Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Better than the Best

The greatest story ever told, War of the Worlds and numerous other headlines came to my mind, because all I could think of while writing about Mahabharatam is how much of adjectives I’m going to use. It’s been two days since I finished but the climax and how Mahabharatam is such an anti-war agenda still doesn’t go out of my mind. One can’t really write a review of Mahabharatam, none can.

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Even though an abridged version, first time I feel the clichéd saying of ‘books better than movies’ to be cent percent true. And reading it in Tamil has its own advantage. All I saw in serials and all I knew about Mahabharatam was war and only war. May be a bit of drama too. But only after reading the book, I could understand that how much of life stories are in it. If you read Mahabharatam you’ve got the purpose of your life. It tells about various aspects of life, highs, lows, romance, lust, vengeance etc. etc. An art work can make you feel happy, sad or induce any type of emotions but Mahabharatam is one book which will make you come in acceptance with your life. That’s the most important aspect out of all.

The start of the book had various stories, before the actual Pandavas Vs Gowravars story started. Abridged version is not really the way to read the pre stories or the start of Mahabharatam because the characters don’t get etched in your mind, only the stories do. It was same for me too. I remember the stories more than who were involved in it.

The second phase, the war phase, when I started reading, I thought what could differently happen over eighteen days. It’s going to be the same flesh and blood story. In a way it was, but in lot many ways it was not. We all know about Krishna’s Leelai in the war but a lot many things too happen apart from it. For me the most depressing event was when Dharaman was made to lie about Ashwathaman’s death. One couldn’t get sadder than the moment one loses their passion. For Dharman, honesty is his trademark and he was asked to forgo it. What worse could happen?

Dharman’s character is what affected the most. When Pandava’s children die in the end and he laments about how needless the war was, how unnecessary the throne would look like etc. It really makes you understand how rotten everything is in the world and you are going to be disappointed no matter what.

Icing in the cake was when each of them go to heaven with Dharman being the last with a dog accompanying him. Karma telling how a ‘dharmam vellum’ through dog was epic. I’m not a pet person but that one sequence got me respect for dogs.

P.S: The re(view) was for Rajaji’s Mahabharatam

 

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Life isn’t simple

For people who have read, with a title like this you wouldn’t have expected the story to be like this right? It was the same with me too. We can’t be blamed for that. That’s the intention of Neela Padmanabhan. Such a prolific write. All through the novel I was thinking that in my review, I’d write it as a novel which I didn’t understand. But thanks to the intriguing last one hundred pages I don’t think I’ve to do so.

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Pallikondapuram is nothing short of a marvel. It’d take some time to settle it. If you are religious you’ll start getting into the groove right away. For me it was a tough fifty pages at start. The book starts with detailed description of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. I haven’t been there and I wasn’t really absorbing what was written. The description there painted me picture of Thanjai Periya Kovil rather. I felt like Ananthan Nayar was sitting there right beside the pond at the back of the temple and describing it. To be honest I wasn’t flabbergasted when I went to the temple. It was all weird procedures there. Felt very much like how I felt in Puri Jagannath Temple, not at home. But when I read this book I found an all new meaning for Thanjai Periya Kovil.

Ananthan Nayar is a torn and tortured middle class Brahmin. You’d never want to live a life like that. It was a sadder version of About Schmidt. I felt read bad for him. Initially I was of the opinion that he was the wrong guy, then it got confusing, then felt like he was the good guy and finally accepted that it’s not for me to decide. The book is very much Tarkovskian. Very much like Brothers Karamzov and Crime and Punishment. I might reread Crime and Punishment again next which might give me a clearer picture. It’s accepted universally that Russian literature is the one we connect to the most. The climax chapters of this book was similar to Brothers Karamzov and the confusions of Rashkolnikov was like that of Ananthan Nayar.

It’s actually a one man show. If I had to make a movie of it, I’d cast Poornam Vishwanathan in it. The Malayalam laced language in the book was tough to get onto it. When people said Ezam Ulagam Tamil would be tough to understand, it wasn’t really like it. Ezam Ulagam worked wonders for me but this one was very tough initially.

