Category Archives: Fiction

The Girl who chose – A new way of narrating the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik

The Girl who Chose - A new way of narrating the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik Title: The Girl who chose: A new way of narrating the Ramayana
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin Books, Puffin
ISBN: 9780143334637
Genre: Mythology, Children’s Fiction
Pages: 112
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

So I was a fan of Devdutt Pattanaik’s books when I first read “The Pregnant King”. It was in 2007 or 2008 I think. I remember calling him and chatting with him for hours about it. Maybe that is also one of the reasons why we turned out to be good friends. But that has got nothing to do with the review of his latest book “The Girl who chose – A new way of narrating the Ramayana”. I was waiting for this book since forever. Why? Because I think if you are going to tell a mythological tale for children in a different manner, then I sure would like to know about it.

“The Girl who chose” is about Sita and her five choices and how they impact Ramayana and everyone else in the story. This isn’t Devdutt’s spin or take. It is just an interpretation given what happens in Ramayana. It is about sometimes things being planned out even before you can think about them or about the choices actually that you make and its consequences.

This book is about Sita for sure, but it is also about the other central and not-so-central characters of the Ramayana. The illustrations by the author himself make the book something else. Devdutt’s illustrations are simple. They are easy to comprehend and perhaps one doesn’t even need text while deciphering them. The illustrations speak a language of their own.

I also would like to add here that there is no feminist angle in this book, so don’t be fooled by the title. It is a given that like any other human being, Sita had the power to choose and she made the choices that she did. For a children’s book it perhaps may not come across so clearly, but the understated meaning can be inferred. The tale of the Ramayana always depends on Sita – on what she does, because it is ultimately she who leads the story. No one else has that kind of power in this Indian epic.

Devdutt Pattanaik does it again – simply and with a lot of brevity. He takes on portions of the Ramayana and serves it to you in bite-sized nuggets. The footnotes with additional information only enhance the reading experience. This is a great start for children to know and understand Indian mythology. I think it is the perfect book to gift a child to expand his or her horizons about Ramayana which has been passed down from generation to generation.

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All That Could Have Been by Mahesh Bhatt with Suhrita Sengupta

All that Could have Been by Mahesh Bhatt Title: All that Could Have Been
Author: Mahesh Bhatt with Suhrita Sengupta
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
ISBN: 9788193071014
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 152
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

I am all for movies based on books and sometimes it is also strange to see a movie turned to a book or that’s what I think about ‘All that Could Have Been’ which will soon release as “Hamari Adhuri Kahani”, directed by Mohit Suri and based on Mahesh Bhatt’s Dad and Mom’s story. So I really don’t know what came first – the script or the book. I would assume the script.

Having said that, “All that could have Been” is a crisp book which does not beat round the bush. It is not lengthy and that is in itself a big deal for a book to achieve in these times. The book is about unrequited love and at the same time it is about love that surpasses all of this and does not believe in what the world has to dictate.

Vasudha Prasad is a single mother, raising her child against all odds. She wants to keep the memory of his father alive for him by writing notes to him. The father in question, Hari Prasad could not care less and is missing for a while.

Enter Aarav Ruparel, a rich hotelier who has no fixed address. He has lived out of a suitcase and is amongst one of the richest men alive. As fate would have it, Vasudha and Aarav’s path cross and the rest that follows is something which is not beyond their control.

This is a story of love and longing. It is about letting go and patiently waiting in the wings for love to be realized. I will for sure not give away the ending but I have to tell you that this book is a breeze. The writing is fast-paced and reads like a movie (I was not surprised at all). The dialogues are profound in some places and those are worth marking and referring to again. It is a read that can get over in an hour and a half. “All that could have Been” is a love letter to romance and everything that is possible and yet not.

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Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman Title: Hansel and Gretel
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Lorenzo Mattotti
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408861981
Genre: Graphic Story
Pages: 56
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

We have all read and loved “Hansel and Gretel” when we were growing up. Everything about fairy tales was fascinating and intriguing. Nothing could take away the beauty of a good fairy tale, so much so that its macabre underlined meaning was lost on us. Neil Gaiman’s “Hansel and Gretel” does not drift away from the real story at all. It stays true to it and yet there is something about this version that both your dreams and nightmares will be made of.

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman - Image 1

“Hansel and Gretel” tells the tale of a brother and sister and yet there are so many layers to it – of poverty, the parents’ role in sending the children away, the witch but obviously and the children with their intelligence and wit. What makes this edition so unique of course are the wonderful illustrations of Lorenzo Mattotti. They are dark, brooding, and melancholic to the core. They are of course wonderfully done. And while others might say that it is too dark, it is really not that dark.

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman - Image 2

The book delivers creepy fantastically. The images are in black and white, so that is another twist to it. “Hansel and Gretel” is a delight to read, even if it is just fifty-six pages long. There is something redeeming and at the same time something so unforgiving about this tale, that it will make you think over and over again. We have all heard it in our childhood, but I feel that for most stories, different versions are always welcome. They somehow change your perception as well, over time and years to come.

