I, Rama or Ayyo, Rama !

I, Rama: Age of Seers by Ravi Venu (Cratus Media, pp. 264, Rs.225) is the first book in the “I, Rama Series”. The series is a retelling of the Ramayana from Rama’s point of view.

This is His tale… let Him share His story with you…His account of the Legend. This is the story of that mighty king through His eyes, but my hand. (p.17)

I, Rama is narrated as a flashback to Rama’s twin sons Lava and Kusa, his brothers Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan, and his foremost devotee, Hanuman. It is not a simple straightforward flashback as there are tales within tales and flashbacks within flashbacks. So, even if it is Rama, who is narrating the tale, he narrates it through another’s voice. This volume takes the readers through the origins of the Ishvaku clan, the reign of Dashrath, the birth of Rama and his brothers, Rama and Lakshman’s sojourn to the Dandaka forest with Vishwamitra, Sita’s swayamvar and her ensuing marriage with Rama, and his encounter with Parasurama. The book ends with Rama, Sita and Lakshman being exiled from Ayodhya.

This is what I, Rama narrates, a story that anyone who has read the Ramayana will be familiar with, including me.

Now, how do I write a review of a book that is yet another retelling of the beloved Hindu legend, the Ramayana?

How do I write a review of a book that is part science fiction, part fantasy, part mythology and ends up being an uncooked khichdi of genres?

How do I write a review of a book with that is woven around a unique premise, but is written very badly?

How do I write a review of a book that was much-anticipated, but which failed to deliver?

How do I write a review of a book whose language is so archaic that it made me cringe?

How do I write a review of a book called I, Rama, but one that made me go “Ayyo, Rama”?

How do I write a review of a book that I struggled to complete and then did not want to review it?

I, therefore, decided not to write a usual review. What I have written is this…

To the author, Ravi Venu: What I liked about your Ramayana is (i) it is written from Rama’s point of view; (ii) Kaikeyi’s characterisation as a warrior queen and not just as a selfish queen; and (iii) the origins of Ganga (p.15).

But your narrative style lets the book down. Did you conceptualise this book in another language? Because I am simply unable to understand or appreciate passages like these.

Mother Earth has been alive for many millions of years; she has rebuilt herself over and over again. But for some traces of the past, she does a good job of covering herself like a virtuous woman, waiting to be discovered by a new love and restore herself each time. (p.12)

But then, the wave of awe in the crowd, as I undid the silken thread from the top of the bow, pulled me back to Earth. When I strung the bow, the Divine discuss [sic] emerged out of me and materialized as a shining blue arrow, ready to be shot. It was a divinely blissful, yet magical feeling. (p.220)

I can imagine such flowery paragraphs written in Tamil or Hindi or Marathi or Urdu or even in Arabic. But not in English.The language used is so painfully archaic that I laboured to read every single page of the book. Here’s some unsolicited advice from a reader and a sometimes writer: you must have the ability to think in the language you are writing in. Therefore, if you are writing in English, you must think and conceptualise your writing in English.

To the Publisher, Cratus Media: Please give me an honest answer. Are you a printer disguised as a publisher? Or are you a PR/Media/Communications firm turned publisher? I have to ask this question as you seem to have neglected your duties as a publisher. The editing and proof-reading of the book is non-existent, the layout is bad, the book size is odd …  Did it not occur to you just getting the book printed, marketed, reviewed, and sold does not make you a publisher? That the product also has to be good?

To Self: I know that you love mythology in all its forms and across all cultures, and never pass an opportunity to read anything on mythology. Even if it is something that you have read many times before, a new interpretation or retelling of the same tale never fails to intrigue you. But that does not mean that you should not exercise your discretion and caution or listen to your instincts in choosing books. I mean, tell me honestly, didn’t you wince when you read the title, I, Rama and wondered what sort of book title it was? Didn’t it remind you of the that eminently forgettable and unwatchable Hindi movie, I, Proud to be Indian? Please, please give mythological fiction/mythology books a break for the time being.

To the Reader: Please do not bother reading this book. Unless of course you are a great fan of the Ramayana and want to read yet another retelling, in which case, I’m more than willing to give my copy of Ayyo, Rama I, Rama to you.

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72 thoughts on “I, Rama or Ayyo, Rama !

  1. With apologies to W . R. Wallace, the Hand that wrote I Rama, rocked the Lord and His World

  2. Ayyo, Amma!
    Sudhagee, Those are seriously ambitious men. I say ‘those’ because I am not sure whose idea that ambitious title was: a clear rip off and cross between (i)I, Robot by Issac Asimov and (ii)Rama series by Arthur C Clarke!

