Thursday, June 10, 2010

Meluha Bound

I am on a fairly random reading spree these days – and just finished reading the Immortals of Meluha by one Amish Tripathi. I am still not quite sure what to make of that book.

Conceptually it’s interesting. It goes to the heart of Indian mythology and plucks out Lord Shiva and weaves a story around him, in a manner calculated to appeal to contemporary tastes.

The tale follows the life of Lord Shiva – with the underlying premise that he was NOT a God, but a mortal, a tribal chieftain who did extraordinary deeds and consequently legend made him into a God. It starts with his entry as an ‘immigrant’ into Meluha – an almost ideal country, and is turned into “Neelkanth” there and traces his life – whether its his romance with the emperor’s daughter Sati or his war on evil. (This is the first of the trilogy, so we need to see how the story progresses)

It was, well, like reading a hybridized version of Dan Brown and Chetan Bhagat.

The concept might have been inspired by the former - viz. take up divinity and holy cowisque subjects ( pun unintended) and attempt to build a racy ( and hopefully controversial) pulp fictional tale out of it. (As an aside, I kept on thinking of Ilium by Dan Simmons as well – the whole myth angle juxtaposed with modern concepts perhaps.. Ilium was bizarre though - the way it kept on jumping between eras gave me jet lag).

And the atrociously pedestrian language is certainly of the latter.(Chetan Bhagat has done a grave disservice to Indian literature. I know that Indian writing was laboured and pedantic BC*. But AD seems to be characterized by utterly casual lowest-common-denominator fiction.) This book has these so called italicized thoughtblurbs of Lord Shiva, which make one cringe (the English equivalent of “Kutte kameene mein tera khoon pi jaoonga”).

Let me take the comparison further - Dan Brown, while he lacks the erudition of say, Umberto Eco, did manage to throw some historical and cultural nuggets at one in Da Vinci/Angels and Demons. Amish on the other hand, littered his books with names and references, but there was no depth whatsoever. So one would have the book crowded with Brahaspatis, Veerbhadra and Daksha without etching them out at all ( not to mention the rather cutesy references – Nandi as an extremely overweight captain with the chosen tribe of Bull.).

The other big difference between Brown and Tripathi was that there was a consistent tenor through the novels in Browns book. Tripathi on the other hand started out with Lord Shiv as a human but then backtracked by introducing a number of Devas and Asuras and immortality which confused things.

The writer of this certainly scores over Bhagat on two counts - he has taken an interesting subject ( I am obsessed with mythology after all) and there might be certain homework which has gone into the creation of this book - so it doesn’t read like a horny collegians delusional ramblings. Though one wished he would have just raised the whole thing by a couple of notches. (The feeling I had while reading it was akin to when goes for a head massage and the masseuse while working in the generally right area consistently misses the spots which could make the whole experience divine ( pun unintended again)!)

I will probably read the sequels too. Ah well.

*BC= Before Chetan: Sorry, couldnt help myself.
** AD= After Dumbkoff (Sorry, couldnt resist that either)
P.S. Finished reading “Two states” sometime back, might explain the vitriol
P.P.S Extremely random post - what to do? house arrest and sleep deprivation continues...


Iya said...

this is the next book i will be reading.
will come back and read ur review after iam done with the book..

full_moon_p said...

After that write-up, I rather read your reviews, than the so-called author!

A said...

Haha, strange but I felt the exact same way after reading the book.
I like the sarcastic connotation.
Kudos for a very entertaining post :)

Thanatos said...

At least someone's trying. Hopefully someone else will get it right. One can hope right?

ubergeek said...

Loved that review - and agree wholeheartedly about Chetan Bhagat. Read abt 10 pages of Dan Brown and felt I had enough.

Strangely enough, I had just started reading Manil Suri's trilogy - The Death of Vishnu. Sounds like that might have also served as inspiration for Amish Tripathi.

Someone told me that the Chetan Bhagat genre was not meant for the consumption of city folks at all, but aimed at the vast small town and village populations where kids these days don't read - and will definitely not read something in English. Whether the Chetan Bhagat brigade actually writes in English is debatable, but let's leave that aside for now. But the strange parallel goes for Dan Brown. The Dan Brown sort of books are usually bought at airports in the US by people who read only when on a plane. As someone remarked "this guy knows how to keep the pages turning" - well, I might agree for different reasons why I'd like to turn those pages ;-)

Rambling as usual - forgive me. And great review!