Benign Flame – Saga of love
The attractions Roopa experienced and the fantasies she entertained as a teen shaped a male imagery that ensconced her subconscious. Insensibly, confident carriage came to be associated with the image of maleness in her mind-set. Her acute consciousness of masculinity only increased her vulnerability to it, making her womanliness crave for the maleness for its gratification.
However, as her father was constrained to help her in becoming a doctor, she opts to marry, hoping that Sathyam might serve her cause though the persona she envisioned as masculine, she found lacking in him. But as he fails to go with her idea, she becomes apathetic towards him, and insensibly sinks into her friend Sandhya’s embrace, for lesbian solace.
Soon, in a dramatic sequence of events, Tara, a suave call girl, tries to rope Roopa into her calling; Roopa herself loses her heart to Sandhya's beau Raja Rao, and Prasad, her husband’s friend falls for her. And as Prasad begins to induce Sathyam to be seduced by whores to worm his way into her affections, Roopa finds herself in a dilemma. However, as fate puts Raja Rao into Roopa’s arms in such a way as to lend novelty to fiction, this ‘novel’ nuances man-woman chemistry on one hand, and portrays woman-woman empathy on the other.
Who said the novel is dead; 'Benign Flame' raises the bar as vouched by -
The plot is quite effective and it’s a refreshing surprise to discover that the story will not trace a fall into disaster for Roopa, given that many writers might have habitually followed that course with a wife who strays into extramarital affairs - Spencer Critchley, Literary Critic, U.S.A.
The author has convinced the readers that love is something far beyond the marriage tie and the fulfillment of love can be attained without marriage bondage. The author has achieved a minor revolution without any paraphernalia of revolution in the fourth part of the novel – The Quest, India.
The author makes free use of – not interior monologue as such, but – interior dialogue of the character with the self, almost resembling the dramatic monologue of Browning. Roopa, Sandhya, Raja Rao and Prasad to a considerable extent and Tara and Sathyam to a limited degree indulge in rationalization, trying to analyse their drive sand impulses – The Journal of Indian Writing in English.
Overall, Benign Flame is a unique attempt at exploring adult relationships and sexuality in the contemporary middle-class. All the characters come alive with their cravings and failings, their love and their lust. Benign Flame blurs the lines and emphasizes that life is not all black and white - it encompasses the full spectrum of living - Indian Book Chronicle.