    PS:There is another little personal secret here: I had also opted for reviewing this book (please refer to your para titled ‘To Self’) but as circumstances would have it, I found myself destined to the city of Varanasi on a grave business. I had to apologize to the folks at Blogadda –which brings into acute focus how bitterly you needed to insert one more paragraph in your review, “To Blogadda“–for not being able to read or review the book. Strange are the ways of Rama!

    • But I read the book, every painful by painful page. Though I agree that this is not a typical review. Would you like to do a proper review of the book? I would love to read your review, Umashankar. Shall the send the book to you? :-P

  3. Actually I read the book, and I feel you are just out right critical of something that you want to be critical about. Forcing your views is not necessary, opinions are fine, but looks like you were judgmental even before you read it :)

    From your own words “I mean, tell me honestly, didn’t you wince when you read the title, I, Rama and wondered what sort of book title it was? Didn’t it remind you of the that eminently forgettable and unwatchable Hindi movie, I, Proud to be Indian?”
    So – Why be so hard on the book, it was actually a fantastic read, at least for me and I am sure people must judge on their own.
    Btw: I found nothing wrong in the picturesque writing, it was like a classic hollywood movie.
    And FYI here this is from another reviewer from blogadda:
    “Grippingly offered and a bracing pleasurable, agreeable and sensible unjabable convert Ramayana from Rama’s perspective which has a transfixing voice-over with rudiments of the modern-day and a number of make-believe characters.”

    So be critical not cynical, its easy to write a blog and not a book. Your review shows you in bad light more than the book.

    • Welcome here, Nanjil, and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. :-)

      You’re absolutely right when you say that it is easier to write a blog than to write a book; perhaps that’s why I have not written a book yet. But the basic principle of writing — to keep the readers in mind when writing —does not change. In this case, a book review or critique needs to be as objective as possible, something that I have tried to be while reviewing this book for the BlogAdda Book Review programme. I appreciate the fact you and a Blogadda reviewer, and perhaps many more people have liked the book. It is quite obvious that we have very different standards for critiquing a book.

      If my review of I, Rama makes me look cynical, and shows me in a bad light, so be it. At least I know that I have been honest in my critique and not shied away from calling a spade a spade or in this case a bad book, a bad book.

      • Thanks for the reply, the issue is you had decided in your mind to call it a spade even before you opened the book :)
        It was definitely a good book and I loved it from the first page to the retiring of Rama. It was bad for you, please do add that line, let other judge themselves.
        in tamil they say ‘Kutram kandu pidithe peyar vangum pulavar’, that is what I felt reading your review, hence my comment. Give opinion, not necessary to influence and be cynical as in ‘Take my book’ etc.
        Anyway, my thoughts, hope you can take it in right spirit!

        • Who’s being judgemental now, Nanjil, by saying that I had already decided to call a spade a spade even before opening the book? :-) I only admitted my reservations about the title of the book, but my review wasn’t framed and written till I read the book. You are the one who seems to have decided to fight against any criticism of I Rama.

          As a reader, I critique everything I read and as a blog writer I am open to criticism myself. But your comment, “‘Kutram kandu pidithe peyar vangum pulavar”, is not just criticism. It is actually quite offensive and unwarranted, especially when it is based on just this post and on a book that you are very obviously biased to. But that is your opinion and you are entitled to it.

          • Exactly, how you think is the feeling I got, when I read the review, that it was judged before it was opened. My dialogue “kutram…” was not to provoke but to simply drive home a point, so no offense.
            Intention is not to argue, but being cynical is different from being critical, my point – thats all. I liked the book and so wanted to critic your review :)
            Anyway, all praise to Lord Ram and thanks for your time and hope to see more of your reviews in future!

            • Regardless, the “Kutram…” comment is offensive and unwarranted, especially when you have not read my other book reviews.

              I do, however, enjoy a good discussion and thanks for your comments.

  4. I too, have read the book. Now, I am not a hot shot blogger/writer/reviewer. But I am an avid reader, no less. I have read tons of books over the years. And I believe this a tale of the epic saga re-written in such a honest, heartfelt and moving way. As a matter of fact, there is a real buzz amongst my friends who have read the book. Just wanted you to know how much everyone exposed to this book loves it.
    Critic towards art form should be constructive, not destructive and nit picking towards the point of exaggeration.

