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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shiva,Meluha and the Indian Author

"The Immortals of Meluha" Review and related grumbling.
Awesome Cover!!!!

Look at the picture! It’s the cover of a book my brother got me, “The Immortals of Meluha” by Amish. That’s one of the coolest book covers I have seen. Then I read the description on its back. WOW! Shiva (Big time Hindu god) portrayed as a simple man, rising to god hood with his deeds with The Indus Valley civilization as the background. This I will read without another thought. I flip through the pages, checking the font and actual size of the book. Easy! I will finish it in one or two days. This was over two weeks back. I have reached half of the book and almost too lay to read. Just to know what happens. The flame had died, just as I sat through Transformers 2, just to know what happens in the end, in the hope that it’s going to be awesome any minute,I now wait to complete reading Immortals.
Now as a review for the book, I would say I have to complete it. Yet what I read was very promising in theme but bland in everything else. The pace is boring, the characters are thinner than a 7o'clock blade, and everyone praising each other in every other page, Shiva is no more an epic personality but rather the humble bollywood hero who will soon unleash his hidden fury and greatness. Melodrama that could be directed by Karan Johar with ample quantities of glycerine, every characters chest swells with pride and every one of them has wet eyes of happiness or pride. The real mood killer is the language. The author claims he used simple layman language to make it easy to read etc. Words like flummoxed, prevarication, supercilious etc are used here and there, which puts the authors claim in jeopardy. To put things in perspective would you or me ever say “the author's supercilious prevarication had my encephalon flummoxed!” I speculate that he was using the MS office thesaurus while writing the book. I just used it to find out another word for brain is encephalon. Anyway he uses lots of words irresponsibly, and it took the mood out of the book.Then there where lots of modern phrases Rubbish! Dammit! and executive officers, orientation etc. It distracts you from the authenticity of the culture and era. Like “marijuana”, it’s so modern, American. It didn’t suit the time period. He could have used 'ganja' or ‘ganjika’ for authenticity or even cannabis for scientific accuracy. With 'marijuana' I could imagine Shiva as a Rastafarian reggae star rather than a spiritual yogi warrior. The Indus valley back drop and its society sound too urban with its officers and staff etc. Very MBA-ish, maybe the author would tell that’s why the civilisation collapsed. The Ancient super society was planned by a modern MBA holder, and they had a recession. But I still love the theme, I loved the factual deconstruction of the myth and that’s why I will still read it. And hope the author will take this as honest criticism and make it awesome in the next of this trilogy has he claims. I will buy his books. And torturing my poor tattered wallet I buy the expensive original books rather than the roadside pirated ones for cheap. It’s my way of telling I will spend my humble salary on good books if it’s good and then half starve me.

I have been planning to be an Indian English author from quite some time. My epic novel(s) took nearly a decade to travel from a light bulb in my brain to the first chapter on paper. It might take another decade to finish. It’s because I am lazy, and of course life and its disadvantages stand in the way of living and writing. Then There e is another thing. I don’t want my book to be mediocre. Michael Crichton is a big inspiration and his books are my measure (not the recent ones but he older ones). I hope to achieve at least half of his brilliance in story telling and theme. But I believe myself to be an Indian Nationalist. So my book will be based in India. The main character may slightly resemble me. Since being normal, isn't my thing the book definitely will be fictional, maybe sci-fi maybe fantasy. Now I wait to get my research done and characters sketched. Plot paced and language stable. So I say all this as an alibi for not writing it and also to make sure I don’t fall into the normal clichés of the average Indian English novels. I read considerably more than any of my friends, my favourite kind are techno thrillers, fantasy, paranormal etc. The western authors have scored a hell lot more than Indian authors in these fields. I mean we have a billion Indians, but everyone forgot to Imagine. I read Indian authors from time to time. Arundathi Roy's ' The god of small things ' was something. It was boring in school now it’s pretty good, R.K Narayanan was great. Then I read a few whose names I don’t want to remember. Most of it was about how hard it’s to life being a particular class in India, or lots of adultery, Heavy doses of social and interpersonal philosophy, yellow mangoes staining saris and nostalgia. It’s really good sometimes. Most of it has a unique style and flavour that’s enjoyable and intelligent. But who am I fooling, I need thrillers! There is no room for imagination in most of modern Indian Novels.
I found two authors pretty good at that. One is Ashok K Banker. His Ramayana was amazing. A modernised super cool version, I read 4 books back to back then ran out of money to buy more books then. Another one was Samit Basu who wrote the Game World trilogy which is again awesome. These two are really good. It’s a lot better than Immortals, Even though I found Amish’s idea really epic in scope. Then another Indian Author I read more than one is of course, everyone’s favourite Chetan Bhagat. I hate him.
I read five point someone. It was good, funny but mediocre, enjoyable nothing great. Then I read ‘one night at a call centre’. When I read the Book summary I thought to myself what a cool Idea. This is going to be epic. Then read the book and decided I should start wiping my ass rather than washing so I could use that book. I really hated that book. A major let down. I mean there are books you find boring and don’t like. But this one I hate.
The funny thing about this is It’s a big hit in India, I find it so frustrating. I know a friend who hardly reads books but reads Chetan Bhagat, The great Indian Author. The guy never even read Enid Blyton when he was younger, but calls Chetan Bhagat books a class act its fine that they like him and reads, but why make it the best seller. I mean there are thousands odds really good Indian authors giving out really good stuff but maybe advertised less and not a replica of a bollywood film. Hmmm
Like always we bask in the bland glory of mediocrity. We suddenly lowered our critical standards. We enjoy the superficial shallowness and glycerine fuelled emotions and stagnant melodrama in our stories. The new, intelligent, imaginative works of art are lost in a metaphorical storm of commercialised mediocrity. Novels and literature is an important segment of society and progress. We are all educated. So why tone down our standards by dumbing down ourselves. Inspiration and imagination can stir a brain dead society. I will claim that it’s better to read about cloning dinosaurs and saving mystical princess rather than glamorised adultery and advertised lifestyles. We are not new to great imaginative epics, Ramayana, or Mahabharata for example. Let it be fact or fiction a religious fan literature. But someone wrote it, it was authored by some one. With all its intricacy and characters to set the standard for all aspiring and recent authors and audience of this unimaginative era, we still stick to the boring clichés of melodrama and shallow characters. Our authors have a melting pot of various myth and legends to get inspired from. I used to hear stories form my grandmother more interesting and creative than the mainstream 'trendy' authors of this time. But sadly even my grandmother sold her imagination to the soap operas storming everyday on TV. It’s just sad to be hear that crude novels about call centres are best sellers in our country, where stories and story telling where actual professions. With a pantheon of stories and characters to be inspired from, we disqualify ourselves as intelligent readers by promoting mediocre literature.

The Immortals of Meluha is a change from the usual standards of many trendy authors. After I finish this one, will eagerly wait for the rest of the trilogy. But I really hope that the author takes a turn form the regular and raise his bar of quality and remove the bollywood from it and bring in awesomeness. Till then I will continue cribbing about why India cannot have a decent big boy’s adventure book better than the ones from western writers.


exwhyzed said...

yo! chetan bhagath sucks! i think i know who u were referring to... the kid who never read enid blyton! LOL!!

good rant here though! ;)

videv said...

no its wasnt the guy u were refering too.. bur he fits the bill too