Friday, July 06, 2012

The Immortals of Meluha Part II

I felt terrible after criticising Amish’s ‘The Immortals of Meluha’. It’s not correct to criticise a book before you have read it completely. And, since there are so many “mediocre” books being published in India these day, why should I pick up this one. This one wasn’t half as bad.

Truly. The next day I sat there and completed the book. Okay, I skipped though a few pages, but that’s okay. And, I must say it’s not half as bad as those rom-com, IIT novels out there. To his credit, the author maintains the Hollywood action film momentum throughout the book, and somehow it works in favour of the story.

It was my fault. I expected the book to be a historical/ semi-historical romance. It’s not the fault of the author that the book is not a historical romance. The history, pre-history or whatever you want to call it, in the book is just a costume, a way to invite the readers into the plot, and the plot is that of a classic thriller, a classic action-adventure pulp, which is not a bad thing. To give an example, ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ shares its antecedence more with Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ than Hillary Mantel’s Booker winner tome, ‘Wolf Hall’. This explains why the book has been so popular and why I had problems with it.

Within the context of the book, Amish almost succeeds in what he wanted to achieve. If his major motivation was to tell a story, the book does tell a story, in broad strokes and in a relentless pace, like a well-written thriller. The action here almost succeeds in hiding the implausibility of plot and theme.

Amish knows his inspirations, and follows the classic structure of a thriller — introduce a naive protagonist in the midst of crime and politics and other such murky situations and let the protagonist find his own way though the maze, as he becomes the point of view of the reader. And it works, as Shiva, the leader of small mountain tribe, lands in the midst of the politics of two warring clans — people of the sun and the people of the moon. It’s the classic stuff, done over and over again in the western fantasy literature, from Ursula LeGuin to JRR Tolkien.

But, you cannot dismiss Amish’s influence. Recently, a new book, ‘ASURA: Tale Of The Vanquished by Anand Neelakantan was released to moderate commercial success. For this, we must remember the contribution of Amish’s home-grown fantasy.

Asura is an epic tale of victory and defeat… The story of the Ramayana had been told innumerable times. The enthralling story of Rama, the incarnation of God, who slew Ravana, the evil demon of darkness, is known to every Indian. And in the pages of history, as always, it is the version told by the victors, that lives on. The voice of the vanquished remains lost in silence. But what if Ravana and his people had a different story to tell? The story of the Ravanayana had never been told. Asura is the epic tale of the vanquished Asura people, a story that has been cherished by the oppressed outcastes of India for 3000 years. Until now, no Asura has dared to tell the tale. More here.

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