Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Jaya An Illustrated Retelling of Mahabharata - Devdutt Pattanaik (Book)

Jaya An Illustrated Retelling of Mahabharata - Devdutt Pattanaik.
After reading (and loving) "Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of Ramayana" by Devdutt Pattanaik - I just couldn't resist this one and had to pick up that too immediately. Anyways both of them were or I can say still are the most loved "Epics" from our part of the world and who won't remember their Television adaptations some two decades ago, which paused our worlds throughout their run-time. My granny actually got the actress's picture framed - who played Sita on TV (Deepika someone) and touched the feet of guy who played Krishna in Mahabharat. What all memories these epics invoked inside each one of us is totally amazing. I wanted to actually see if it will still make the same impact on me the way it did then and am not even surprised that it indeed does. Unfortunately comparisons are inevitable and if I have to judge between the two - I will always say I love "Mahabharat" more than "Ramayan" - this had too many of my favorite characters like "Karn", "Bhishm" and of-course the world favorite "Krishna" in no particular order and how can I not love "Arjun" or even "Yudhishthir" and that hunk "Bhim", the list is going to get longer. But if I compare Devdutt's versions (Illustrated one's are awesome) I found "Jaya" to be too underwhelming, he started pretty well but loses the steam somewhere mid ways followed by a haphazard abrupt ending, I kept asking for more but it wasn't to be, still it works on more counts than it fails and I still found it unputdownable and kudos to his research, references, stories and the knowledge behind plethora of unheard (unsung) characters. Totally wonderful read.
This is my and his I guess second book with Illustrations and I will call it a collector's item especially for our upcoming generations. As they have no idea of these stories that we all have grown up with, they are no more on TV (the newer versions are lousy I heard) and even if their are any good ones - kids have no interest in mythological serials and stories now a days. It is a terrific attempt and I totally loved the way he has carved out each and every character - giving them all what is their proper due that too with those amazing illustrations - loved those drawings, I had no idea until I read these two that illustrated versions would be this much fun. Of-course reading them back to back is double the fun as story actually continues in this one from where they left at the end of "Ramayan" and goes from here to the current "Kaliyug" - I now need to find out what he has written after this one in continuation. Of course his "Gita" is one that I am picking up next right after I finish posting this :) as I said earlier - its just irresistible to not to (is that correct grammatically?). Never-mind. Incredible is the word which comes to my mind to sum it up in one word. I never imagined that the stories that we have heard so many times, yet the way it is retold even when I knew whats next? it keeps getting better and made me smile, laugh, cherish, think, go emotional, made me think of a different way out and so much more. Timeless classic is what these are and will remain at least for our generation as many times we pick them in different versions, still having the same impact.
If you have read Sita and Jaya and also Gita - do let me know if it made the same impact on you too? Did you like (or love) them the same way we used to back then or have you found any other better versions by some other writers. As I would love to lay my hands on them too and read em all. But if you haven't read these - I will highly recommend that you better do it now and do it soon. They are a must must read for all.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Life of Pi - Yann Martel (Book)

Life of Pi - Yann Martel.

Normally when it comes to books adapted into movies - my policy is to read the book first (I try to keep it very close to the movie release) and then watch the movie. But at times it happens the other way round too when I have no idea if they are actually based on a book. Same happened with much acclaimed and loved "Life of Pi" as soon as I saw the movie and came out of theater - I so much wanted to read the book as we were too mesmerized by Priscine Molitor Patel's heart touching and heart warming story of tragedy as well as superb survival. The movie is so beautifully shot and well made - I am sure you will agree if you have seen it that it was totally a out of this world experience and with one of my all time favorite "Irfan Khan" as adult Pi narrating the story - it was simply too good. Unfortunately I just couldn't get the book immediately then till I saw it last month in a book sale at a mouthwatering and wallet shattering price of 89/- - just grabbed it and gorged on the beauty of it. I was warned by my friends who had their own stories to tell about the book that they finished it in flat one sitting to some in 24 hrs to some in 36 hours. I fortunately was able to stretch it to two weeks, thanks to my unplanned travels and some important books which kept coming in between - but I totally loved it. Also the longer I was able to stretch it the longer it made me smile and cheer Pi to fight for his life and come out unscathed. It is a beautiful story barring the ending which is a little over the top as well as over stretched but it doesn't take anything away from it.

