Be True Re...View: The Last Kaurava by Kamesh Ramakrishna

Mythology is built on archetypes. Jung would call it the foundation stones of our conscious. The Mahabharata is one such story that has shaped, reshaped and changed the identity of every Indian, regardless of their religious fidelity. Its popularity is also down to the malleability of its stories. The Mahabharata legendarily began from a 14 stanza sonnet named 'Jaya'. Its eventual avatars transformed it into the gigantic 18 chapter epic, as it is known today. Kamesh Ramakrishna with his first novel, The Last Kaurava, joins the list of authors who have attempted to reshape parts of the epic by looking at it from a different perspective. Considering the list includes names like Ved Vyasa, C Rajagopalachari, KM Munshi, he should consider himself privileged.

For any retelling of an epic, a prominent narrator is a necessity. Devavrat Bhishma, as the narrator, accomplishes the task. The novel is a series of conversations that occur parallelly between two groups of people. The first is the horse himself, Devavrat Bhishma, narrating the origin of the events on his deathbed to Yudhishtira in the enemy camp. The second group is Veda Vyasa and his scribe, Bhargava. The conversations vary in nature, but it does not change the tempo of the novel. Having read variations that focus on the action of the events, the glorious battles, the heightened deceit and the malicious villainy, a discussion on the politics and the reasons behind the battle seems a little placid. However, it does manage to create a very imaginative background for the battle. I say imaginative since the epic itself can hardly be proved to a fact.

If the context is the highlight of the book, its flaw is the conversations. They follow like Eliot's tedious arguments, but without the insidious intent. The background of the two groups of narrators feels unnecessary and a plot diversion. I read somewhere about dialogues being the bane of a good plot. It seems to prove true here.

The author, Kamesh Ramakrishna, is a software engineer turned writer. His first book accomplishes his immense ability at research, analysis, and imaginative thinking. Where it fails is in its ability to generate a more healthy pace in its narration. For a seriously interested reader, the book opens a new line of inquiry from a different environmental perspective into the epic. But for someone looking to jump into the book expecting battles and brazen dialogue, stay away. This is serious stuff! 

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