    • I would have thought that this was an extremely constructive and creative review judging by the quality of this book. Constructive, because this reviewer at least tried to find some good in this piece of dubious writing (not to be harsh) – refer to her part that was directed to the writer. I, myself was driven to pick up this title by such rave reviews. I still curse myself for this momentary lapse of judgement. No one is doubting the intentions of the author – even Ekta Kapoor has good intentions. That doesn’t make all her serials sensitive to her social mileu or even marginally rational at that. Also this gauge of ‘buzz’ is also deeply problematic. Even Rakhi Sawant generated a lot of ‘buzz’ (that aside I have a lot of respect for the woman – she does not apologise for what or who she is). Popularity is seldom a marker of good art. I could give a thousand examples of works which were popular but have most often been mediocre at best. I could try and do a structural analysis of the text if you wish to get into the ‘critic toward art form’ if you wish…. for instance take one of the lines that this blogger has quoted.

      ‘But for some traces of the past, she does a good job of covering herself like a virtuous woman, waiting to be discovered by a new love and restore herself each time — ‘virtuous woman’ and ‘covering herself’. Is this man living in the twenty first century? What is virtue? and what does that to do with ‘covering oneself’? He’s lucky he doesn’t have an army of feminists (like me) battering his door down in protest (I doubt an army would have the energy to get past the first few pages). In the first place the overused cliche of ‘mother earth’ already rends the attempted metaphor redundant.

      Forget archaic – this is a regressive excerpt. The floweriness of the language and the lack of novel original metaphors leaves me bewildered and wondering as to what has happened to good Indian writing (sigh Narayan and Kolatkar must be turning in their grave).

      Myth has been the subject of brilliant art — you would do well to check out the writings of Devdutt Pattanaik (especially Jaya) or Eco’s ‘Name of the rose’. Even the Cadfael series by Ellis Peters is fabulous. I would highly recommend it. But this… the less said the better.

      Anyway, the book doesn’t deserve this much cyber space. I am merely trying to defend a critic’s right to critique (not critic or citicise) art. You have the right to your own opinion but that doesn’t imply you can take away someone else’s.

    • Welcome here, Vasugi, and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Thank you also for perhaps pointing out that I am a hot shot/blogger/writer/reviewer. Nobody has ever called me that before. :-D

      Criticism is what you make of it and what you take away from it. If you wish to look at it constructively, you’ll do that and if you think you are the best and beyond all criticism then even the mildest comment can seem destructive. It’s all in the mind.

  5. Ayyo, I can’t understand the angst over a critique of a book. Shakespeare, too, had his share of critics, too ( and some real nasty ones at that). When someone seeks wider recognition of his (or her) work, he or she must be prepared for the few brickbats that will come with the bouquets. The best(as we see it) of cinema have been mercilessly panned by critics and the worst extolled for non-existent virtues. The writer of “I, Rama” and his admirers froth for no reason other than the fact that someone does not share their enthusiasm. For the record, I have not read the book. When I get hold of a copy, I will. I am curious to know what is in it that has so sharply polarized opinions.

  6. This is one of the most honest reviews that I’ve read. And haven’t you noticed this with most publishers or authors of Indian books — the bad proofreading? It gets on my nerves. First of all, I don’t really read much of mythology. And, I am very unlikely to read a book with that title. But, thank you for your wonderfully candid review!

    • Thanks Rachna for your comments. The problem with most published books in India today is that a large number are self-published, where the onus of editing and proof-reading lies with the authors. It is only the established and professional publishers who invest in editing and proof-reading. Even then, to find an error-free book is like looking for a needle in a haystack !

  7. Oh my an army feminist, I love it :D , or army of literary gurus. I am just a simpleton from Malaysia who loves to read and enjoyed the particular book immensely.
    To me quoting virtuous has nothing to do with the century you live in and I found the women in the book to be independent with their own mind, just so you know. Obviously, you are entitled to your opinion, just read the book and stumbled upon your blog by chance when I googled the title. Voiced my opinion where I saw fit. Thank you all for your time and hospitality. Cheers ya’alll :))

  8. @Nanjil Ramachandran:
    Dear Mr Ramachandran, today I chanced upon Ms Ekta Kapoor’s amazing review of a book called Mumbaistan authored by Piyush Jha. It is “a potboiling page-turner packed with three main ingredients,” says Ms Kapoor, “entertainment, entertainment, entertainment.” Unfortunately, the author of this blog is no match to the genius of the said celebrity.

    Again, writing is serious business, regardless of the format. You may probably find it unpalatable but it is a bitter truth that being a successful blogger can be much more challenging a job. You may revert to Mr Ravi Venu in case of doubt.