The book had detailing similar to Lord of the Rings, where the build ups go on and on and literature similar to Crime and Punishment.  What’s best is it’s Tamil and you can completely understand what’s going on.

The characters are not just another human being on the planet earth. Each one is so complex, undergoes such turmoil that it actually makes you fear life. Iranian movies have this capacity to put you into depression. Separation was the last thing which did to me.

If there are works which celebrates life, these are works which make us writhe life. Nevertheless we end up loving both. That’s how life is isn’t it. Not simple!

Apappa

I don’t know how many have the experience of reading a biography of a person whom you hadn’t known. I don’t know how many have the experience of reading a biography without knowing that you are going to read one. I don’t know how many of you had combined to do both together. Unfortunately, I answer my questions. I was the one who did both. Now it scares me even more, I’ve exhausted my book shelf with only Mr. Obama’s biography pending. I don’t know how I’m going to read about a person about whom I don’t have much opinion.

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For a change I read the preface of the book first, I don’t know why, but I did. I don’t know why I’m using so many ‘I don’t’ know’s’ here. Anways, the preface didn’t get me excited. I first of all didn’t know who Mr. Naidu was. Yes, damn me. And the fact that it’s going to be a biography like that of a son narrating, didn’t help.

Actually the only success of the book was how effortlessly the viewpoint changed from that of Sivasankari to Appa. She had written the preface in first person’s point of view. And in the first chapter as soon as the narrator says ‘Appa uyarnthavar’ and all that, I could immediately imagine a guy narrating a story. That was beautifully done. But narrative wise, nothing great.

  1. D. Naidu was supposed to be a mischievous child who burnt a barn and threw sand on his teachers face. These two incidents were brilliant and could have added interest to a story but as it’s said from his son’s point of view we don’t get to know the details of it, rather than a line or two. I guess that’s where the son telling story becomes a drawback.

In spite of that there were a lot of incidents like the one where he servers his guest with ‘vepan kotai’ sambar. That was hilarious. And he handing out his assets was outrageously awesome. All these great moments were told only in few words and only fatherly advises were given more importance. May be what Sivasankari asked in the epilogue was correct. I guess Naidu’s son would have been feeling guilty that he couldn’t understand his dad much.

His fatherly deeds to be quite honest were irritating, in spite of Naidu’s son telling a million times that that generation was different, this generation is different. Also all his daddy talks were like ‘Daddy’ in Varanam Ayiram. After a point it was funny. I don’t know why, for some reason I’m getting more irritated by him than the writer who wrote it in this way.

With someone as charismatic as G. D. Naidu (from what I know only through this book), one could have done something like Wolf of the Wall Street. But sadly Sivasankari is no Scorsese.

Sunthara Boomi

I did a terrific mistake by reading the title as Sunthara Boomi and kept on reading it as Sunthara Boomi whenever Suthanthira Bhoomi was mentioned even inside the book. And that seemed to be more apt for the unrelenting sarcasm written in the book. Only after reading the prologue I got to know the title to be Suthanthira Bhoomi.

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Well, let’s talk about the prologue first. If Kagidha Malargals epilogue was the best I’ve ever read, Suthanthira Bhoomi’s prologue was one of the best I’ve read in recent times. I have the habit of reading anything apart from the story only at the last but may be for this, this one alone I felt I could have read the prologue first.

The book takes a different tone from any other political drama’s I’ve watched or read. The problem with the political dramas is that they always talk about rise and fall of people but they forget the very fact that they are people first more than the politician or celebrities. Here we get to know how those people will talk and behave at home other than being politicians. Like Sarala says, “kathar sataya kelatitu manusana va, politciana venam.”

The characters were nice, I don’t know whether I could go ahead and call it as brilliant because Indhra Parthasarathy is so oral, sometimes he talks so much that I feel like asking to shut up. I always feel like he overdoes, explaining each and every emotion and what’s worse, I don’t get a wow factor out of it. You see he can’t do what Woody Allen could do in an ‘I luff you’ in Annie Hall. But somehow I ended up reading his novels more than the other.

