Book Review: The Silent Witness by Anuradha

History was never my favorite subject. I never wanted to memorize places, wars, their years and genealogy of the rulers. Until, I finished my studies and the bookworm inside me woke up again and now it has gone totally opposite way. The subject I despised earlier, now has become my favorite. Being in northern part of India, the books, references and even pop culture like movies has nothing else but the history of this part only. Even the current historical fiction too are available for this part only. And that made me wonder, what could be the story/ies of the southern states of India? The states where Zamorin allowed foreigners for the first time. The states which ruled thru their spice trades. So I started searching for such books. And luckily I found this one. The Silent Witness written by Anuradha. Synopsis promised this is going to be something different and indeed, it is something that is not read by me since long time.

The Silent Witness tells the story of Kerala. At the time, when Portuguese ruled it.At the time that even a small state like Kerala of today, was not one state but several kingdoms were interlinked to each other by one force or another. Dutch, Samoothiri, Kochi, Varmas and more. The story revolves around Kerala Verma and his brother. Both also known as Kochunni and Kuttan Thampuran. How conspiracies made them go into disguise, how Kochunni meets Unnimaya-a beautiful girl, how the strength of small states proves futile for statesmen of Portuguese. And how they are forced to move out of God's own country.

The canvas is very wide and looking at the page nos. I knew this is not actually a lengthy one at storytelling despite the fact it covers a vast time period. But still, it keeps you engaged because of the freshness of premises. This is perhaps my first ever read which is set in south India. And that make the reading experience unique. Characters like Kochunni, Kuttan and even Unnimaya are writter in a very simple way, not to exaggerate their bravery or beauty. But a well balanced, true to life, take makes it more worthwhile to read it.

Thought I have never been to Kerala, and this was first time I was reading about the area, it was a bit difficult to connect to certain scenes and rituals and even daily chores-which must be nostalgic to a south Indian reader. But still, it is an enriching and refreshing experience to read such things. Anuradha's pen does not master at the action though, and that's why you get to read war sequences in a lighter, non-descriptive way in which scenes move fast and only basic idea is give. But no, I am not complaining here because everyone has their own style.

The Silent Witness definitely takes you out in an unknown land, despite the fact that it is just a leaf out of the history of our country. History - that is full of such leaves which needs attention. And here Anuradha does just that. I would recommend this to all fiction lovers as well as history lovers. It is surely a worthy read.

The Legends of Bollywood : Book review

Dutt Family. One underrated and understated 'film' family about whom very less is written. Maybe, because only one lineage is famous and other family member got lost somewhere in heaps of flop films. Raaj Grover, who was almost a family member to this household of one of the most graceful couple, Nargis and Sunil Dutt, notes down his chronicles with Dutt Sahab's Ajanta Arts, his memories with Nargis bhabhi and other stars with whom he shared a good chunk of his life.

Title 'The Legends of Bollywood' is aptly put. As it starts with (the one and only) Amitabh Bachchan. Very intersting tale of Bachchan's four days leave from job and what he did with Raaj Grover in the city of dreams - a chapter makes a very good start of the book. Which further goes into lives of Yusuf saab, Dharam ji, Baba, Kapoors and Dutts.

An unusual read this is. Because neither this is from pen of journalist, nor its from mind of a star or an actor. But being a producer, Raaj has this advantage of being impartial, and very natural, so that the reader himself doesn't feel deja vu when reading anecdotes about years in which Indian cinema evolved from b/w to stereophonic sound and cinema-scope.

My favorites are obviously of - Dutt sahab and Nargis's tales. Even Balraj Sahni's chapter makes a really good read. Despite the fact we know many bits and pieces of the incidents described herein, as a bolly-lover, it's always a treat to read, repeat, read, and so on. Just one thing I would complaint here is - it doesn't tell us much about baba's dark period. It felt like Hirani has written more than this-despite of being more attached to tbe family.

That little rant apart, this is surely a book for all bolly-lovers outthere. Because some memories are meant to be lingered on.