    • @umashankar – must be! No job is that simple, my humble mind tells me so. However, it is easier to be a critic with outrageous blasts (not pointing to this blog) and get more google hits than taking the pains to research and write a book .
      I dont know how you can judge the book without reading it based on a critic review. You are free not to read based on your fav critic’s view but you cannot talk bad about the book based on a 3rd person’s note.
      I read your comments, I, Rama is not I Robot or Arthur Clarke’s Rama series cross breed, the title is authoritative of the story, that’s all. Did you read and conclude ?
      And what is it that you want me to revert to Mr.Venu? I found this page on a tweet, read it and said my view, as a reader of the book.

      Not sure if I got in mid of your blog’s personal tiff with the author, I have no clue who he is, but definitely has done a lot of research and written this book. Critics are what make a good author, every one knows it, cynical sarcastic ‘take my book’ ‘ayyo rama’ etc are in bad taste, looks more like needless personal attack.
      I apologize if I got in between a personal debate, I conclude my side.

      • @Nanjil Ramachandran (@umashankar if you don’t mind my intervention – but I could not resist) ‘bad taste’! hahahahaha! curiously interesting choice of words. My mind is bursting with ‘cynical sarcastic’ comments about the irony of that idiom in this context (of the comments and the book). But than it might be thoughtlessly misconstrued as a ‘needless personal attack’. Anyway, like I said, deigning to give this discussion (on this particular book) any more cyber space would be a waste of time. SO ‘I apologize if I got in between a personal debate, I conclude my side’ :)

  9. Sometimes, the best intentions coupled with painstaking research do not make the best book, like having the best ingredients and the best training may not make one the best cook. Certain books are classics because there is something in them that is intrinsically appealing, and more often than not, it is the clarity and the beauty of the language, in addition to the content.

    While it is very difficult to write a book, it is also difficult to review one. Only one who has read widely and is familiar with the immense variety of genres and styles can dare to do that.

    I have always relied on your reviews, Sudha, for their honesty and transparency. There are way too many books in the bookshops to just pick one up and take a chance on it, especially when all the blurbs are going overboard and praising each ‘bestseller’ lavishly, particularly so for books with new authors.

    This is why i am surprised at some of the comments here. Critiquing a book was never easy as it means taking sides, and most are ultra-sensitive to anything that goes remotely against their own opinion of what it ‘ought to be’. Yet, unlike a research project or an assignment, a book is written for connecting with readers who are going to spend money to read it. So, an opinion is very helpful indeed.

    The review is a wonderful read and going by the strength of your expression, i would take a call on deciding to spend time reading it. Of course, there are ways and ways of expression and flowery and complex language seem to appeal to certain readers sometimes but as you made the point, it can get exhausting to read through such writing. I am not one for the mental calisthenics of trying to decipher such a text, especially if, as you have pointed out, there are phrases suggesting gender insensitivity (and yes, maybe the definition needs to be elaborated here, as many who speak of the ‘strength of women’ etc, have no clue as to what is meant by gender offensive language). Under no condition can the excuse for writing about another era (historical/mythological etc..) justifies such a thing.

    Thank you Sudha, for this post…

    • Thank you, Deepa, for saying what you have so beautifully. It is not my intention to criticise, but to critique the book. Thank you for understanding my intention behind the review.

  10. Nice review however I cant judge the book because I haven’t read it yet. Will take out time, read and come back with my comment. Keep up the good work :)

    • Welcome here, Haricharan, and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I look forward to reading your views on the book, so will wait for your comments. :-)

  11. wow, sudha! you are on your way to becoming a really popular blogger, going by the discussion her :D loved the review. the way u did it was great!! I decided not to even look at it till i finished mine, and believe me, it was tough staying away once i knew u had already posted it :D anyway, did mine today and posted it…. go ahead and tell me what u think….

    http://anushankarn.blogspot.in/2012/07/book-review-i-rama.html

    • Thanks, Anu. But this is not the popularity I was expecting or want, in spite of what some people might say. :-(. Never thought that posting an honest review would generate so much “heat”. I definitely learned something new this time.

  12. Thank God, I wasn’t with you on getting this book! Being on vacation, I didn’t think I would be able to keep commitments, so had not applied . Since I enjoy the books you do, I am sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book! Thanks for the heads up on the thumbs down for this book!

    • Ahh…Richa. Can’t tell you how much I miss my “Book Review Companion” :-) But then the vacation you have taken and my anticipation to read about it more than makes up for it :-)

  13. Hi I am reading the book, its actually pretty good so far, I am reading about Sita and I feel the women are very positive and strong in this book. I did not find any gender offensive issues so far. All characters are well connected and the flow gets stronger after the 1st 3 chapters (the prologue and preface set a different pace and chapter 3 suddenly brings it down), that is one drawback. I think its because of the aged Rama. Once you get past the 3 – 4 chapters, it goes very smooth. I am not an expert like you all, I am a simple home maker who loves books and mythology characters.