 

Wings of Fire

A very very heavy novel which we all know would end up in something heavier in the end. And thus it does. But I didn’t like the climax, it was literal. There were a lot of events before that which got me more angry, more restless, more helpless than the climax.

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You see the way the story ends and the way it evolves. Even though we know that it’s the only way it could have ended, it could have been written in a million ways, it could have started in billion ways and it could have evolved in a trillion ways.

Why Siva who is a friend of Gopal who is an orphan who is already in his village leaving his job in Delhi acts as the starting point of story. It couldn’t have been made more multidimensional. It could have been so easily made like Swades, only with a harder climax. A guy from metro coming to a village which has caste bias and not succeeding but look how the focus shifts from Siva to Gopal to Comrade to Naidu and final clash between Naidu and all of us. Yes, us. That’s the power of Indira Parthasarathy. The way he makes us all root for the protagonists and how we all feel that our only enemy as Naidu is epic.

The story which is based on Kilvenmani incident mostly makes us restless through the prelude towards the incident, rather than the incident itself. By the time the incident had occurred, I had already given up and was only wishing that the lead characters don’t give up.

The problem with this novel is the problem that I generally have with other Tamil novels as well. The communist influence. Most of the novels that I’ve read have communist background, well, here even the foreground is communism. If it’s communist it becomes propagandish and anything propogandish loses its artistry. Here I’d attribute my liking of the novel to Siva and Gopal more than Naidu and Kilvenmani. Such helpless souls.

It’s not a surprise that a number of protests were held for the novel. I haven’t read anything bolder than this and it’s direct. But at least Tamil novels could be this honest. We can’t even think of making a movie half as honest as this. Don’t know whether to be proud of the fact or be sad that the novels don’t have any reach at all.

Funny thing is every book that I read is there in top 10 list, not that all were gems, in fact the bottom five didn’t work for me at all but 10 being an auspicious number for yearend list, listing all 10 books. Not great reviews and I’m not a modest man so you can very well ignore the reviews and check out just the list.

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10) Theevukal

https://constantscribbles.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/book-review-theevukal/

 

9) Open Veins of Latin America

https://constantscribbles.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/book-review-open-veins-of-latin-america/

 

8) Lord Jim

https://constantscribbles.wordpress.com/2016/07/25/book-review-lord-jim/

 

7) Ooruku Nooru Per

https://constantscribbles.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/book-review-ooruku-nooru-per/

 

6) The Tin Drum

https://constantscribbles.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/book-review-the-tin-drum/

 

5) Puli Naga Kondrai

https://constantscribbles.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/book-review-pulinaga-kondrai/

 

4) Ezam Ulagam

https://constantscribbles.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/book-review-ezam-ulagam/

 

3) Thiraiku Appal

https://constantscribbles.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/book-review-thiraigalukku-appal/

 

2) Kakidha Pookal

https://constantscribbles.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/book-review-kagidha-pookal/

 

1) Sujatha Short stories Vol.1 and Vol.2

Character Analysis to the core. If I had known that there were so many gems in modern Tamil literature I wouldn’t have read English novels at all. Loved the way seasons were compared to each characters life crisis and how unhappy everyone were. The way the same situation appeals to different people was phenomenal.

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But of all the one thing I liked about the novel was its unique writing style. It felt like a stylishly edited movie. For example consider Chellappa having a cigarette and stubbing it somewhere, in the next para the same cigarette would be taken out by Badri in a totally different scene. The way these all combine during climax with juxtaposition of various lives was brilliant.

It was a very tough read at first, I wasn’t getting why he kept on describing about weather so much but the way it proceeds from winter to summer to rain to spring was brilliant. How subconsciously it played its part was brilliant too.

Also loved the author’s interview with his alter ego. I guess I should do it in one of the future books. Like the author, even for me, Chellappa is the favorite character. So me!

I should have noted out parts to write about during the review. Sadly I didn’t so would stop with this. If you are a lover of modern Tamil literature please go for it.