Oh yes, and by supporting it and buying it, you will help funding the ever serving Nargis Dutt Foundation. What a generous contribution by the author.

Book Review: Tenth Avatar

So, when I posted my last review, I decided no more indian mythology read for a while now. But then, I saw this book by Kanchan Joshi, Tenth Avatar. And then my thoughts changed. And I picked it up for reading. Leaving Gone Girl incomplete, I finished this one in a few days. And it left me craving for more.

This is a story with two stories running parrellel to each other. On one side we see the Ramayana from Hanuman's eyes and on the other, protagonist is a hotshot scientist, maths lover who goes to Higgs Boson experiment like it's his daily playground:Krish. Now, physics and maths is nightmare stuff for me but the author here, takes us on altogether different approaches that makes it really interesting to go to. Even the Ramayan bit is portrayed with all possible scientific reasoning, so that you have logical circumstances instead of Hanuman flying off the ocean or uprooting the mountain to heal Lakshman. Present day story keeps you interested but for a while it takes on your nerves when it goes too much into details of the science physics and maths and what not. 

However I felt there was no need for such long part of Ramayana which goes on for every alternate chapter. It all is deja vu and makes it a wasted opportunity. (Spoiler alert) This track proves only useful when we are almost reaching the end. 

Overall, this is not the usual retelling remixing of mythology with current day fiction but needs some brain cell churning. If you are ready for that ride, hop on. 

 My rating: 3/5

Review: Stand Strong - Book 4 of Ramayana The Game Of Life

Just when I was wondering why it took so long for the fourth book in the series of Ramayana : The Game Of Life books, good guys at Jaico Books sent in their email, and after a couple of days, here it was. The awaited fourth installment in the series where Ramayana is presented as it is, without any deviation and variation, yet so differently translated that it makes a perfect self-help book you need to your side.  For background of this series, take a look at my posts on previous three books. (1, 2, 3).

First look at the cover and I was surprised. How this fourth book onwards a new design philosophy has been adapted by the publishers. The earlier books were good looking no doubt, but from this one onwards, it improves itself to higher notch. Fabulously minimally designed cover grabs the attention at first look. And now the title emphasizes on the theme of the current volume. Stand Strong. Yes, that's where the story has reached now.

After losing Sita, Ram Lakshan meet Sugriv and Hanuman. How Ram wins back Sugriva's lost empire in return of favor to find Sita. How Sugriva forms troops of millions and trillions monkeys to find her and how the troops keep their morale high despite of continued failures. This storyline, is the crux of the volume and this time it does better the past all books. Yes, this is the most interesting and unputdownable volume of the series. The way writer Shubha Vilas chooses to tell the tale, selected scenes, that unfolds in dramatic way and creating altogather different universe.

Like, going to all length in describing the mammoth troops of monkeys, the exquisite route each troop has taken, amazingly detailed description of the route described by Sugriva. The encounters of them with legends and magical lands. Everything makes me wonder why do we admire Tolkein a lot and ignore such fictional world created by our very own ancestors. That too, mostly oral history that got penned much later.

The key highlight of this series, shines again in this volume. The wisdom on the basis of this timeless tale. Wisdom at almost each page, as a footnote, describes the points flawlessly and effectively. Sample these -
"Excess fear leads to rebellion. Excess indulgence leads to disease. Excess comfort leads to lethargy. Excess power leads to arrogance. Excess of anything, however good it may seem, only tugs one toward the bad."
"Maturity is the peaceful acceptance of reality that gives one the ability to tolerate instead of agitate".

Many more such gems makes this book stand out when we see all the mytho-fictions are popping around us. And that, makes this book a unique effort.

Going back to the roots, is always a pleasant experience. And this book takes you just there. To the land where Rama walked, Hanuman jumped and great battles fought. And for that, you need to Stay Strong, which this book teaches us how.