    Writing is flowery, which is ‘ok’ even though I am not much of a romance genre person, i found menaka episode quite nice, taking me back to my early married days. Each author is different, Meluha was way too simple, Banker was aggressive, Ravi seems mid way.

    To side with the author – It is very tough to write a new Ramayana in this country which has grown up with the book in hand, the author deserves a mention on that and a good story plot. My son will love this book it is more easy to understand, logical and rational. This is not a total fiction like Meluha, he has maintained the same story line – a very tough task to do.
    What I really loved in the book is, when I think I know whats next, the plot changes.

    To side with the blogger: This volume is in comparison to Bala kaantam which is generally a very boring subject, the author may be tried to cover it up with some action, sci-fi and romance.

    Expectations vary from person to person, as a reviewer, you are entitled to spell your notes which will influence your followers. The book will sell, its Rama’s voice and the story is good, there are opinions either ways. I felt nothing negative, it was a genuine effort of the author, I think he wrote from his heart.

    But the real the truth is…. this blog is showing up most in I, Rama search
    And I was tempted to jump in the bandwagon.

    • Welcome to my blog, Shakti, and thank you for stopping by and commenting. And thank you also for your very balanced and honest comments. I really appreciate it.

      I, Rama has its positive points as I have mentioned in my post. The Ramayana as narrated by Rama is the USP of the book. But unfortunately the writing lets the book down very badly. I do not doubt the author’s sincerity or research or hard work, but it has not translated into even a passable piece of writing. In my poinion, flowery writing would have worked if the author had not delved into too many genres. I’m sorry but sci-fi and flowery prose do not go hand in hand.

      I am surprised that nobody has picked up on my note to the publisher, who I feel are equally responsible for the quality of the book. A good editor and a good proof-reader could have made the book crisper.

      I have always maintained this across all the reviews I have written on my blog that even if you have a good plot, storyline and something unique, if the narrative does not match up to it then it is of no use.

      I am actually quite dismayed by the notoriety, not popularity that this post has gained. This is not what I expected when I wrote this piece.

      • Haha – happens dear Sudhagee :)
        A lot of people love Rama for a lot of reasons :) One thing I noted was there are a lot of passionate people in this commentary, one I felt was kind of out of line with feminist remarks (no idea how that came in, I never felt anything like that).

        On prose/poetry mash up: A writer can write how he feels is right, its the writer’s liberty, sci-fi with poetry or ghost story with prose (I pray not) its their choice.
        As a reader, I cannot comment on any one’s writing skill, its easy to read but never so to write. My writing is limited to certain forums etc.
        I am a literacy student of yesteryears, I did not find it deterring to me to read the book.
        Infact, after a long time, i smiled on Menaka’s romance, which was odd and believe me if I say I dont like romance as a subject :)

        Yes I saw your points on the editing – could have been better. I think the editor is not experienced. Editing and some silly mistakes were there, it is definitely a proof reader / editor’s fault for a sloppy job on a good book. I think the author will come good in the Volume II. I like his mind and way of thinking (or may be I am still running fever on Kaikeyi’s energy :P ).
        I loved the book primarily for its story, plot lines, twists and most importantly the guts of the author to take up Rama’s tale and writing it honestly.

        Did you review Meluha :) Would love to read that, please do email / post the link!

        • And I am not a student of literature :-) I actually have a pure science background. Yes, the author has the liberty to write in any way he or she deems fit, but they must always do so with the knowledge that it may work or not work.

          Yes, there are a lot of passionate people here. But I did not feel that Teevramadhyam was out of line with the feminist remark; he was actually spot on. It is something that I noticed too but did not bring into the discussion as I knew that would have taken the review to entirely different plane. I can actually see this book being used in classes on ‘portrayal of women in mythology’ as part of a larger discourse on Feminist Studies, and for all the wrong reasons. I know of several Women’s studies programmes where they have a separate paper/course on ‘Portrayal of Women in Literature’. I will admit, though, that this may not have been the Ravi Venu’s intention, but the flowery language used conveys what Teevramadhyam picked up.

          Yes I reviewed both the books in the Meluha series as part of the same BlogAdda Book Review Programme. The links are:

          https://thatandthisinmumbai.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/the-immortals-of-meluha/
          https://thatandthisinmumbai.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/the-secret-of-the-nagas-a-review/

          Would love to know what you think of them. :-)

          • :) I as much expected the same type of reviews, having read the series I went straight to the review part. Now I do understand where you are coming from and understand your view.

            I did not like Meluha as much, it was a good story but the myth was deranged. I love to find reason in our myths to explain to our kids, I, Rama does help with that and Meluha did not.

