Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book Review: Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince by Anuja Chandramouli

Book: Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince

Author: Anuja Chandramouli

No. of Pages: 364

Genre: Mythology / Fiction

Publisher: Platinum Press, Leadstart  


I had certain expectations from the book but it did not really turn out that way. I had expected Arjun's story in there but it did not feel like that.
The story seems to swing from present to the past and then to the future throughout the book making it not-so-easy-to-connect-the-dots – for someone who is not familiar with the Mahabharata.

Also, the author has shown his prowess in the English language by the use of several words in the book that make you think of the dictionary (and a lazy bum like me would rather assume a word than look into dictionary). And what the author/publisher may not realize is that that those difficult English words break the flow of reading and comprehension. They are like speed-breakers which make the journey of book reading jerky.

Wish the author had stuck to simple English focusing more on the flow of the story (which gets torrential with several simultaneous eddies at time).

Mahabharata is a complex story with literally hundreds of interconnected characters spanning several generations and with their own past and future and celestial connections. I do release the challenge in front of the author while narrating such a story but that cannot mean that you mash up the whole story taking about the Kurukshetra and its events in almost every other chapter – describing some events or the role of a character in the war. It makes for a very confused reading.

Also, I was looking for something in the book that the overall Mahabharata epic might not have focused on – especially from Arjuna point of view. But having read the book, I did not really find any. It was supposed to be the story of Arjuna but it neither seemed biographical nor did it seem to have Arjuna's perspective of Mahabharata. I was expecting to read what Arjuna thought about the various events and people but the story dwelt on events rather than Arjuna's view of the events. The book ended up being another re-telling of the Mahabharata with hardly anything to add (events as well as perspectives). So why title the book from Arjuna perspective?? Why call it the 'Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince'???

Leave along Mahabharata, barring a few minimal facts or events, the book did not even enlighten me 'more' about Arjuna. Everything I read in the book was known to me courtesy B R Chopra and other comic book versions of Mahabharata. The character of Arjuna portrayed in the book is very similar to the one in B R Chopra TV version so I did not get anything out of the book. 

I wonder what prompted the author to give so much book space to Karna, Abhimanyu and other characters in a book which was learly titled 'Arjuna - Saga of the Warrior-Prince'. The interaction between Karna and Krishna as well as Karna and Kunti could have been and should have been reduced to mere mention and wrapped up in half a page in a book which is telling Arjuna's story. If not, how is it different from the telling of the Mahabharata which does justice to all characters?

I almost felt that somewhere along the journey of writing the book, the author forgot the Arjun-focus and ended up in a retelling of Mahabharata in a compact haphazard manner.

Earlier in the year, I had read Asura expecting Ravana's version of Ramayana. This book did justice to the theme but portrayed Ravana as almost foolish or stupid in certain sections which took the charm away. Ravana was an extremely powerful character and a story around him should have been equally powerful. The author missed that chance. 

Same happened with Arjuna too. Arjuna is a very powerful character and his story or his perspective on the events of Mahabharata would have been pretty interesting. Another lost chance

The author of Asura is coming out with another book, the focus this time around is the Kauravas. I want to give that book a shot since the potential to weave a great story around Kauravas is immense. I hope he does not bungle up the opportunity like he did in Asura. It might be interesting to reach out to him and ask directly :)

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