Book Review, Indian authors

Sita Warrior of Mithila : Book 2 of Ram Chandra Series by Amish

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati suvrata|

Abhyuttthanamadharmasya tada prakritisambhavah||

O keeper of righteous vows, remember this,

Whenever dharma is in decline, Or there is an upsurge of adharma:

The Sacred Feminine will incarnate.

Amish’s Ram Chandra series had its debut with The Scion of Ikshvaku 2 years ago. Fans have been waiting for the release of Sita Warrior of Mithila since then. I do not claim fealty to Sita_Warrior_of_Mithila_coverthe fandom, let me confess, I haven’t read The Scion of Ikshvaku beyond a few chapters. I left it alone since I found it dragging in a manner familiar to me from Amish’s The Oath of the Vayuputras from the Shiva Trilogy (don’t get me wrong, I liked the book, the climax even). The slow place was acceptable to me there because it was the end of a series I had so dearly followed. Besides the characters in the narrative had all felt fresh and real. The Scion of Ikshvaku felt like it was merely riding on the fame and anticipation the Shiva Trilogy has caused in its splendor. However, the trailer and the cover of this book did not fail to appeal to my senses. Inspite of that, I began reading Sita Warrior of Mithila with ample apprehension and timidity. And then, the first chapter of the book happened!

After the first chapter I literally closed the book and said, “Amish, you have me hook line and sinker!” In here Sita is a badass! She is a warrior worth her salt. She is intelligent, smart and pragmatic. And yes, she means business! The story revolves around her cause and the means she adopts for it. She constantly reminds you of a modern working woman who has to balance her work and personal life, albeit with a very supportive and understanding partner who shares her goal. It’s a relationship in perfect harmony. *sigh* The story here has a pace, quite comfortable to any reader. The language is simple and comprehensible. But, that’s the thing with Amish! His works are known for the freshness of the plot than decorative language. Though in this case, the language is also overly descriptive and screenplay-ish, which is quite possibly intentional given his eye for detail.

AmishThe story here has a pace, quite comfortable to any reader. The language is simple and comprehensible. But, that’s the thing with Amish! His works are known for the freshness of the plot than decorative language. Though in this case, the language is also overly descriptive and screenplay-ish, which is quite possibly intentional given his eye for detail. He subtly touches contemporary debate points like meat-eating and Jallikettu. But fails to make a decisive statement anywhere. At some places, Amish seems to be struggling to defend certain characters in alignment to how we know them from the popular epic, Ramayan. And, throughout the narrative, his politics seems to be diplomatic. I would have loved a little more bravado, but still not complaining.

Amish explains his style of narration in this series as multi-linear, i.e, the first three books will respectively be in Ram’s, Sita’s and Raavan’s perspectives. All these three books start and end at the kidnapping of Sita by Raavan. The fourth and last book in the series will be the conclusive one that’ll take the story ahead and tie everything neatly with a bow. This means that a lot many parts of the story will be repeated in all three books. So, for readers intending to read the books one after the other may be at a disadvantage. But it also means that no matter where you start reading the series, between book 1 to 3, you do not miss out on the story.

 

Verdict: It is fresh, and fast! This Sita is to watch out for. Ram Chandra series is picking up with this installment of the story. So if you are a fan of the genre, you might not want to miss this.

Continue reading “Sita Warrior of Mithila : Book 2 of Ram Chandra Series by Amish”

Book Review, Indian authors

Olympus: An Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths

Very few writers incite in me the urge to reach for their books at the devdutt_660_041113063104mere sight of their names on the cover and Devdutt Pattanaik is one of them because, according to me, he is the master of retellings. His works, Jaya and Sita have been revelations to me; and The Pregnant King is still one of my favorites. His stronghold seems to be his ability to stay subjectively objective in drawing from mythology what is relevant to the ever changing modern scenario. He is not a puritanist bogged down by the conservative traditionalist. Neither is he dismissive of the western view on Indian mythology. He understands that it is important to stand firmly grounded on the cultural nuances to understand and interpret Indian mythology. So when such a reasonable and learned man shifts his gaze to Greek mythology, and you love reading mythology, you follow suit.

olympusOlympus: The Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths comes to me in my near total ignorance of Greek Mythology, but for a few stories here and there. And, because I read from cover to cover, the Author’s note required atleast three reading of me because I believe that is the most important part of the book. It prepares you for what follows by giving you a briefing as to what Greek mythology came about geographically, politically, socially and culturally. The book is later divided into 8 books each for a Greek God and the mythical stories surrounding them.