            The biggest hill Ravi Venu had to climb was the 1st person narrative, and it is damn difficult to write in 1st person. The point of view changes and it is very complex, to add on to that he chose Rama, obviously another tough subject. Many reviewers fail to give him points for these two big tasks.
            Its why I liked his guts and he definitely did well there.

            As a woman, I felt proud reading some lines, like when Kaikeyi rushes Dasaratha before sending the boys with Vishwamitra. I, for one, could connect very well with the book.
            In this book, Rama actually came home to me as my own boy (something like how people feel for Krishna)!

            On feminist remark, I dont see any other than poetic attempts to describe women, not sure how you felt it. I read a few other blogs to find other reviews, they seem well and almost all say that women stand out brilliant in the book. One review was so complex that I felt I need an english translator, but he praised the book very well.

            One grudge I have – the silhouette in the back cover was bright enough to see the Rama :)

            Good night and would love to read your blogs more often!

            • Don’t even get me started on the cover of I Rama. That’s another thing I chose not to write about.

              I have really enjoyed interacting and discussing with you Shakti, and I hope that it will continue in the future as well. Looking forward to your comments and ensuing discussion on future book reviews as well. Thank you once again. :-)

  14. Phew… not sure WHERE to start?
    1. I like the way you wrote the review…
    2. I’m tired of retellings myself, so its nice to know I did not force myself to get this one.
    3. What a whirlwind of popularity… :D wow.
    4. Have you tried reading Devdutt Pattnaik? He writes books with mythological base. Fiction and non-fiction both. I loved his Myth = Mithya and ended up reading “ALL” of his other one’s :)

    here’s my review for DP’s Myth = Mithya… check out, it might come as a refreshing change.
    http://musingsofarestlessreader.blogspot.com/2011/10/pending-reviewfinally-done.html

    • Hey Shraddha, good to see you here after a long time. In response to your points:
      1. Thank you very much.
      2. I love retellings as I always get to read something new, a new interpretation… which is one of the reasons I signed up to reveiw this book.
      3. Popularity or notoriety? :-(
      4. Yes, I have read Devdutt Pattanaik and have even reviewed his 7 secrets of Vishnu here. https://thatandthisinmumbai.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/7-secrets-of-vishnu/
      I have also read Myth=Mithya, which is good, but I love his Jaya.
      Now heading over to read your review :-)

  15. Honesty – rare virtue! In the last 6 months I read the 2 Amish Tripathi books (Shiva Puranam), Ashwin Sanghi’s “Chankya’s Chant” and Chitra Banerjee’s Palace of Illusions.

    I liked the Chitra Banerjee book the most – very convincing take on the Mahabharath from Draupadi’s point-of-view.

    Like all the remakes and copies from other languages that we are seeing on the movie scene Indian authors and busy trying to extract some money by retelling the classics. Most of them are poor imitations.

    Thank you for this tip … One book I can strike off the list.

    I have suffered through two Chetan Bhagat books … I am sure he has a doting audience in India but I don’t wish to be counted among them.

    Nicely written review.

    • Delighted to see you here, Jayadev. And thank you so much for your appreciative comments.

      I have read both the Meluha books and Chanakya’s Chant, but not the Place of Illusions. Have you read Iravati Karve’s Yuganta? It is a feminist retelling of the Mahabharata. As for Chetan Bhagat’s books, let’s not mention him here, shall we? :-)

      Not that I liked the Meluha books, but I preferred it to Chanakya’s Chants. As long as there is a good story, even a retelling, and as long as there are people willing to read/listen/watch it, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and any story from Hindu mythology will always provide fodder and inspiration for writers.

      • Hi again,

        So that’s one more to read & good opportunity to compare two feminist versions because P o Illusions describes Mahabharat from Draupadi’s POV.

        Glad to see that we agree about CB. :)

        Best wishes!

        J

        • Here is caveat: Think a twice-or more- if the author has to come on prime time tv to pitch for his work. I am happy to be counted among the few who has not read a single CB. The first few pages of one book- can’t remember the title- inoculated me for life.

          • Ha! Ha!

            Srinayan,

            Valid point. CB is following the Bollywood formula.

            Best ignored!

  16. I prefer reading reviews of books after I’ve read them. This is one of those rare times that I have done otherwise. And I thought I should tell you this: I really enjoyed reading this review. It was so entertaining. Honest!

  17. The one main reason this review is so popular is because of a funny title gimmick.
    If the title were like your other reviews, it would have hardly had so much popularity.
    Review wise its ok, your views, take it or leave it. But publicity wise, ….. its another story.