 

I felt so guilty after reading this novel that I wanted to go back to my previous review of Indira Parthasarathy’s book ‘Theevukal’ where I had chastised him to have been a pseudo intellect.

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Thiraigalukku Appaal was perfection! Even better than Aval Appadithan I’d suppose. Everything which didn’t work in Theevukal worked here. I haven’t read about his original whereabouts but the Delhi setting here worked perfectly and it’s good to see an author who’s not afraid to have the same setting for two different novels in a word where people blindly change the setting, first person to third person POV etc. for showing the difference.

Even though we read in Tamil, as soon as it’s as “Bhooma Englishil Sonnal” we get to know that a character doesn’t know Tamil and someone else had translated it. It was beautiful. But why the same thing didn’t work in Theevugal. Am I getting used to Indira Parthasarathy, am I becoming more and more of a literary feminist or is it just that I’ve read about the most annoying woman in literature, more annoying than the girl I like. In either ways it’s a clear winner.

Bhooma is a treasure trove, you don’t get to read such characters, if you are an actor, you don’t get to do such characters but in real life you don’t empathize with such characters. Rightly said as ahangaram niraintha vanadhevadhai. These heroines are good between bounded covers. The mystiques of a woman couldn’t have been better portrayed, such poor soul. Isn’t most of the woman who are extra confident and arrogant only are depressed inside.

That raises a question, if you know a woman is like that for some reason, would a man accept her. If I get to know someone like Bhooma who is super arrogant, would I love her? No. Would I sympathize her? Yes. But that sympathy would only irritate Bhooma more, even though I sympathize her for real and genuinely feel bad about her. So what really is the solution? How complicated life is.

On the other hand see Sasi, such beauty, not skin wise, I don’t even remember what physical description was given about her in book but Sasi is a girl everyone would love to have as a girlfriend. May be that’s what Madhavan says as Middle Class Attitude. How we are so much Madhavan’s, so much of a middle class.

When Sasi tells about Bhooma to Madhavan about how bad he feels for her, it was beautiful. It was my reflection of thoughts. Bhooma would have felt very bad that Sasi could judge her so perfectly. It was like being in bed with your wife and talking about the girl who loved you but you could not love back because of various reasons. Vice versa doesn’t hold true.

More than the characters, the writing, third person POV couldn’t have worked better. Those expressions of emotions while replying to each other and that middle part where the author talks about each characters and what they think were brilliant.

The climax though expected, still was a shot in the arm. When she says, “all of you get out”, there was so much pain, and I started smiling. It was the kind of smile you give seeing old WhatsApp messages and think how empty your life has become.

This very well could have been a movie by KB, who anyways would have sugarcoated. But still it would have been a masterpiece for people who would have watched the movie and not read the book.

There were hundreds of incidents in the book but of all the one scene which fails to go out of my head is Bhooma putting her hand around Madhavan’s waist, making him uneasy while saying, “en arumai athai peranae, nee enaku pillai mathiri, kattika koodatha…”

 

I just finished Pulinaga Kondrai. I wonder how when reading a story about your own place about your own language makes much more sense than reading Open Veins of America in an Alien language, English. May be my wish to know about politics of various places isn’t really my interest. May be I don’t really sympathize Latin American’s who were originally Americans. May be there is no pressure to improve my language skills when it comes to Tamil because that’s one thing I know I can never master, with English there is a constant need to outdo myself. But this book when talking about Brahmins, Iyengars to be precise, Vadakalai and Thenkalai Iyengar to be more precise created a curiosity to read, more than anything else.

pulinaga-kondrai

Like P. A Krishnan has mentioned in the introduction, translating Kamban and Nammalavar in English is as tough as translating Shakespeare and Nashe in Tamil. May be that’s the best thing about the book. To have left certain English verse as such. The pride of reading books in two languages either individually or together knew no bounds.