The book is the terrific account of Piscine Molitor Patel, a (hilarious) teenager who is confused about his religion and follows Hinduism, Islam and even Christianity simultaneously whereas his father owns a zoo in Pondicherry. His life from his point of view is too good, hilarious at times and questioning too, totally loved the way Yann Martel has written it. His opinion on middle aged Pi, his life in Canada after the tragedy, their connection and the flash back of when and how it all happened. Pi has a story to tell and a damn good at that about almost everything, how is he named "Pi", to his schooling, his parents, about his brother Ravi, upbringing with a zoo at home and finally the journey that they take from India to Canada on a Japanese Cargo ship which sinks to the bottom of Pacific Ocean - how he survives with a Royal Bengal Tiger, a Hyena and a Orang-utan in a life boat for seven months is the book all about. Its a very touching account from the perspective of a kid and I was all emotional by the way it ends - what a heart break for the poor kid. Such a great inspiring story which at no points make you feel that its a work of fiction - totally convincing that you actually start believing that it must have happened.

If you have read the book and seen the movie - do let me know which one you liked more. I will personally say they are a great compliment to each other - which in today's time is nothing short of a miracle. I am so much looking forward to the movie again - a total visual delight. The book is a must must read for all - do not miss it at any cost, if you haven't read so far.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of Ramayana - Devdutt Pattanaik (Book)

Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of Ramayana - Devdutt Pattanaik.

I'd been thinking of reading a Devdutt Pattanaik book for a quite a long time now especially after finishing all from "Amish Tripathi" and "Ashwin Sanghi" two of his major competitors from this part of the world. What beter book to pick than the retelling of Epic Ramayan. I am sure almost all of us must have read "Ramayan" in one form or other and some of us (like me) would have read multiple versions of the same story but as much or I can say as many writers version we read - it just keeps getting better. But the one that Devdutt Pattanaik has written (not exactly) from the point of view of Sita is simply outstanding and mind-blowing to say the least. The kind of research which is very much visible from the book and the kind of pains he must have taken to gather the data is pretty much visible in the way he has narrated the done to dust story. I would say the best of to describe this work of mythological fiction is to say that this one book is way way better than all the books put together from Amish and Ashwin. Also, another reason for my picking this one up now is that "Amish's" second book from Ramayan trilogy is about to come out this month end and that happens to be another version of "Sita's" story, I just couldn't time it any better. Today only I pre-ordered it and hopefully will be a part of my collection as soon as it releases and I will get back right here to tell you how good it is - if it is any good.

As I said earlier that the story of Lord Ram and Sita "The Ramayan" keeps getting better with every new version hence this one too is no exception. Unfortunately I had no idea as what he meant by "Illustrated Retelling" hence I just picked up the book and was shocked to read the very first few pages that it was indeed a page of story followed by the "Illustrations" (Drawings of the happenings and characters) further followed by the references that he has put in as what all other authentic versions of Ramayan say about the happenings. I thought it will be one of few examples he is going to quote and found it sheer disturbance of sorts and diversions from the story. But as I kept going forward - I kindda started liking the idea and after initial 50 odd pages I actually started loving it as it was like the proper analysis of the story, its origin, references and even how it all was debatable then and now too. WOW!! Kudos to his efforts and the way he has done it all in 400 pages is seriously applaud worthy. I have no doubts in saying that I found this version to be one of the very best and I plan to gift a "Paperback" version to my parents to gauge their reaction on the research, analysis and story too.

Indian Epics especially when we talk about "Ramayan" and "Mahabharat", words likes exaggeration and fictionalized accounts etc shouldn't be minded at all. I mean in this one too there were so many instances that I found completely hilarious and overshot that I just can't mention them here spoiling the fun for those who plan to read this. But some I've got to mention like we all know that "Ravan" had ten heads - but having 20 arms is beyond me. Imagine Lord Ram's dilemma when he fought with the Rakshas King "The Triloki" Ravan with ten heads and twenty arms with each one of them having a different instrument to beat him. Unbelievably hilarious, I had a roaring good time visualizing the scene. Also the much debatable reference of Sita being related to Ravan in the first place that he discards and later pays the price of his karma. I didn't expect anything new from this "Retelling" but it turned out to be an eye opener for me as I was shocked to realize that my own knowledge of the epic is nowhere close to the one that I had in my hands. Simply Superb. Also it was very well able to invoke all those emotions in (the Atheist) me that I seriously couldn't not bow to the supreme "Maryada Purushottam Ram" and his deeds. Incredible is the story of Lord Ram and his beloved Sita who had to face so much in those fourteen years of struggle in jungle followed by another fourteen after they meet and separate followed by the tragic finale.

To my expectations as well as surprise he actually took the story to the proper end and was able to satisfy my soul with all the answers that I was looking for in the book as how it all ends and what is the new beginning. As I said earlier that this is one epic which we all have loved so much right from the day we are born and we've been told so many stories from the epic that I can just go on and on with this review. All I would say in the end is that - it is indeed a terrific attempt and a must must read for all Indian Mythological fans. If you have read it - do let me know how you like it and if you haven't - I will say its high time that you get your copy and give it a quick read.

Also, the end of this book very well guides me as to what to pick as my next read :). 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari (Book)

Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari. 