    Have not read the book but will definitely read – simply because the comments in this tread are so interesting. Like I said, change the title and see if you get as much attention :)

    As a marketing guy, here are my views about your review:

    Talking bad about something always picks up a lot of chatter, because it is easiest to find faults.
    Many people enjoy bashing up something / some one (especially if the kid is a newbie) , you have bashed Chetan Bhagat, Amish and this dude Ravi in the latest bout.

    Your followers love it (I had a good laugh too) obviously at some one’s expense (wicked :D).
    There were some very good reviews about the book from equally good readers / book lovers / intelligent people.

    And of course you were honest, every one would say that, no one is going to write a blog and say ‘here is my lil secret – i am a liar’ :)

    Question to you: Instead of ‘painfully turning the pages’ why did you not stop after first few pages and say ‘you are done’ ?
    Seems a logical way to get rid of such a laborious process when no one forced you, but no – the fun part is to finish the book and write a review like this, generating much of following :)

    I think the book will be fun to read as much as I enjoyed reading through the forum. I am sure you must have crossed 3K hits since you posted this note! Stardom over night :)

    Now you know, pin a funny title and bash the book/movie/song – get the light on :)
    Angels in the background!

    Btw: Just FYI most books you give bad reviews are a hit. Its the Karma associated :)
    May be you should just call the authors of these books and tell them your views :)

    Sporty sporty! Keep up the fun game!

    • Welcome here, Vijay, and thank you so much for taking the time to write such a long, rambling, smiling review. Since you have already read the thread, there is no need to repeat myself, is there? You wouldn’t believe it anyway. So I have only this to say: I had always heard that marketing guys had a nasty, closed and crooked mind. I got proof of that today, thanks to you. Much obliged :-)

      • Oh my good gracious lord of all religions :)
        Now we are up against marketing guys… Are we ;)
        Chillax lady, its just an observation and pretty much accurate… From marketing pov.
        Honest view? I would have kept the book away if I did not like it, I would do that , instead of reading till last line and bashing !
        Take a stat and see, your peers who write balanced critical reviews will hardly evoke as many comments as this. You will see reason for your popularity in this case.
        Purely a marketing view!
        Open a google adsense account, cash in :)

        • Sigh ! You are a persistent marketing guy, Vijay. :-)

          I would have appreciated, respected and responded to your comments if you had read the book and also my review. If you had read the book you may have understood what I was talking about in my review. If you had read my review you would have noticed that I was reviewing the book as part of the Blog Adda Book Review Programme, and not as a randomly picked book to review and indulge in author bashing. And if you had also bothered to read my other book reviews (esp. the ones by Amish), you would have realised that those were also part of the Blog Adda Book Review Programme. I hope you realise now, that giving up reading I, Rama was not an option for me, even though I wanted to.

          Coming to the point of my review being/not being an honest one, I don’t really expect you to recognise an honest one from a dishonest one. As a marketing guy, you must be so used to listening and marketing half lies or truths depending on a particular PoV that I doubt you can recognise honesty and sincerity. Also, considering your comments and PoV, I don’t expect you to recognise quality over popularity either.

          At least, I read the book before writing my review, Vijay. If you had bothered to go through my blog, you would have seen that I write for the pleasure of writing and on principle do not take up sponsored reviews. That I have managed to sustain a small, but dedicated, readership over the last 2 years makes me very happy and satisfied. Everything need not be monetised and my blog is one of them. It is really sad how you have jumped to conclusions about my intentions for getting more readership and hits for my blog.

          Thank you for your visiting my blog. Unless you read the book and want to have a discussion on its contents versus my review, I request you to refrain from commenting.

  18. Ayyo Sudha, who knew a review would lead to such controversy… ? I liked the way you have reviewed the book and I am a bit peeved at the way Indian authors are being promoted these days. Every blurb and testimonial offers up praise but when i pick up the book, I am sorely disappointed. I want to know who writes these blurbs and if it is being done with the attitude of “I scratch your….. scratch mine.” It sure seems that way. Please don’t get me started on grammar and spelling. I have read books where authors have confused there and their, rear and rare and your and you’re. Enough said about their writing already.

    The exceptions have been Chitra Divakaruni, her writing has depth and I have read all her books but I especially loved Palace of Illusions. Indu Sundaresan is another writer that does well with the historical fiction genre. I, for one, am going to rely on your reviews before deciding to pick up a book. Thanks for undertaking the difficult task of reading such books and offering up your honest opinions.