Agniputr - When Agni First Spoke : Book Review

So, when I first heard about this book, I thought it to be from my favorite genre : Mytho-thriller. But no, it wasn't. Then, I read the summary, oh, a contemporary thriller, no, it wasn't. I started reading it, I thought its a horror one. No, it wasn't. Surprise surprice, it is about the least favorite subject of mine. Science! That too, quantum science. And finally, while putting down the book as I finished it, Oh my gosh ! I can't believe physics can be so interesting ! 

Vadhan's Agniputr (Son of Fire) is the book I am talking about. Its a story about an unknown force and how it has got so much power, enough to destroy whole world, or enough to create altogether a new world ! Leading the story are Sheila the 'sci-fi' scientist and Surya the 'hifi' lawyer. Indeed, the pair is amusing and entertaining while they are together. The writer keeps the mood pretty light while they are in the scene. Similarly, when there is a mention of the power, the 'Sutram', the feeling of spook, the uncomfortable feeling of being scared in dark even at night, comes naturally. That indeed, is sign of perfecting the words. Full marks to the writer for that. 

The plot starts in 1940s but soon comes back to present. Writing style is fluid, which won't let you go check your phone notifications. Surprisingly, while the story progresses, the characters starts giving you dose of lightweight humor. A welcome relief indeed in otherwise 'getting tense' mood. I won't reveal any more characters or the storyline further. But will say, this is worth reading if you love thrillers and even paranormal things, it will be added bonus. Oh, and as the title already has given it - waiting for the sequel. 

4/5 from me ! 

Oh, and here's the trailer of the book. You can buy it from here .

Kaafiron Ki Namaaz : Movie Review

Three years back, when I heard the soundtrack of this film, I didn't know that actually watching this film, would be such an experience ! It certainly is not an easy film to watch. It jolts you from inside, it makes you think, ponder over many issues which are (and will be) a part of any society, any country, despite the fact however advanced and 'civilized' it becomes. Where feeble issues and brittle slogans and jingoism has place while the pandemonium behind their back, hits deaf ears.

Set in Kashmir, the first 10 minutes takes you on a whirlwind of expressions and happenings. This is not your usual 'beautiful valley' Kashmir. Neither it is 'just another terrorism wala movie' Kashmir. The haunting shots of empty streets and a stunning and equally depressing aerial shot of the lake will still not make you ready for whats coming next. Further most of the film is set in just one room [and a bathroom] this is something most unique I have ever seen. A court martialed army man, his friend and a musician- a tea vendor and a writer. The three confessing their most personal secrets on a rainy Christmas eve that leads to those shocking revelations and layers of lives and lies we all are living in.

While the trailer was launched, it got me intrigued how, how a movie can be shot in just one place. With just a few characters. Of course there are a few movies with such setup. But still, it is not an easy job to make people glued at screens with such limitations. Here, DOP A.Vasanth does wonders with his games with light and shadow, aided by Jyoti Sankar Bhattacharya's art direction. This brainchild of Ram Ramesh Sharma, writer and director, gets perfect team for this dark tale. Perfection is in casting as well where (Late) Chandrahas Tiwari, Alok Chaturvedi and Megh Varn Pant, soaked in their characters, strip themselves on screen by opening pages and pages of their own book of dark secrets. In the end you get to experience something never before on screen. Despite of such perfection on all fronts, Music of Advait Nemlekar leaves its own impression on you. While Sawaalon Ki God Mein starts off the film on a curious note, Jhalkiyaan shakes you by the time it reaches on its climax (uniquely done, again, with animation) and mysterious Yeh Raat Monalisa adds yet another layer of darkness.

Its really unfortunate that our censor board still haven't grown up, or say has gone back to bygone era, that such movies are proposed to be shredded in order to get public release. May be, because it shows us the mirror, we are scared to see how ugly we look to ourselves. Thank you and Kudos to Producer Bhargav Saikia, for taking this revolutionary step to release this film, that already has seen many festivals worldwide, for everyone. Way to go ! Here's to more such awesomeness, called Cinema.
My rating : 4 / 5.
Here is the link to watch the film : Youtube.
P.S. Bold language used, and some sensitive arguments. If you are easily offended, you are warned.