Book Review: ‘Yudhishthira’ By Mallar Chatterjee

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“…Something churned inside me! Was this Draupadi, who had already swept me off my feet, going to end up as my brother’s wife? How could I ever be able to accept her as my sister -in-law, with my own heart ablaze?…”

Over the years, Mahabharata has intrigued people in various ways. While sitting in front of the television in early 90s, often we would have asked our parents questions, pregnant with a curious ‘why’ or ‘how’. And why not, every character of this epic mythology is a story in itself. And, every move they made has piqued the narrative of this epic, and coaxed us to deliberate deeper. Mahabharata has always been narrated in a third person or through the eyes of Krishna. But, have you wondered, what if you get to read the naked feelings of one of the pivotal characters through his own words. Well, author Mallar Chatterjee attempts to do just that with his debut novel ‘Yudhisthira, The Unfallen Pandava’, published by Readomania. Mallar Chatterjee in this novel experimented with a narrative that is a tad unusual, yet interesting. ‘Yudhisthira’ is a novel, that elaborates Mahabharata from in the point of view of the eldest Pandava, and how he saw, understood and then acted on various incidents that unfolded in his life.

Synopsis: ‘Yudhisthira, The Unfallen Pandava’ is the story of Mahabharata with a tweak. The story begin with the birth of Pandavas. Then, Yudhisthira’s relationship with his father and two mothers. And, finally how the sudden death of his father changed the discourse of his life and slowly and steady catapults to the end with the battle of Kurukshetra, and their life thereafter. In a way, there is nothing new in the story. One who knows Mahabharata knows this too. And one he doesn’t this is definitely a novel way of knowing Mahabharata.

Narrative: If there is a ‘hero’ in this novel, it is the narration. Author Mallar Chatterjee boldly experimented with his narration, which is different from the routine. And, he has succeeded quite well. The newness of the narrative lies in the way he projected his protagonist. It was what I would prefer to call a ‘boy next door approach’. Anyone can think the way Yudhisthira thought, and anyone can behave the way he did. The vulnerabilities are surprising, yet feels authentic. This kind of character sculpting made Yudhishthira a much more relatable, acceptable and a real character. The author has not only described at the length what has actually happened, but also consciously choose to decipher what must been Yudhishthira’s understanding behind all the events that were conspiring and shaping up his life, and his brothers, simultaneously. Interestingly, he didn’t mind toying with the darker side of Yudhisthira, too. For example, look into this interesting excerpt, where he described what Yudhishthira felt when his reverent mother Kunti ordered Draupadi to be divided among all the five brothers. The author writes, “ A strange thought would occur to me much later. Did Kunti consciously want Draupadi to be married off to all of us? Did she want to establish a polyandrous custom within our family which she herself had unwittingly, or perhaps reluctantly, started? Perhaps Kunti wanted to get rid of a perennial discomfiture of remaining the solitary woman in our family with that dubious distinction and tried to extend the culture to the next generation too by using a clever, little deception.”

Well, these kind of revelations every now and then about Kunti, his brothers, Draupadi and his own self is what makes this novel delectable in more ways than one. Something that keeps you hooked and makes you turn pages !!

Language/Editing: ‘Yudhishthira’ doesn’t have an extraordinary language to impress you. But, it has what most of us can read without a head break. It is simple, smooth and many a times colloquial. Considering the basic fulcrum of the plot, the language isn’t archaic. While, a few might expect a little more refined and ornate display of language, for some the very commonness and clarity will just do the trick.

‘Yudhishthira’ stands on its editing. At few junctures, when I felt the narration was slipping off the track, the skilful and meticulous editing pulled it back rather effortlessly. A novel that is so immensely loaded with myriad emotions, it is the editing that makes the book worth a read. And, here too, the editor has tied the loose ends effectively, and lent us an absorbing read. Highly, commendable.

What didn’t work

The author has time and again addressed his mother ‘Kunti’. Wonder why? Either it should have been ‘mother’ or ‘Kunti’ all along. This was slightly uncomfortable to read. Also, there are times, when I felt the author should have backed his feeling with an event or a moment. While the protagonist was constantly proclaiming his love for Draupadi, or his jealousy for Arjun, as a reader, I would have loved to read few fleeting moments that would have backed those feelings subtly, touching the finer nuances of human emotions. And finally, I was expecting a few more spells of the author’s language prowess, that would have made it an even more engrossing read.

Yudhisthira, The Unfallen Pandava by Mallar Chatterjee, is a good read for those who love mythology. But more than that, diving deep into Mahabharata from the point of view of Yudhishtira is definitely a thing to watch for in this novel. This novel, in many ways, testifies the fact that those people were also mere mortal beings like anyone of us with emotions that overpowers the brain. Grab it for an interesting read, and gulp down Mahabharata straight from the man who is known as the epitome of ‘Dharma’.

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