    • The quality of Indians writing in English started going down with the rise of self-publishing in India. Everyone has something to say and everyone wants to be a published author. But established publishing houses are choosy and/or snooty and the waiting list is really long. So what do people do? With some money to spare (Rs.30,000 to 50,000) you can approach a “self-publisher” who will do the layout, design and print the book. The marketing and publicity is done by the authors and their friends and family through word of mouth and social media. In this whole process, an important part of the publishing process gets omitted — a critical review of the book to even determine if it is worth publishing or if modifications need to be done. The review process, if any, is done by adoring friends and family members, all of whom say its a great piece of work and it has to be published. You get someone to write (maybe a PR person, maybe a family member or a friend) a great blurb, and are set to go ahead and publish it and become a published author, right up there with the “greatest”.

      So when the reviews start rolling in, particularly the unfavourable ones, it comes as a nasty surprise. I mean, when the entire legion of friends and family have said it is a great effort, how dare someone say it is bad. Pointing out mistakes in language and spellings is being nitpicky and so old-fashioned. We are Indians after all and revel in mediocricity, right? Any criticism becomes personal and construed as author bashing, and writing for publicity. Neither the author or his/her adoring friends are willing to accept that it is a flawed piece of writing.

      And therein lies the biggest problem — the inability to accept criticism. But then, I am not surprised when most cannot even differentiate between the word “critic” and “critique”.

      Meera, thank you so much for your comments. I can’t tell you how much they cheered me up especially after the latest barrage yesterday.

  19. Aiyyo!! This review is just her opinion people! Neither does the review make the book better nor does it make it worse than it already is . After reading all the comments I honestly feel this is worse than when the cartoonist was arrested in West Bengal. Even if you dont like the review,stop being so nasty. Why are the readers more sensitive than the author?

    • Thank you, Aditi, for being another sane and mature voice in this cacophonous exchange that is passing off as a mature discussion. :-)

  20. @Nanjil, @Shakti and @Vijay May I know what are all you doing commenting from the same IP address? Are you one person or two persons or three persons? Please let me know. And please also let Ravi Venu know about this comment/query of mine, will you? Thank you so much.

    • Sure, if I get to know him I will. I know ram, but no idea about shakti. Ram n I work in same office.

      • I have always been wary of “bestseller” labels; you have given me a compelling reason to be even more careful. A measured rebuttal of the blogger’s critique would have resulted in a stimulating exchange of views. Instead, what we get is a raucous, simian attack on the blogger as if it was her fault that she read the book.
        To Vijay, Nanjil and your cronies: You come across as poor, laughable caricatures of Hanuman ( the Supreme Devotee, in case you missed the allusion)
        To the author, Ravi Venu: You could do with less sycophantic praise and more honest apppraisal. You would also do well to keep in mind John Milton: ” Books are… the progeny of the soul, the purest extraction of the living intellect that bred them”. You have to live with the standards that you set. It is also up to you to chose between knowledgeable, appreciative readership and a few nanoseconds of high decibel sycophantic adulation.
        And, yes, mosquitoes, too, generate a lot of buzz.

    • Nanjil and/or Vijay and/or whoever. This seems to be an orchestrated effort at harassment and I think you are both insecure and sick. You do both the book and its author great disservice. Get a life and move on.

    • Ha ha ha! Trust an editor ( a great one at that) to catch out stuff like the IP address in the comments! Looks like in the age of ‘social media book publishing’ — I use the term for want of a better one — where the popularity of the author on such media announces the arrival of ‘authors’ . They either self publish or have their books picked up by well-known publishers for whom the popularity of the author means those magical sales figures. So don’t knock self-publishing alone for bad quality of books. It is the malaise of the times. Else would the market by flooded by so-called literature of all genres and touted as being the greatest gift to literature? CB being a case in point :D

      As for the review, I loved the honesty and the way you fielded those under-arm deliveries. Need I say more than that I would give a wide berth to the said book? :)

      • Zephyr, great to see you back. You were sorely missed.

        Thank you for your comments and coming from a fellow editor, it is all the more special. It did occur to me that the 3 could be the same as the writing style, the excessive use of smileys and the use of the word critic for critique was common. But I didn’t give much thought to it till I suddenly noticed yesterday that the IP addresses were the same.

        I do not jump to conclusions easily or think the worst of other people, but this does smack of a concerted harassment. In the process, the book has got much more cyberspace than it deserves and my blog some unwanted notoriety. :-)

        And please let us not discuss CB here. I’m worried that his army of admirers will land here to defend him and his writing to death. :-)

  21. Pingback: [Book Review] I, Rama: Age of Seers (Book – 1) by Ravi Venu « Palak Mathur

  22. Pingback: Ayyo Rama ! Chori pakdi gayi | My Favourite Things

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