Asura – Tale of the Vanquished

asura-tale-of-the-vanquished

This feisty and unorthodox book by Anand Neelakantan is breaking all kinds of stereotypes for the famous epic – The Ramayan. A courageous tale, depicting the story through the two protagonists – Ravan and Bhadra. This book is a fresh insight challenging the reader to move beyond the regular notion and take a new perspective. The story line is exactly how it is in the original Ramayan, but from a different perspective, from the point of view of Ravan – a typical rags to riches ruler and Bhadra – a poor common man expecting a lot from the world and the King.

The Yays:

1. Humanizing the characters

Taking a unique perspective on the epic and instead of making it a battle between Asuras (Demons) and Devas (Gods), Anand has humanized the characters and made it a war between two normal humans with different thinking and cultures (Yes, there is no Ravan with 10 heads, instead a Ravan with 10 thinking principles or ideologies, neat eh?). Kudos to Anand for making the transition of God/Demon to human so smooth.

2. Strong women characters

I won’t give spoilers, but the portrayal of the female characters in the book is unconventional. The women in the book have been given extremely equal and important roles and depictions.

3. Breaking stereotypes

The author has not sketched the characters or the story in black or white, there are shades of grey which gives the story more depth and gives the characters various moods, expressions and sides to their respective personalities. This book will question your stereotype and prejudices, if you’re ready to face them.

4. Character sketches

Each character in the book has some or the other relevance in the story. Each character has also been given a proper background and story with personality traits as well. The major ones being, Ravan (obviously) and Bhadra. Ram, Sita and other characters have also been given different (maybe audacious) traits.

5. The ending

The one thing to totally read the book is, it’s ending. There is no ‘walking into the sunset holding hands’ epilogue, but a poetry-prose type of ending. Beautiful, serene, peaceful and yes, heart wrenching. The last page, though is not sad but leaves you with one very strong and human feeling – hope. It almost had me in tears, well maybe not almost.

The Nays:

1. Descriptive

Even though, I’m one of those readers who loves descriptive, but for most of the readers (specially the novice ones), the novel does go a lot into details and becomes a little stretched in the middle because of it’s descriptiveness.

2. Ram and Sita

This book is about Ravan, agreed; but it would have been great if the relationship between Ram and Sita was explored a little more in detail. After all, they are the main protagonists in Ramayan.

3. Predictable

Although, we all know what happens, the book has certain aspects about Ravan’s life that we seldom know. But, after a point in the middle, the story becomes a little predictable and looses its pace, only catching it up afterwards.

All in all, one admires the knack of the author narrating and blending the known scriptures with his own imagination. I know this is work of fiction (no thanks to the disclaimer), but i can’t help relating it to how things are today, the current scenario.

This book is definitely worth a read, specially if you’re interested in mythological (?) epics!

Happy Reading!