Pattanaik, as expected of him, doesn’t stray from drawing parallels between Indian and Greek Mythologies. He finds parallels between characters, incidents, and ideologies. This book, like any good book, has worked up my curiosity about Greek mythology.

Pattanaik’s writing is simple and straightforward as always. The stories are almost journalist and to-the-point and the notes that follow are where he lets his analytical and reasoning brain at work. This is the kind of book you go back to for light reading. The stories are prophetic, pragmatic and sometimes cringe-worthy-all of what is beautifully handled by Pattanaik’s simple language that keeps him an observer and narrator, at a safe distance from all action. I would go as far as calling him a modern day Sanjaya, the commentator of the Mahabharata war to the blind King Dhritarashtra.

P.S. I would love for Devdutt Pattanaik to turn his gaze towards South Indian folklores, which otherwise seem to be largely neglected. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know his fresh and progressive views on the myths down south?

Verdict: This book is for Greek mythology neophytes and can serve as your crash course in the same.

Continue reading “Olympus: An Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths”

Book Review, Indian authors

Kindle Short Read: Bhoomija by Anand Neelakantan

The Ramayan has never ceased to invite imagination. The Kindle Short read Bhoomija is 61g1cri5UoL._SL250_yet another take on Ramayan. It takes on the premise of Ramayan without even beginning to narrate the story. It dwells with the premise of how and why Valmiki wrote the Ramayan.

I was curious about this story as this comes from Anand Neelakantan, who spoke objectively about Raavan with Asura: the tale of the vanquished. I wanted to know how he would spin this. But this story speaks of the Ramayan without talking of the hero or the anti-hero. This is a non-judgemental take on Ramayan. It is a take on the premise of Ramayan and how over the many years generations have given us their own interpretations based on their judgment. This story is about Sita in her many names. It is about what she represents as the daughter of the soil. It is, beyond doubt, about Ramayan.

This story is about Sita in her many names. It is about what she represents as the daughter of the soil. It is, beyond doubt, about Ramayan. So, if ever Ramayan has mystified you this story tries to demystify and decode it to you.

(Find the short read at Amazon Kindle. Each Short Read is priced at Rs.25 and is a 30-minute read)

 

Book Review, Indian authors

The Rise of Sivagami: Book 1 of Baahubali – Before the Beginning by Anand Neelakantan

‘Why did Kattappa kill Baahubai?’, the most asked question in these 2 years, only begins 911wBYUAMAL.__BG0,0,0,0_FMpng_AC_UL320_SR208,320_
to gauge the wide public interest in the Baahubali franchise. While the answer to this question might evade us till the end April this year, when Baahubali 2 -The Conclusion releases, clues to it might be hidden in plain sight within the pages of The Rise of Sivagami, written by Anand Neelakantan. SS Rajamouli and Anand Neelakantan were well ahead of their game in marketing Baahubali franchise and the book by releasing Chapter 2: Kattappa ahead of the book release to pique interest. The book was up for pre-ordering on Amazon and it hit the stands on 15th of March, 2107. I caught hold of a digital copy from the Kindle store on the D-day.

The very first few pages into the book told me that it will need more than my Anand-Neelakantancursory attention. All the main characters are listed with their brief description before the story begins. This gives you an insight into what is in store for you. It also gives you a sense of the magnitude of the plot. This fictional political drama focuses on Sivagami’s story. How from young orphan she turned into the powerful bureaucrat she seems in the first movie of the franchise. The characters seem well thought out and by the end of the book you see a lot of them evolve into full bloom. The plot twists and turns tend to shock at times and sometimes get predictable. But, this book only starts to lay a ground for the plot twists and turns that could be possible in a story of this magnitude.

Anand Neelakantan had announced his arrival with his book Asura: The Tale of the Vanquished. And, in true Anand Neelakantan style, there are no black and white characters here either; every character has a gray shade, with the exception of Kattappa and Mahadeva. But, Neelakantan, a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series himself, assures us that the plot will only thicken as the series proceeds.

Verdict: If you have enjoyed Baahubali, the movie and the mini-series on Amazon Prime, then you are definitely going to love and enjoy it. This book serves in thickening the plot and getting you further immersed into the world of Mahishmati. 