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman - Image 3

“Hansel and Gretel” is a work that is beautifully reproduced by Gaiman and Mattotti and a definite read for both children and adults. Also, please ensure that the children have read the earlier Grimm’s tale as well, more so for literature’s sake.

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Bloodline Bandra by Godfrey Joseph Pereira

Bloodline Bandra by Godfrey Joseph Pereira Title: Bloodline Bandra
Author: Godfrey Joseph Pereira
Publisher: Harper Collins India
ISBN: 9789351364429
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 264
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Being a Bombay boy, I could not help but read, “Bloodline Bandra”. I had to read it for the nuances, for the smells, the language, the food, the culture of a subset and to relive Bandra, as it is already dead from what I knew of it, a couple of years ago. “Bloodline Bandra” made it come alive for me in more than one way. Maybe that is why it is so close to me. Maybe that is why every Bombay book is close to me. I do not know about the Mumbai books though. I never bothered reading them anyway, except for Mumbai Fables, which is simply spectacular.

“Bloodline Bandra” is about an entire culture that disappeared somewhere or it was made to disappear given the conditions of the world we live in. Godfrey’s Bandra is a Bandra that exists in most of the old-timers’ minds and hearts. It still breathes and is still there, but hidden. It is the invisible Bandra that we yearn for.

The book is about Catholics, it is about the “Maka-Paos” (as the local Bandra or Bombay colloquialism goes), it is about the Bandraites who left home and went away and are perhaps coming back and most of them do not even want to consider that. David Cabral is a journalist – an East Indian from Pali Village, which is a universe in its own. He wants to get out of this life. He does not want to be there. He is ambitious. He manages to leave Bandra and goes to New York, where he works like a slave for a newspaper, and falls in love with Hatsumi Nakamura, a Japanese cello student. David yearns for home and will never admit it. He wants to be there and yet soldiers on in an alien country.

“Bloodline Bandra” is about a dying community. It is about being hopeful amidst the craziness of every-day living. The book will speak to anyone and everyone who has felt at home the most and yet wants to run away. The writing sometimes can get a little tiresome, given the language but in a very strange way, that is what makes the reader turn the pages quite effortlessly. The characters are eccentric, real, and one can spot them all in Pali Village. All I can say is that you need to go to Bandra and then to Pali Village once you are done with the book. Breathe the place. Take all its sensations inside you and then go back and read this book all over again. It will make a whole lot of sense.

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Play With Me by Ananth

Play With Me by Ananth Title: Play With Me
Author: Ananth
Publisher: Penguin Books India
ISBN: 9780143423621
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 252
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The Indian literary scene is bursting at the seams with new authors, new plots (almost, and sometimes contrived), new ambitions and new hopes (for some of us at least). There is this surge of authors – this tide of “I-can-also-write” men and women. And amidst all of this, as a reader, I am often perplexed and overwhelmed. I don’t know what to read some times. It is not about choice. It is about the quality of writing. It is about the writing that is intellectually laced and about the kind of writing that aims to reach out to everyone. In all of this, there is the kind of book that is mid-way – somewhere there but not appeasing to the masses (or not aiming to at least) and yet it does. “Play with Me” by Ananth is one such book.

I thought “Play with Me” would be the kind of book which would not interest me. I thought I had nothing to do with the character’s lifestyles and choices. Sometimes, you feel the book is not for you and then when you read it, it changes your perception.

“Play with Me” is the sort of book that perhaps will not resonate deep, but you will see traces of your life in it. It is about life today in the metropolis – fast, rushing at neck-breaking speed, the pseudo-decadence that it reeks of and in all of this, souls trying to find something substantial to hold on to – love perhaps.

Sid is successful and charming. He has everything a man could ever want. It is about sex, loud music and living the good life. Enter: Cara (she had to at some point and she does, right in the first chapter) and Sid is head over heels in lust with her. This is what I love again about this book. It makes no bones about sex and affairs of the body. It is there, as it is lived out on a daily or a weekend basis in people’s lives. So Sid meets Cara and she takes him places he never imagined of. But of course, there has to be a twist in the tale and it comes when Sid finds himself falling for another woman and this time, in love.

This in short is the plot of the book. The writing is simple and bursts with energy. Ananth knows how to depict the modern gadget-ridden world with great aplomb. Sometimes, I found myself rushing through the book and at others I was mulling over what I had read. Ananth’s language is racy. The book is supposed to be that belonging to erotica, however in my opinion it transcends that and enters literary fiction very briefly, going back to being a meditation on love and life. If a writer can manage to pull that off, then you know for sure that the book is more than just a page-turner. “Play with Me” is a book that is a whirlwind. It seeps you in and doesn’t let go. Go read it. It will grip you from the first chapter on.

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