Book Review: Anansi Boys :- “The Crack Jacks among Demi Gods”

Anansi Boys

4/5 Stars Goodreads Rating System

Books that can make you chuckle, snort out water or tease out warm smiles are ‘absatively’ the kind of books that you should bother people to pick up, because you know, everyone can use little smiles. This is one such book. This lighthearted and humorous story, of the West African Trickster Spider God ‘Anansi’ and his sons, was fun, the tickling kind of fun and this is what makes it different from “American Gods” ,the first book in Gaiman’s “The Gods walk among us” world,  which was comparatively a bit serious, dark, brooding and somewhat intense.

Neil Gaiman’s books have a dreamy world, and coming from a country and community which is high on myths and epic stories about gods & demigods, this particular dreamy world was all too familiar. In this world Gods exist,and they not only exist but live with and among us everyday, the old gods of Norse, or of Vedas, or of the African jungles, all of them, they live, they love, they die (well at least for sometime). The story starts with ‘Fat Charlie’ a simple accountant, quite average in every way, who had been embarrassed countless times by his father during childhood, and for whom ‘Sorry’ has now become a default reaction. But his carefully set mundane life gets tossed upside down, when his father dies on a Florida karaoke stage, you see, nobody told ‘Fat charlie’ that his dad was a God or that he was not his only son. He has a brother, Spider, who is more like his dad than he himself ever was. And thus starts a story that will leave you grinning, I love stories like that, Stories that don’t take themselves too seriously even when they are being completely serious. You would chuckle at Spider’s slyness, you would laugh at Fat charlie’s misery without feeling too bad about it, you would roll your eyes at Grahame Coat’s (Fat charlie’s boss) delusions. Mr. Gaiman’s wit is marvelous, so is the character development and the funky plot of the book. This was in all sense a feel good book, it says a lot with good old proverbs bundled anew. The stories of Anansi (Well technically every story is an Anansi story, apparently) were a great addition,  Mr. Nancy with his green fedora and lime yellow gloves, strike as a jolly good God if you ask me. And so is ‘Fat Charlie’s’ story, his discovery of himself, a jolly good story indeed, worthy of an Anansi’s son.

The book is wonderful, I really liked it, to all the myth hunters and humor suckers out there, pick this one up, take a load off from that Shakespeare, or from those realistic war tales, put your feet up on a table, sip a glass of lemonade and read this, possibly with a green fedora on your head if you can manage it.

 

Book Review: Half a Rupee Stories : – “By the Great Wordsmith ‘Gulzar'”

Half A Rupee Stories

3/5 Stars Goodreads Rating System

“When you face your fear, you become familiar with it and familiarity makes it lose its meaning, loosen its grip—fear ceases to be fear.” ~ Gulzar

I so wanted to love this, so very very much, because i LOVE ‘Gulzar’ Sahab‘s words, oh just read his poems, his songs, his ‘Shers‘, ‘Ghazals‘, ‘Nazms‘ and you will know what i am talking about. You will know love, happiness, heartache, sadness, melancholy. You will know the sheer scale of power two written lines could posses. He is one of the greatest wordsmith I have ever read and we are fortunate to be able to experience his work be it song lyrics, be it poems, be it his directed films or be it his stories.

This little collection was a mixed basket, I picked it up because of, you guessed it, ‘Gulzar‘. But if i say that i was totally satisfied with it, then that would be a lie. Out of the 25 short stories in this book some were amazing, invoking deep pangs of emotion that we have come to expect from a Gulzar’s poem or song, but some just lacked that kind of punch and all of the 25 had an undertone of loss, death and that classic tinge of sensitivity that He possess, which made it all an albeit melancholy experience. Every story had a message, this is just what He does, Gulzar Sahab will always make you think about life, in every and any way possible using any and every ruse possible. The book is divided into 8 parts with 3 stories each (Part II has 4), with each part focusing on a different theme. The themes as best as i could decipher them were Partition and Reminiscing; The downtrodden and their ways; War and Peace; Survival and Insurgency; Loss and coping. This book could be included both as fiction and non fiction because many of the stories are true life events or experiences morphed in the form of a story, Reading about legends of Indian literature like Sahir Ludhianvi and Javed Akhtar was specially interesting. Out of all of the 25 some notable stories that i liked were : –

  1. Kuldip Nayyar and Pir Sahib (P1)
  2. Sahir and Jaadu (P1)
  3. The Charioteer (P2)
  4. Hilsa (P4)
  5. The Search (P4)
  6. Swayamvar (P5)
  7. Ghugu and Jamuni (P6)

These 7 stories particularly spoke to me, The reminiscing of Kuldip nayyar, The lovely bond between Sahir and Jaadu, The sweet musings of the ‘Mehant’ in the Charioteer, the horrible revelation in Hilsa, Kashmir in the Search, The instinctive resolve in Swayamvar, And of course the beautiful take on love in Ghugu and Jamuni( i mean a crow and a kite, that was just too good, one emotional expressive lover and the other cold, unfeeling & unresponsive)  were all impact full stories indeed.