 

Continue reading “The Rise of Sivagami: Book 1 of Baahubali – Before the Beginning by Anand Neelakantan”

Book Review, Indian authors

The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Has it ever happened to you that you start reading a book and feel like the story has 17157775_10158235040090364_4958159897414216041_o.jpgtaken you into itself like a dream-like trance? You know you are reading words and turning the pages as you go, but then you forget all that and drown into the fluidity of the words. The prose sings to your heart like poetry and at times you have to pause to drink in the beauty of it all.

The Mistress of Spices is set in an Indian spice shop in Oakland, US. Tilo was born in India with magic in her blood. Her magic had always led her fate and destiny. Now, as a mistress of spices, in her little spice shop in Oakland, she uses her magic and her training in the power of spices to help the local Indian community. Her spices always aided her in her services till the American walked into her shop. The true test of her magic and power came when he fell in love – a feeling forbidden to her by the spices.

Back when The Mistress of Spices, caught my fancy as a movie starring Aishwarya Rai chtira-banerjee-4and ‎Dylan McDermott, I hadn’t heard about the book it was based on. Much later it was a friend’s high praise and raves that had me wanting to read this book. At that point, I hadn’t been introduced to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni at all. This book has made me truly appreciate and indulge in her craft. The characters born of her pen were all so relatable and recognizable that I silently let out a prayer for them. With her emotional depth and imagination, Divakaruni proves her merit at convincing her readers of the inconvincible. Also, since magical realism is an unfamiliar realm to me this will be the book that introduced me to it.

In this story, through her characters, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni reflects on the rules and boundaries set by culture and its impact on people and their relationships. Selfless and forbidden love is a recurring theme in the story. She paints a picture of the pain and the longing in love and then the selfless sacrifice resulting from love. This story made me feel like a fly on the wall of the premises, where the story is set, to the point that I simply did not want to leave.

Rating : 3.5/5

Verdict: The book is not for everyone. It speaks of the pain and the agony of forbidden love. It speaks of the selfless sacrifice that transpires from love in its purest form. The beauty of it is in the poetry in the words and the world Divakaruni weaves within them.

Continue reading “The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni”

Book Review, Indian authors

An Unsuitable Boy

I’ve always loved Karan Johar movies in an eye and brain candy sort of a way. He an-unsuitable-boy-by-karan-johar-book-review-buy-onlinecreates this rich, exuberant, extravagant and seemingly spotless world to place his
stories that more often than not they feel like desi fairy tales.They always have the same ol’ paeans of love to sing, but they are entertaining in a strangely comforting way. I let myself have a Karan Johar candy every once in a while each one I’ve liked or one reason or the other. Koffee with Karan is another of my favorites from his work. So, I had made up my mind to read his autobiography. But, even before I could set hands on the book I saw quite a few strategically placed excerpt and articles based on the book here and there. These articles readily prompted discussions based on the books and all this was clearly working to spike our interest about the book. That’s the brilliance of Karan Johar, the media mogul.The book caught its first hype with the talk of whether in this book Karan would reveal what the entire world has been speculating about his sexual orientation. I found an excerpt from the book somewhere on the internet where he refuses to talk about the hot topic while full well engaging in the discussion to keep the public voyeurism at its peak. I found an excerpt about his fallout with Kajol, about his relationship with Shahrukh Khan and also about how he was miffed with Kareena Kapoor for asking equal pay as Shahrukh Khan. All these excerpts put the book right at the spot, feeding into public voyeurism; a smart marketing strategy if you ask me!

The book caught its first hype with the talk of whether in this book Karan would reveal what the entire world has been speculating about his sexual orientation. I found an excerpt from the book somewhere on the internet where he refuses to talk about the hot topic while full well engaging in the discussion to keep the public voyeurism at its peak. I found an excerpt about his fallout with Kajol, about his relationship with Shahrukh Khan and also about how he was miffed with Kareena Kapoor for asking equal pay as Shahrukh Khan. All these excerpts put the book right at the spot, feeding into public voyeurism; a very smart marketing strategy if you ask me!

The real reason, I think, why he wrote this book lies in these lines, though-

I’m not taken seriously by the industry nor by the audience beyond a point. I don’t know why. Maybe, I’m a victim of my own image.

I strongly feel this book ventures out to clear a lot of air around the image Karan Johar projects. Starting from the title of the book, for which he has given no explanation anywhere, I think Karan Johar is dying to scream out those three words the world perceives of him. This book is his emotional catharsis, his therapy, as he defines it. Through the book he has tried to clear some emotional clutter in order to make way for what he believes to be his “best decade.”