I liked the language in the book for its Point Blankness, more than anything else, exactly what my mom hated the most. When a rod with chilli powder gets inserted in Nambi’s rectum or when Ponna after an arduous days work, loosens her blouse, even before entering her husband’s room, to speed up the process of having sex does what exactly words had to do. Words are a medium of emoting, we sugar coat it most of the time and it loses it flavor. When even words aren’t hundred percent of the emotion that we wish to convey, why do we have to sugarcoat it to lessen its essence even more. The point blankness in both the sentence does the trick here, to make us restless with the thought of pain and turn on with the thought of sex respectively.

In Brothers Karamzov or Crime and Punishment, I’m not sure, there is a lengthy lecture at the end of the book, which made me completely change my opinion about the book, from being a mediocre stuff to an epic one. Here it played vice versa. From being an epic one, the last chapter about who is right and who is wrong, got me confused with its ideology. I’m not expecting a proper conclusion out of the book but the way the mood was set from the first was abruptly subjected to a conclusion which didn’t fit in.

There were lot of things I liked about the book, how people behaved across generations, how their opinions changed, and the books structure of front and back without any reason and how they all merge were brilliant. Above all I liked how well read the people were back then. It was a pride to read back then. I always say, when you don’t have an answer for ‘what you are currently reading’ you are not fit to live. That’s how people were back then. At least the characters in the book. In some way or the other, they had some motive which they held strong.

Schooling taught them day to day activities, everyone were worried about politics, they taught they belonged to the community, rather than now where we think that politicians are from different planet and we don’t worry what’s happening where. I wonder how the morale, the respect for human being, the art of listening to opposite views deteriorated so drastically.

This book made me feel the clichéd feeling which every pre independent movie’s old person says, ‘things were lot better during British period’. I too felt the same way that things were a lot better. We got freedom but we lost value. I don’t think it’s that easy to put that thought in someone’s mind. If this is not success of the book then I don’t know what is.

May be because of a number of Sujatha short stories I read before this, I didn’t find Theevukal to be very realistic. What Sujatha could achieve in his twenty, thirty pages of short stories through his protagonists and their family, Indira Parthasarathy couldn’t.

theevukal

Theevukal was very superficial. There wasn’t even a single character I could relate to, let alone sympathizing. Also I couldn’t find that a Delhi Hindi Family and a Brahmin family was involved in the same story. Except for the name, I couldn’t feel the difference. It felt like two Tamil families with different dialect. Only when family talks in their home we get to know that they are Brahmin Tamilians.

The difference in the class when Vijaya talks about, it wasn’t as cynical as a poor person would talk to a rich person. It’s like we don’t get to the character. We know that there is an artist who’s moving the puppet and not the puppet who’s acting. I don’t know how to explain, you just don’t feel like Vijaya is a person, you feel it only as a fragment of Authors imagination. It’s like appreciating certain aspects of film, like editing, cinematography etc. but the idea is to get immersed in it, no matter what form the art is, isn’t it. The lead villi Mohini, I don’t know why she was created like this, it was reasonless. A character which should have brought restlessness in us makes us restless rather by not being able to fix a mental structure to her character. The profoundness of Kapoor too looked artificial. A character who should have got sympathy through our helplessness rather looked plain boring. It felt like a neighbors story which wouldn’t even interest housewives who gather around there verandas to gossip. In all it looked pointless.

Even though miniscule there were bits and pieces I liked,  especially the ones about couples where Kapoor says that he likes husband and wife having certain bit of difference in knowledge which would strengthen their relationship. I mean that was brilliant. Whenever people talk about couples they talk about their wavelengths matching and all that stuff. But isn’t it the other way around. You can talk to friends for hours be it of the same sex or opposite. When you consider living, even though clichéd, there are few practicality which even though we don’t say, we abide to. There should be some admiration, be it humbleness, money or intelligence. My husband drives car so well, my wife cooks so well, my husband workouts very hard, my wife makes clear decision etc. Sadly people tend to never understand it and spoil their life.

P.S: Just because I said ‘my wife cooks so well,’ don’t ask me why I didn’t cite any other example and tag me as a Femi Semitist.