This book can very well be reviewed and summed up in one sentence: We (Home Sapiens) have screwed this planet big time and unfortunately there is no going back hence it all is coming to an end - very soon. I do not like reading horror at all and this unfortunately is one of the scariest books I have ever read in my life - it scared the shit out of me big time the way Yuval has covered the History, where and how it all started to the present and a glimpse on the future too as in which direction we are heading. I am sure if you have read this book - you will totally agree with me here. Totally loved the clarity of his thoughts and how subtly he has put his point forward - kudos to him. For some reason I have postponed my reading of Darwin's "Origin of Species", got it like two years back, still has it on my Kindle, have read couple of books inspired by his theory yet I am yet to read the one which started it all I guess. I have even read Matt Ridley's "The Red Queen" which talks about the similar subject but isn't scary like this one. And let me finish this by saying that I am NOT AT ALL looking forward to Yuval's next "Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow" that title itself is telling the whole story and imagine how scary it will be :).

As I picked up this one which came highly recommended from loads of people, found it a little boring and a kind of a slow starter. I always thought Yuval must be a Japanese, Chinese or a Korean may be but to my shock and surprise he turned out to be an Israeli. Wow! I guess this is my first from someone from that part of the world and its incredible. The kind of research he must have done to come out with this perfect book which should be kept in a indestructible titanium box  (should be Nuclear resistant too), so once the Homo Sapiens disappear from the face of this planet like the Dinosaurs did and a lot of animals and birds are getting extinct by the day do too - whoever finds this planet later should get an idea who we were and what we did to this planet. He hasn't left anything that needs a mention and has covered so much in those little over 400 pages that I found it incredible. The book after a boring and slow start just keeps getting better and by the time it ends - I actually wanted it to go on and on and I believe thats what he did with the sequel which I vow not to read as I have such a fragile heart and just cant take chances. This book should be made a mandatory read in school and colleges right before the next generation comes out and does exactly the same thing what we did and joins our hands in further destroying this planet. Although he doesn't offer any kind of solution in this one but at least we know what we are doing wrong now. But the $ million question remains unanswered - Are we listening to him and the likes? Is there a way all this can be stopped?

Terrific book and a must must read for all.
A definite 5/5 from me with a double thumbs up recommendation.
If you have read it already - do let me know how you liked it and are you planning to read the sequel? :) 

Friday, May 05, 2017

Demons in my mind - Aashish Gupta (Book)

Demons in my mind - Aashish Gupta.

How frequently does it happens with you that you pick up a book with super confidence because you have read something by the writer earlier which you presumably loved but it takes a kind of toll on your mind that you actually need to take a break before even you could think of reviewing it. Initially I was skeptical but then I thought - what the heck! let me read it and see what exactly it is as the title is pretty tempting. What I was expecting and what it turns out is poles apart. After what I had read of him (his second unpublished book soon to be out) was a terrific joy ride and such a refreshing read. Also, I am not comparing him or his work with anyone but I had this same dilemma in last few months with only two books that I read - "The Rebel - Albert Camus" and "Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacsson" - Loved them both but found myself incapable of reviewing them the way they should be.

I will call this a proper MindF#$& (not for the faint hearted) and it was actually as good as watching a Korean movie, or the American sort of "Wrong Turn", or one of the "Saw" series with a typical Indian "Amar Akhar Anthony" ending. Although its very smartly written and as the story progresses, it keeps the reader on tenterhooks as what to expect next. Story of the old man on the deathbed goes to the three monks for miracle healing that they offer and in place they take him on a flash back journey of their own (gruesome) story(s). Initially as the story progresses of little Ayeda and Rizwan it was too good but it comes to an abrupt end. Followed by two more stories equally intriguing of Neeru who wants to work with prisoners to give them a better life and Murli the artist - again they come to an uncalled unexpected unpredictable endings. Followed by the Finale which unfortunately is too gruesome and didnt work for me at all, Although I loved the way it all happens as thats a first for me from Indian standards as I haven't read anything like this earlier by any of our writers. The pace and story telling is such that I kept making faces yet couldnt just put it down as my mind kept asking for a closure and he does gives it a mind-blowing clsoure in the end. As I call it a "Amar Akbar Anthony" closing - I am sure if you have read the book you may agree with me - found it too filmy and indigestible. I guess its a work of fiction and should be taken with a pinch of salt but like I said - I am not sure if I am praising it or shooting it down.

One more thing that I really liked about the book other than its superb pace is the use of poetry. A good 20% if not more is written in that ways and as I was reading it, I was tapping my foot on the floor with my upper half going back and forward with the rhythm of "Demons in her mind, she has demons in her mind", so on so forth - too good. I will definitely be looking forward to his upcoming works for sure as this one plays with your mind and who knows what's he going to come out with next :). If you have read it - do let me know how you like it and if you haven't I would say - go ahead give it a try.