With this book, Karan Johar gives us a guided tour of his life, work, and goals. He speaks at length about his relationships, his creative process, and his personal growth on all levels. Although self-admittedly Karan Johar has been one of the most publicly accessible and ‘out-there’ filmmaker with this book he attempts to open the doors to his life further wide. But, make no mistake as you get to see only so far as he wants you to see. So, if you want to read the book for the quintessential Bollywood gossip of who is/was/will be with whom or to absolutely know if he is gay then you are barking the wrong tree. But, if you want to know what drives Karan Johar and how, or even who did he cheat on the Rapid Fire round on Koffee with Karan, then go ahead and grab a copy.

 

Rating : 3/5

Verdict: For anyone who belongs to the media fraternity or is interested in an insight into the movie industry this is a guide on how nepotism works and rules. If you are a fan of the works of Karan Johar, which I am, this book is worth your while. But, since I’m not sure it’s worth the price I would suggest you grab yourself a copy on a sale or from your library if you will.

Continue reading “An Unsuitable Boy”

Book Review, Indian authors

Asura: Tale Of The Vanquished

Asura : Tale of the Vanquished has been on my to-read list for asuraquite some time and I decided to finally get my hands on it when I came across it in
a Kindle deal. This is also part of my read-more-Indian-authors campaign for myself.

By the time I got to the book-4 years too late- the author Anand Neelakantan has already written books based on Mahabharata and has signed on to write 3 books as a prequel to Bahubali, the big budget, multi-lingual movie. Until after I finished the book and did some research I didn’t even realize that the author is a Malayali (though I suspected so from all the Kerala references). He is an engineer from Thripunithura, Kochi.

Anand_Neelakantan.jpg
Anand Neelakantan

Every Malayali worth one’s salt is aware of
the version of Ramayana in which Sita is Ravana’s daughter. In this book, Anand Neelakantan explores this interpretation of the story through the eyes of two men, Ravana and Bhadra.

The story is presented to us through the eyes of Ravana who is at his death bed. Ravana needs no introduction whatsoever and has always been portrayed as the quintessential villain- the hot-headed, immoral, greedy, lustful, yet learned, artistic and mighty Emperor of Lanka. Yet, Anand Neelakantan paints a more human picture of Ravana, who is virtuous yet flawed.

The biggest tragedy of life was that we grow up and achieve our boyhood dreams.

-Ravana, Asura : Tale of the Vanquished

He is brave and courageous but isn’t immune to fear. He is passionate and compassionate, but also jealous, competitive and selfish at the same time. He is a victim of his own ambitions. He is ideologically progressive, yet practically regressive. This Ravana is by no means the villain, but neither is he the hero.

Another person who narrates the story to us is Bhadra, an Asura commoner. He introduces himself to us thus-

I’m a non-entity- Invisible, powerless and negligible.No epic will ever be written about me. I have suffered both Ravana and Rama- the hero and the villain or the villain and the hero. When the stories of great men are told, my voice maybe too feeble.

Yet, spare me a moment and hear my story, for I am Bhadra, the Asura, and my life is the tale of the loser.

-Bhadra, Asura: Tale of the Vanquished

Though he calls himself ‘a non-entity’, Bhadra is quite pivotal to the story. Not only does he appear at decisive moments of the story, but he also functions as the third-eye whose sole purpose in life is to survive inspite of the many disappointments, betrayals and humiliations thrown at him. To us he adds a different dimension to the story by being the all-seeing-eye. He is representative of how the battle between the Devas and Asura has affected the Asura population. He is representative of what caste system, or any other discriminatory system of rules, can affect the lives of the population. He is representative of the hollowness of war and the trail of destruction it brings forth.

This book though fall into the genre of mythological fiction, but is socially and politically relevant. It raises serious questions on castism, racism and misogyny. By the end of this reasonably long book you will find yourself posing serious existential questions. This book made me question my concepts on victory and success. It made me question my concepts of a hero and a villain as this story has neither a hero nor a villain or maybe it has a hero and a villain in more than one character. It made me question morality and it sheds light over the distance between concepts like good and evil, God and mortal. It also shows you how the gender divide is the elephant in the room that you can’t ignore.

Rating : 4/5

Verdict: If you are anything like me, who loves mythology and its different interpretations, you have to read it one. But, expect to feel the wrath of failure, the sting of betrayal and heaviness of loss as you turn the last page. And, also, expect to question concepts that you have long taken for granted. Continue reading “Asura: Tale Of The Vanquished”