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Posted at: Jul 26, 2015, 12:29 AM; last updated: Jul 21, 2015, 9:05 PM (IST)

Been there, done that

The magic is missing this time around. Ram as an unloved prince and Ravan as a shrewd business mind do little to queer the pitch for a great story

Geetu Vaid

If you are still savouring the taste of Amish Tripathi’s Shiva trilogy then you are sure to bite into the Scion of Ikshvaku with a gastronomic gusto. And rightly so, as this time, Amish’s muse is Rama, the quintessential ideal man and upholder of all virtue. His wizardry with words, excellent characterisation and fluid interpretation of religious philosophies have mesmerised millions through his Shiva trilogy. No wonder then that expectations from Scion of Ikshvaku are running high.

A troubled Prince ostracised for no fault of his, hermits with secret agendas, palace conspiracies, a society mired in corruption and treachery — these are the ingredients with which the author has set down to serve the first course of his Rama Chandra series. Amish has termed the series as his interpretation of the Ramayana and another step in his endeavour to give a glimpse of the great Vedic age. But presenting something like the Ramayana with a different perspective and making readers, especially those in India, accept it is in itself a Herculean task.

Amish does live up to his reputation of providing a racy narrative and begins well by taking the reader to one of the most familiar and emotionally charged parts of Sita’s kidnapping in the very first chapter. The intrigue and suspense is also built by Vashistha, Vishwamitra, Nagas, Malyaputras and other characters like Kaikeyi and Manthara. But in spite of this, the narrative loses steam soon and the lengthy discussions about what constitutes an ideal society and explanations of the ‘masculine and feminine’ ways of life for a society get tedious, as these are not blended in smoothly into the plot.

Author also seems to slip on imagination front. A blatant effort to connect with the 21st century readers with references to events like Nirbhaya rape case, use of biological weapons, capital punishment for underage criminals, etc. are jarring for the lack of imagination. Even Sita’s swayamvar has uncanny resemblance to Draupadi-Arjun wedding scene in the Mahabharata.

As one turns pages there is a feeling of deja vu as the story moves in the universe created in the Shiva trilogy with ample references to Nagas, Malyaputras, Vayuputras, Meluhan way of life, etc. However, he has tried to break the mythological connect. So, Ram is depicted as human as possible with no supernatural powers, Bharata is characterised as a votary of individual freedom and a pragmatic leader and Sita as a strong warrior. These are refreshing additions. Amish also scores a point on detailed accounts of wars and Mithila’s architecture. But the flavour of Shiva trilogy is missing.

The imagery, the subtle contemporariness and the spiritual context that didn’t wear the mask of a specific religion were what made Shiva a life-and-blood real character one could connect to. But the magic is missing this time around. Ram as an unloved prince and Ravan as a shrewd business mind do little to set the pace for a great story. So, for all its hype and Rs5 crore pre-publication deal and a promise of sequels, Scion of Ikshvaku remains a bland fare. Amish’s new offering, thus, is neither old wine in a new bottle nor new wine in an old bottle, rather it is the same wine in same bottle, only with a new label.

And as is rare with a series, after finishing the first book, one is not too excited about the next. What happens next is the least of my concerns as I shove the volume in the farthest corner of the bookshelf. Mr Tripathi, it will take a lot of goading to make readers pick up the next one.

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