Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Book Review: Ajaya – Epic of the Kaurava Clan by Anand Neelakantan

Book: Ajaya – Epic of the Kaurava Clan - Book 1 – Roll of the Dice

Author: Anand Neelakantan

No. of Pages: 456

Genre: Mythological Fiction

Publisher: Leadstart India

I had purchased 'Asura' and reviewed it earlier this year in Feb. I did not like it and the review was pretty negative.

I got in communication with Leadstart Publishers for review of some other books and then when Ajaya was to be released, the communication started once again and I even did the Author Interview of Anand Neelakantan. The review copy arrived this month post the book's release straight from the Publisher.

I started off with very low expectations but as I progressed through the book, I found the book not just interesting but ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT !!!

The book started off in an absolutely interesting and engaging manner (almost hollywoodish) but then it veered off portraying Bheem/Bhima as a villainous character who is a bully to Duryodhana (refered to as Suyodhana which is supposed to be his real name). There is disrespect shown towards Vidura because he was the son of a maid and Eklavya makes his appearance right when Drona appears and not later.

This kind of got awkward to read as it was in contrast to what we 'know'. The characterization is a bit weird for most of us who have read the Mahabharata at different points in our lives and also seen the B R Chopra version. We have a set character-sketch for each of the characters and any deviation from it seems weird. It is difficult to digest. And Anand does that to each and every character. Each one is shown in a different light with a different bend of mind and different thought process and different motivations of life. The only element that remains constant is the REAL Villain of the Mahabharata – Shakuni !!!

After some time, IF you are able to overcome the inherent bias we have towards the characters of Mahabharata, and are able to consume Anand Neelakantan's fresh new perspective of the Mahabharata … the book transforms into an engaging tale which grips you and surprises you at many junctures. Anand keeps showing sparks of sheer brilliance as he weaves the different seemingly unimportant characters into the mainstream Mahabharata story.

You read spellbound as Anand presents you with a different Mahabharata. Not a retelling, nor a different Mahabharata; not even the story from the side of the vanquished (as it is being talked about). It is a different Mahabharata all together where the plot, premise, story – all are different.  

Anand's Mahabharata does not have Gods nor does it have Sons of Gods; there are no justifications given in the disguise of 'miracles' nor is the story about being the king and ruling the kingdom. Anand's Mahabharata is about the country of that era, ravaged by the caste system and a host of characters who are the cause and effect of the same.

I would readily recommend 'Ajaya' to anyone … as long as they are ready to suspend their existing beliefs and ideas about Mahabharata. If you keep holding on to your existing beliefs about the different characters, Anand will seem like a mad-man who is maligning all that is good in the Mahabharata and glorifying all that is bad by presenting them in different perspectives. If you can read the book with an open mind … it will simply open it up further by its sheer brilliance.

Not to give our some spoilers but the 'invention' of Jara and his Dog are simply master-strokes by Anand … and so is his version of Eklavya. They give you an entirely different perspective of the story.

I am eagerly looking forward to part 2 of this book … since this first book took a break at the point of Draupadi's cheer-haran.   

Overall, my 2 word review for Ajaya is SIMPLY BRILLIANT

1 comment:

  1. hi Shoonya!
    Thanks for the wonderful review of this book...the author has such deep insights into some of the lesser known aspects and characters of Mahabharata that he blurs the line between mythology and fiction! That said, the book is a thorough read even if is for the simple reason of knowing the 'human' aspects of the various divine characters!
    My take here: