Book Review: Arjuna


This book by Anuja Chandramouli starts off at a good pace and keeps the reader engaged until about a quarter of the book. The Mahabharata is a story of epic proportions. Even though the core is the 18 day war, the build up to the war, and the culmination of the characters is elaborate. Given the book is so huge, and the fact that there are innumerable complicated sub stories woven into the epic, this book tries to extricate out the stories of one of the main characters – Arjuna.

While the attempt to experiment is much appreciated, it is difficult to do something like this and sustain interest. The Mahabharata is what it is, because of the complex interweaving of plots. It loses its magic touch when you bring out the stories of only one of the protagonists.

Very soon after the first quarter of the book is over, the reader is faced with the problem of sequencing. While telling only the stories of Arjuna, the book runs like a kid having control of the rewind and fast-forward controls of a cartoon movie. I was bewildered and let confused multiple times, about whether a certain event happened before or after another. The fact that most of us know this story in a sketchy manner makes it even more difficult. Perhaps, if I did not know anything about the Mahabharata then, it could have been easier on me.

When you choose one protagonist over others (there are 4 other brothers and Krishna himself), the other big problem is that of justifying why this character was chosen. Again, this is a problem only because a big subset of the readers know the original story. So when sub stories are told about Arjuna, the sub conscious mind is thinking – “so what, Bheema did stuff even better, Yudhishtira is equally good, etc…”.

To be honest, the book did not sustain my interest past the 75% mark. And this is one of the very few books, where I have kept a book down without completing. It had started to drain me. It had started to feel like a chore to complete the book, and that is when I stopped.

You may like this book if you are die-hard Arjuna fan. If so, get the book here.

I would rather recommend Devdutt Patnaik’s Jaya – An Illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata. Devdutt does a far better job in retelling the Mahabharata as it is. [ebook] [paperback]