Reviewed in India on 25 November 2018
How to Explain Malious Books
Sometimes the only force that can take you through tabductso the end of a book this bad is the sweet thought of revenge: of how you are so going to maul the author in your review once the book is done and dusted.
This is a book that is so painfully badly written (300+ pages of tripe!) that ordinarily it should not merit much thought, but the fact that it tells a story that so many would want to hear, and might believe too easily, makes it dangerous nevertheless, and worth discrediting.
Also, the idea of giving voice to the victims, of inverting the historical bias of “history is written by the victors” is quite interesting. This was the reason I could not resist picking up the book.
The Tale Of The Vanquished:, yes again! : The story of the Kishkindha has never been told. Vanara is the epic tale of the vanquished vana nara people, a story that has been cherished by the oppressed castes of India for 3000 years. Until now, no Vanara has dared to tell the tale. But perhaps the time has come for the dead and the defeated to speak.
Written through a distorted prism of historical victimization, this book is simplistic beyond imagination, is replete with misprisions, and makes no attempt either to capture the poetry of the original epic or show any sort of fidelity to its philosophy. Instead, it mangles every aspect of it.
The author is clearly a Dravidian fanatic and tries every angle to work his fever-pitch hatred into the epic and its ‘historical atrocities’.
In effect, the author wants to fan the North-South Divide (the Aryan Vs Dravidian political flame) and the caste divide and is extremely vitriolic in his language throughout. The hatred is obvious in every page.
The two main threads running through this atrocious and fanatical novel are:
1. Hate the North Indians, they brought all evils into society.
2. Our only weakness is our lack of unity, let us band together, Brothers, we are the original rulers of India before these intruders came into our lands.
Villainization of Sugreeva and Hanuman
Vanara tells you the story of the Ramayana’s yet another love story of Baali and Tara. But even here as many other seminalise the great epics, here too a woman is the cause of the rift between two brothers. But why again, why to again make a woman a victim of male domination and the cause of a war, making and demonizing her as a blood-thirsty moron as Draupadi is thought by many. Tara here is the victim of Baali’s fight and Sugreeva’s lust, again a story based on the lines of the story of Sunda and Upasunda.
The book, in fact, tells you the other side of the tale. Rather I would say the book not only makes Baali a total flawless hero but rather even villainizes characters like Jambavan as greedy, Hanuman as a bloody brahmin and Sugreeva as a power-thirsty and lustful monkey. But if an author wants to make Baali the author, he can do so with full freedom but not at the cost of villainizing characters like Sugreeva and Hanuman.
Confused narration, broken characters, and typo errors
I must say that for an author with the stature of the author of the Baahubali series, an editor has a lot less work and even here the editor has taken it very lightly. That really bums out your reading flow when you come across errors like misnaming Tara as Tare, and sometimes scared as sacred.
Moreover, for an author like Neelkantan whose Baahubali series I just loved, confused narration could have never been a flaw. But in this book seriously confused narration is a peril. An example of it can be in the start you see Baali hating Hanuman as a bloody brahmin but then after a hundred pages you see Baali befriending Hanuman and accepting his Brahmin rituals. But when did they got friends, God only knows. That really even sucks away all your expectations from the book into an Abyss of Destruction.
When you see Neelkantan’s narration you see very strong characters laced with the power of mesmerizing you in his previous books. But here again, the characters are so poorly built and there is just no proper emotional attachment between you and the characters.
Use of unnecessary obscure language
If you are reading Neelkantan’s book, you obviously expect it to be somehow filled with obscure language but it is ok if you use it in the right place and context as done in Asura. But using these without any sense makes me really struck while coming across them.
Moreover, some characters are really out of the globe and come out of the blue and vanish. Someone of them is Prabha why was her character at all there in the book and can you imagine sugreeva so bad and mad with lust that he will straight away tell his wife of his love about Tara.
Neelkantan’s fails in many aspects to show the existence of some dialogues and some arguments in the book started by anyone have strings hanging without any head or tail or any conclusions.
Powerful narration and amazing imagination
In his remarkable speech at the burial of Julius Caesar, Marc Antony starts by criticizing Caesar and praising Brutus, but from the first word itself, it is loaded with political shrewdness. Anand Neelkantan is a brilliant writer. In a country where English proficiency is equated with brilliance, he often dazzles the middle-class Indians with his esoteric English wordplay. However, possession of a good thesaurus and nimble fingers for tweeting are of not much help in navigating the complex jungle of Indian politics, where ruthless beasts of greater shrewdness roam around. It seems Neelkantan has decided to use his skills in writing to carve out space for himself in this teeming wilderness and perhaps become the lion king one day.
