Film Review: Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

Rooftops of Tehran is a novel of many things – it is profound in depicting the political unrest prevailing in the 1970s in Iran.  Against this backdrop, the characters of Ahmed, Zari, Faheemeh, (Pasha – the narrator) emerge to tell about the brutalities that destroyed millions of families in Iran during this period.  Every chapter of the book opens new windows and doors of the times in the last days of the Shah.


The author, Mahbod Seraji, describes the hideous face of the police force of Iran. SAVAK  was the ‘Organization of  National Intelligence and Security of the Nation’ – meaning, it was the secret police, domestic security and intelligence service of Pahlavi Dynasty; it was established by Iran’s Mohammad Reza Shah with the help of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.


The plot of Rooftops of Tehran is woven around the period, prior to the revolution of 1979.


Pasha narrates the story of his friends, his family and his neighborhood (the alley); the rooftops of the Iranian homes form an interesting feature of his narrative linking the customary habit of people to be there in summers.  He also adds: ‘Hundreds of people fall off the roof every year.’ The book is a captivating read; all the characters win your heart in their own way.  There is wit, suspense, tragedy, courage, intriguing facts – there are so many other factors in the book to describe the incredible story of: Rooftops of Tehran.


Zari is engaged to the Doctor – who is shot dead by SAVAK for being a rebel against the regime of the Shah. The Doctor had dreams of improving the lot of the impoverished citizens scattered in Iran.  An unforgettable part in the novel is when the SAVAK agent comes to this middle-class family with the killer-bullet and demands the ‘cost’ of the bullet from them, before the authorities will release the Doctor’s remains.


The feelings of Mahbod Seraji are infused in his pen – the pen is as true as the truth of that era; the author had done full justice through his narration – which is so richly created. 


The book was published by  New American Library, an imprint of the  Penguin Group, in May 2009.

Geeta Chhabra


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