A story of romance and adventure crisscrossing nineteenth century India, the plot of Courtesan is fictional, but the historical setting is accurately researched and rendered. The story could indeed have unfolded in the India of the time.
In the pre-railways days, businessmen would travel in large caravans for mutual protection. Firangia is the young leader of a gang of thugs. Chanda Bai is a dispossessed noblewomen, traveling northwards, intent on joining forces with a larger army.
The two meet, become lovers and their two camps travel together.
Their motives unfold gradually. Neither is what they purport to be, and they are carried along by uncontrollable circumstances as much as by their own machinations. There is deceit, love and defeat; grandiose ambitions and petty schemes, and there is what in our modern times termed as evil.
"The Thugs & a Courtesan" is a love-story where bad is honest and beauty, false. Their love, sincere on his part and deceitful on hers, brings disaster to both. This intellectually ambitious and action packed work has a broader, age-independent significance.