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”

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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”

Book Review, Non-Indian authors

Veronika Decides to Die

 

An awareness of death encourages us to live more intensely.

In my younger days I remember attempting to read The Alchemist and giving up halfway. Since then IBook cover have never attempted to read any of Paulo Coelho’s works, as I’ve always assumed that I wouldn’t be into books that attempt to convey deep philosophical or motivating ideas. So, when the other day I was scanning through one of my friend’s book shelves my choice tended to go elsewhere; but Vishnu Raghav, the bespoken friend, insisted that I read Veronika Decides to Die. I don’t quite know why he was so adamant that I read it, but boy! am I glad. So here’s me thanking him for his choice of the book for me. Now let’s dive into the book.

This story is about a young, pretty and bright 23 year old, Veronika, who has a job, a place to stay, a fair number of boyfriends and everything that gives us an impression of being a fairly good life. But, she is not only unhappy but she also decides to end her life. She has two reasons, that sound profoundly remorseful, to substantiate her decisions. One, that her life is a monotonous trail of events which would only grow worse with time and old-age kicking in. Two, that the whole world was perhaps falling apart and that gave her a sense of “complete powerlessness”.

So, Veronika decides to sway into the dreamy arms of death by popping a few sleeping pills; she really seemed to enjoy it. But, her plan fails and she later opens her eyes in a hospital bed, in a mental asylum, where the doctor informs her that her heart was failing her. The doctor tells her that the coma had caused her heart muscles to deteriorate and that she has less than a week to live. The story begins here.

This story here is about Veronika’s life in her week long journey towards death. It’s her time to re-evaluate her decision, even though she knows it to be futile. After all, what good is to come out of wanting to live when you know that all you have is a week more? But life has other plans for her. Not only is she re-evaluating her position and attitude towards life, she also causes the people around her evaluate their lives. Many residents in the asylum had come to accept their lives in the asylum. She inadvertently causes them to rethink the validity of their lives. This books is about that; about finding hope in life in the face of death, about being “mad” to achieving meaning in life, about being courageous to strive for your dreams and about understanding the value of your life.

Death. I seem to be seeing a lot of it in books these days. It used to be an icy cold, chills-down-your-spine, grim and morbid topic for me. But that changed while I started reading Book Thief. What that book is, is tale for another day. But like many have pointed out earlier in their works, death may not always mean the physical cessation of life. It could have several metaphorical meanings. To me here it means to give up- on your life, your dreams or on all the societal influences that surround you.

All this is what I take away from this story. This book urges me to be hopeful and to find purpose in live to overcome death in all it’s metaphoric glory. I’m at a place in life where I’m taking a few chances, courageous ones-bordering on what some might call careless- to follow my dreams. My choices may turn out any way as I don’t know what destiny holds for me, but I’ll always know that it is what I wanted and what I chose. As they say, the heart wants what the heart wants.

Rating: 4/5


Verdict: If you are feeling low for some reason, then this could raise your spirits and give you that quick boost of energy you need. The book is quite a small one to read but is best read all at once.

Continue reading “Veronika Decides to Die”

Book Review

Fault in Our Stars

My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.

John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

When I like a book it it could end in two ways. Either I could be dying to reach the very end as I want to

The Fault in Our Stars book cover
The Fault in Our Stars book cover

know how it ends, or I just don’t want it to end. But something went terribly wrong here. In this case, I loved the book, and I badly wanted to know how it ended (atleast for a while) but I also couldn’t part ways with the characters. Never have I so deeply invested my emotions in a book, in fictional characters as this one.

Fault in Our Stars is the story of a sixteen year old Hazel Grace Lancaster who never remembers her having anything but “crappy lungs”. She is terminally ill with leukemia.She has to move around with an oxygen tank, she so fondly calls ‘Philip’, which helps her breath. She believes she is a “grenade that can blow up anytime leaving everyone around wounded.” Her worst nightmare could be leaving her loving family wounded by her ‘shrapnel’ once she’s gone. She has been out of school for a while and practically stopped socializing much. All she has been doing lately is to watch episodes of America’s Top Models and to re-read just one book, her favorite, An Imperial Affliction and obsessing over what a sequel to the book would be like. Her socializingwas limited to attending a support group for Cancer kids. Except from her high-school friend Kaitlyn, who she hardly ever wants to talk to these days, he kids at the support group are her friends now. 

That’s where Hazel meets Augustus Waters, the blue-eyed, one-legged boy with a sexy crooked smile. Augustus Waters is full of life. He is doing “grand” and is “on a roller coaster that only goes up”. He keeps a pack of cigarettes at hand and occasionally hold one between his lips, but never lights it. It gives him a a sense of victory to not give the cigarette the power to “kill”him. He fears being forgotten once he’s gone, and wants his life to be meaningful.

At once, Augustus is everything Hazel is not. It is like they are yin-yang. Hazel is the smart,intelligent and composed one, while Gus is the witty, humorous and creative one. While she is is strong Gus is persistent. So, quite predictably, they were meant to fall in love with each other. And this book is about their love and how it changed their lives.

This book is a cancer book, except for it doesn’t drown us in sentiment and drama. This story is of a resilient battle to live a life as close to normal as possible, not giving cancer the power to kill for as long as possible. And hence the story never calls for us to sympathies over any character, be it Hazel, Gus or their friend Issac. They don’t ask to be indulged in sympathy-they hate it.

The book also deals with how a life-threatening hurdle, as cancer, can alter your life in different ways, and yet it up to you to choose how you want to life your life.

This book sheds thoughts on feeling pain, on being hopeful about life even when there is practically no hope, and of being in true love even through the uncertainty of a future.  

I liked the book for the light nature in which it deals with grim and morbid sentiments. I like it for the positiveness it instilled in me. I would have given it a miss but for some awesome turn of fate. And as this is my first John Green book, so I’m not in a position to review this one with respect to any other of his books. So if you have read this book, or any other John Green book do let me know. Also share your thoughts on this book or any other book you think is worth a read. 

My ratings for this book are as follows

Ratingclip

Style: ♥♥♥

Story: ♥♥♥

Language: ♥♥♥♥

Narrative: ♥♥♥♥

Verdict: The story is a light read that starts as a cliche cancer story progressing into deeper sentiments on life and death.