and her new friends are kidnapped.
The kids manage to get out of tight spots only to find themselves in deeper trouble. And the kidnappers, ruthless and even psychotic, do not want money, precious stones or other valuables. What are they after then? You don’t need to rack your brains to figure out what it is that they want as ransom in exchange for the children even when nobody says it out aloud.
Amidst all the action, you wonder how the children are going to get out of the tight spot they are in. Will Zafira’s father rescue them or will the children have to find their way back home on their own?
Thirteen may be the new 18, but Lal’s portrayal of these 13-year-olds cursing and driving classic cars is somewhat unconvincing. The children’s weekend picnic might remind you of the innumerable picnics that Enid Blyton’s characters in The Secret Seven or The Famous Five went to with baskets packed with delicious food.
Word of advice — do not read this on an empty stomach.
The Deadly Royal Recipe by Ranjit Lal, Duckbill, Rs. 225