Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ashok Banker's Ramanaya - Well Worth a Miss

After writing about something I loved in my last post, I think I am back to what I like most - cribbing :-)

First if this book, Prince of Ayodhya by Ashok Banker. It is supposed to be a retelling of the Ramayana. It had some very good reviews and had a bunch of people raving about it in the comments too. I should have known that every well read blog has its own bunch of Yes-men. I went through a lot of trouble to get this book, since it wasn't available in US and all that and S had to literally beg his colleague to bring this back when he went back to India. I was ecstatic when I finally got it and was devising means to smuggling the other parts from India. Now, I think I will pass. The book is just short of a trivialization of the Ramayana. It's a sort of Harry Potter meets India kinda book, the sort of one that will make good selling.

Given the rise of popularity of fantasy books these days, he has just made use of a good story and written in a racy manner. If it is one thing I hate, it is written Hinglish or Tanglish. Why Banker chose to intersperse dialogues with colloquial Hindi is something I don't understand. It isn't as if all dialogues are in Hindi, why choose to write just a few in Hindi? I can understand use of some sanskrit words like brahman, but why Hindi?? And he's added a lot of cheese to his book. For example, Lakshmanan is called Luck and Shatrugnan is called Shot! These reminded me of those Danish Prophet cartoons. I wonder if anyone in the Shiv Sena has read this book. Another thing that rankled me was the use of the phrase "brahman sorcery" very freely. What does Banker want to convey with this? I have not read the original Ramayana by Valmiki or Kamban and my source is mainly grandma stories and the TV. I don't want him to conceal facts about Dasaratha's wives or Lord Rama's follies. I just wish he would choose a language to write in (Hindi/English/Assamese or whatever) and stick to it.

If you think of it as just another book, leaving the religious part aside, I would say the book is well written. The narration is fast and descriptive. But another irritating thing that Banker does is to switch between scenes in the same chapter without warning. It is misleading and quite annoying especially towards the end. I suggest he read The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud to see how it should be handled. Also the review I read, gave an impression that Banker's works contained soft porn - it talked of orgasms and fondling of breasts. I've read the whole book and there is no mention of those anywhere! You can buy these books for kids - the ones who loved Harry Potter would love these too.

Final verdict: Read if you want to reread the Ramayana and don't have the patience to read lengthy Sanskrit translations

P.S. Coming up next post, a list of characters I absolutely hate from famous sitcoms. Any ideas?


kaushik said...

Hmm! i read good reviews of it too...
although too much on my hands to read now :(

Have you read Percy Jackson? That is good...I have to get hold of Bartimaeus....

PS. How about the jenifer aniston character in Friends. (Unless you happen to like her :p)

janani said...

@kaushik - That's the problem with it, too many good reviews. If you have something better to read, don't pick this. I just googled Percy Jackson and it sounds pretty interesting. Will pick it next time.

I lovvveeeeee Rachel character in Friends :-( I was hoping someone would say Phoebe 'coz I can't stand her

Heavy Bottom Humayun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heavy Bottom Humayun said...

Haven't read any of Ashok Bankers' yet. Looks like I won't for a while. Stuck with the million-page A Suitable Boy!
By the way you're touching upon an all time favorite of mine. Making lists of things I hate(it never seems to end!):
1. Janice, Rachel's sister and Gunther from F.R.I.E.N.D.S
2. Marie (Raymonds' mum)
3. Jackie(from That 70s Show)though I find her extreeeemely hot!
4. Mimi (Drew Carey Show)
5. The whole cast of Life With Bonnie.
6. Frasier's wife

Heavy Bottom Humayun said...

Urrrgh! I sound so gay when I mention I am reading 'A Suitable Boy'. Urrrghh!

Sandeep said...

This reminds of the series that Cartoon network used to air "Ramayan - the story of prince Ram". I hate it when they westernize Indian mythologies. For crying out loud he's not just prince Ram to indians. He is Lord ram who we worship and I hate it even more when people like/appreciate it!


1. Phoebe tops my list. I am not able to put my finger on it but she is irritaing. Period.

2. @aswin - I think Gunter is funny in his own way. Ore maadri comedya illa...avan motta tala and his wired shirt/tie combination!

3. Lilly in How I met your Mother

4. Maurie in Raymond. Though its out of context, cant help mentioning here that Frank's a hoot and he rocks the show!!

5. Aurthur in King of Queens

Jinguchakka said...

You can heartily hate all the Tamil sitcoms (with all their characters). If you are particular about English, then:
Friends - Janice, Richard (Phoebe rocks actually. Her dialogue, "I am flaky" is timed perfect)
Seinfeld - Newman
That 70s Show - Eric (very wimpy).
Spin City - Caitlin

janani said...

@the gay boy who reads my blog - Yeah Janice sounds right! And I was thinking of Mimi too. Never seen Life With Bonnie though. And about Frasier, you wanna choose Lilith or the agent he has Bebe?
And how A Suitable Boy going? I am kinda intimidated by the size of the book. The Lord of the Rings was that big too, but that was fun to read. And don't worry, Vikram Seth doesn't make a man gay :-)

@sandeep - I don't mind when people call him Prince Ram, its the inane nicknames that get my goat.
Why don't you like Lily? Hmm I am not able to find anyone in HIMYM that I hate. And yeah I hate Marie too. Yeah Arthur is maddening sometimes, but he gives a lot of lot of laughs. I hate Deacon's wife Kelly, I don't know why! And I agree with you, Gunther is pretty funny sometimes.

@jings - Yeahh, thamizh sitcoms aren't worth talking about. They are hardly sitcoms anyway, the humor is practically absent.
You don't like Richard??? God he is sooo handsome. :-) Newman is a good one, he was the one I was thinking too in Seinfeld. And I like Eric, its Donna who gets my goat sometimes. I guess I would choose Bob (Donna's father) to hate. Never seen Spin City, so don't have any idea.

@all - Good leads folks. Keep the ideas coming :-)

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Rakesh said...

don't you think this hawkeye has exactly predicted your reaction?

Ashok Banker's book will surprise and disturb readers who have only been exposed to Ramanand Sagar's TV Series and grandma stories. In all honesty, I was angry, put off and confused for a while until I began to understand him. If my grandfather had tried to read the book, he would have been very offended and would not have continued. He would have dismissed Banker as a Karunanidhi clone and said "nonsense blaggod".

Most people who have various adverse/positive comments on Ramayana have not read the original. They simply do not know how different it is from the masala story they have heard

Initially, I got a feeling the series was like Lord of the Rings look alike and I can see the comparison to Tolkien’s book arises in many people (more on this later). I was terribly wrong about that. Banker’s books are really fast paced. Unlike the steady pace of Tolkien, he explodes into dimensions beyond story narration. The first 50 pages of the first book will be the most difficult. I took a year to cross those first 50 pages. I read the other 5.9 books in 1 month.

looks like you were one of those mediocre people wo put down the book after the first 50 pages.

janani said...

Ok Mr Smarty Pants who is so not mediocre! I did read the book fully and if you had read my post fully, you wouldn't have written this comment.

I am not angry because the story is different from the way my grandma told it. I am angry because he has added masala - like calling Lakshmanan Luck etc. Read the post fully moron!!