One must bow down before Neelkantan for his prowess in the powerful narration. the best part of the book is its beauty in the emotions generated by the chapters and the gripping narrative. I felt that the beauty of the language and simple yet lucid vocabulary of Neelkantan makes the book, truly a “masterpiece”. one cannot put down the book if you have started once. although the book is of 300 pages, you would at least two days if you are a fast reader- for completing the book, for you are sometimes left boggled by some intense scenes.
For the narration, it is just mind-boggling. the way he captures each character and emotions in his pen would leave you enthralled. you while reading the book go through a lot of fight scenes, and neelkantan explains each as a fight master. you would go mad by the intense and riveting fights and dialogues. the characters are such well bound with the reader that you live through them throughout the book. there is not even a single dull moment in the book, that you can point out.
The Tale of Love and Pain told with the best language
“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster . . . when you gaze long into the abyss the abyss also gazes into you”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
Anand Neelkantan is a thesaurus of traditional mythology. His latest novel Vanara is an engaging handbook on a character of Indian Mythology which is somewhat least popular. His dedication to writing about someone whose journey is unknown to the masses speaks volume. Amalgamating fiction with mythology and rendering the novel a modern look, the author has done an applauding work. He has offered both sacred stories in the form of short incidences and an intriguing perspective of various characters.
One of the aspects that would come to attention while reading this book is its language. it’s a double sided sword that can cut sharp into the readers. I found two aspects with the language. At one side each line is coiled and lengthy carrying heavy details and meaning. On the other hand, it is a beauty in words. some of the lines have actually swooned worthy with its poetic quality. The language is an art for this book. It is a bit difficult but beautiful at the same time. For me personally, I absolutely loved the language. It made all the difference for me in the book
The other important aspect was the treatment of the plot. It definitely wasn’t a child’s play and I absolutely adore the boldness and the creative risk, the author had taken especially considering how sensitive and vulnerable religious aesthetics run in India. I am pretty sure that there would be at least a small group of readers who would have their eyes bulging at the way the narration movies. That is why I felt the book was amazing because the narration and the way the author decided to narrate the popular mythology is super impressive nevertheless a really bold step.
Some Final Words
Dear Readers, the author is clearly misguided and the book is clearly a fanatic’s attempt to rekindle old hatreds. Please do not take it literally. Take it as an inventive, if extremely badly written, exercise in reversing the so-called historical bias of victors, and leave it at that. It merits no historical discussion and is definitely of no political relevance.
This book is a blatant attempt to fan anti-Brahminism, North-Indian hatred, and basically, blame every ill of society on this ‘historical injustice’. It does have a call for caste-solidarity, but even that is not a noble call, considering that it is caste and not a class that is being called to unite.
For me, the scary thing about this is that such sentiments are already high in many cities. So many North Indian friends of mine complain about the increasing xenophobia towards them in South India, even in metropolitan cities like Bangalore. Speaking in Hindi in Chennai is a sure fire way of being discriminated against. Similarly, the North Indian cities too are treating the South Indians in a derogatory manner and treating them as encroachers. This mutual alienation is very dangerous and could easily be the cause for major riots in our densely packed cities. This sort of fanatical historical narratives only add fuel to this fire and should not be encouraged.
A dense web of characters unfolds the deceit that permeates every nook and alley of Kishkindha and the storytelling is tight and fraught with intrigue. Your interest never wanes. You worry for the headstrong Baali and your heart crumbles like a soggy cookie over the plight of the stoic Sugreeva. You loathe the sadistic Sugreeva and smile sadly for the shy Ruma. A chill runs down your spine over the mechanizations of Sugreeva and others and fear lodges in your throat as the noblemen of other parts vie for power through dastardly deeds. You worry for the love story between the rebellious Baali and the beautiful Tara and fervently want their idealistic dreams to come true. You get a giant knot in your throat over the plight of the poor and exploited in a land that claims to be just and generous to its subjects.
Vanara is a tale told with a masterful control over the narrative. The pace never slackens and the story is never offered up at the altar of world-building details.
Vanara makes a very bad name for Neelkantan and his way of writing about the antagonist or the vanquished. But narration and his powerful imagination saves some stardust for him. He could very well write and name history autobiography “My Narration Saved Me.”