The book leaves an overall mixed vibe, Gulzar sir are a master of prose, his writings will leave you poignant and thoughtful, so if melancholy and deep reflection is your thing pick this one up, bear with a few stories if need be, because all in all it would not disappoint.

 

 

Book Review: The Rise Of Sivagami : – “..And Perhaps that of Indian Fantasy too!”

sivagami being badass
“SIVAGAMI DEVI” as played by ‘Ramya Krishnan’ in the Movie ‘BAHUBALI’

“That is my WORD and my word is LAW!”  ~Sivagami Devi

When you see a character who has just slitten the throat of a traitorous general, ordered the death of all the treasonous nobles in the kingdom, declared that SHE will decide who’s to be the next King, with blood still on her face calmly sitting and breastfeeding two young princes in the throne room, the words “Epically Badass” fell short of doing her any kind of justice. That was how we were introduced to ‘The Queen Mother’ of ‘Mahishmathi’ Sivagami Devi in S. S. Rajamouli‘s blockbuster epic ‘Bahubali‘. The character and her fabulous portrayal was riveting.  And thus i suspect started Rajamouli’s dilemma, the world he created, the characters (specially the supporting ones) he introduced were so complex and had a depth that he just couldn’t cover or satisfactorily show in 2 movies. He wanted the world to know them further to live in that world a little more intimately, so, he approached an up and coming author from the south whose previous works he had enjoyed, Mr. Anand Neelakantan, gave him the designation of “Story Hunter” and let him loose to discover and develop the epic world of ‘Mahishmathi’. And thus came to be “The Rise Of SIVAGAMI“, the first installment in what seems to be a worthwhile Indian epic Fantasy trilogy set in the time period before the story of ‘Bahubali’.

The-Rise-of-Sivagami-by-Anand-Neelkantan-Bahubal

3/5 Stars Goodreads Rating System

This was my second book by Anand Neelakantan, The First one “ASURA“, the reason for his widespread fame, didn’t appeal to me all that much and so i was apprehensive about picking up this one. But curiosity got the better of me and i am glad that it did. I won the book in Goodread’s Giveaways and what a ride it has been. Firstly, Watch the movie (i suspect this was a major reason for the commission of this book), Secondly, even if you don’t this will work just fine (But you will watch the movie afterwards anyway, trust me, these are clever clever people indeed.). Anand Neelakantan has a specific way of writing, he loves being on the bad guy’s side, by his own admission this was his first book where he wrote for a positive character but i felt that his habit of coloring things grey has stayed in this one too. Which, adds a splendid ‘anti hero’ flavor to the book. The world of ‘Mahishmathi’ can be experienced in more detail, with its social and power structures sketched out as well as all that ails that world from slavery to the draconian social norms of the ‘Varna System’. The story focuses not only on the three main characters with which the audience(of ‘Bahubali’) would already be familiar with Sivagami, Kattapa (The ever loyal slave) & Bijjala (the arrogant prince) but adds a host of new ones too like ‘Keki the eunuch’ , ‘Skandadasa the deputy prime minister’,’Gundu ram the lovable orphan’, ‘Shivappa the rebel’, ‘Jeemotha the pirate’ and many more. The book unfolds as a series of POV’s so you get to enjoy different characters in their element. The story itself was good though i feel it could have been better, but considering the 108 days deadline (that’s how long he had apparently) you can’t really fault the author. The writing thus feels patchy sometimes with the characters being too obvious in their dialogues, giving a somehow rough feel to the reading experience. But the imagination and expansion of the world was glorious. We get to know some new kingdoms and the overall picture of the power hierarchy among them and the secret to the success of the kingdom of ‘Mahishmathi’.

Other than the awesome tale of ‘Sivagami’ and the brilliant moral conundrums & struggles of ‘Kattapa’, the element that works for the book or rather for the whole trilogy is the suspense of the unanswered questions. How did a girl who wanted to see all the royals dead, ended up being the Queen Mother?  What happened to Bijjala ? What became of ‘Mahadeva’ the young prince and his crush ? What is the ‘Manuscript’ all about ? And Why in the name of all that is possible and impossible did Kattapa did what he did in the End of the movie ? ( I know i am digressing a bit here but well IT is the burning question).

So, yes, i would read the next two. And yes, i feel that these books are a welcome addition to the Indian Fantasy genre. I just hope Mr. Neelakantan uses a bit more finesse in the upcoming ones. The books are quite alluring, and i suspect after the release of the next and final movie (This April’s end i am told) that allure would go up ten fold. So, read on my dear friends and experience the glory of this fantastical world. “Jai! ‘Mahishmathi'” (Hail! ‘Mahishmathi’).