(I had to do a combined review of these books because I wouldn’t have known what to say if I didn’t.)
The Secret of the Nagas and The Oath of the Vayuputras are the second and third parts respectively of a trilogy following a fictionalized human manifestation of the Hindu god Shiva.
Amish Tripathi writes with straightforwardness and with the best of intentions, no doubt. But his books leave much to be desired. Is it okay if I call him AT for the rest of the review?
First thing that strikes me throughout the series is that AT lets his characters talk colloquially, often with hilarious consequences.
So, for example, we have Kali tell Sati that she has always been ‘daddy’s little princess’. And Veerbhadra teases Parvateshwar and his wife by exclaiming, ‘get a room, you two!’. And Shiva says things like ‘Oh hell’ and ‘Shit!’
The characters are pretty much linear too. When they do decide to develop complex, conflicting emotions like real humans do, they come through as over-chewed cardboard cutouts.
It is strange to me that while Shiva talks against blind belief, the openness to question existing rigid systems, including changing some aspects of existence which had apparently been introduced by Lord Ram (he justifies this by saying this is what Lord Ram would have wanted and he knows that because he is the much-proclaimed Neelkanth), he chooses to chant god’s name and pray every day. But I found it rather amusing.
Keeping the initial story intact, AT weaves a human life for Shiva but in the process, perhaps in his need to maintain the semblance of the legend, he lets the plot take absurd turns. His characters often talk illogically.
Case in point?
Parvateshwar, Shiva’s General and staunchest supporter makes some of the most foolish proclamations and declarations a clever man can ever be expected to make. He isn’t the only one though. Logic is given a big kick out of the window but instead of replacing it with something believable, AT chooses to let the plot limp along. Until…
And I must stress that this was, for me, the saving point of the series. The ending.
It wasn’t what I expected. Perhaps this was because AT chose to follow the original plot without modifying it into something that would please his mainstream audience a lot more. And I see across the internet, a volley of complaints launched at him for going down this particular road. People don’t want to see their hero suffer. God forbid if a God be reduced to something less than all-knowing, all-powerful and completely, one hundred percent invincible.
But I liked that.
In the end, I liked AT for putting a modern spin on Shiva’s tale. I liked how he treated the issues of caste-ism and gender. I liked, for the most part, the values he tried to impart in a manner that people might enjoy.
So although the plot fell short with loopholes abound, what I really enjoyed was how it came together in the end. It was the redeeming part of the story, the reason I felt it was okay that I spent time on the trilogy. Ultimately, I enjoyed the flawed but likable protagonist Shiva and his immediate family.
And they’re making a movie out of this?