Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: The Legend Of Amrapali

Throw in a confederacy of kingdoms with a selfish king who places his personal political success ahead of the welfare of his people and add a demure, learned, skillful dancer yet a valiant political influencer - voila you have yourself a commercial bollywood historical movie. Only here the difference is that Anurag Anand has used the formula to create a historical fiction novel centered around the well known city bride Amrapali who was a contemporary of Lord Buddha. I had two reasons to pick up this book for reading:
1. During the book launch Shashi Tharoor claimed that this book is in the likes of Shiva Trilogy and Chanakya's chant.
2. My favourite danseuse and columnist Mallika Sarabhai gracefully adorns the cover page of the book.

The book was nowhere near the expectations I had from it. It had grip over the story only at few places and loosely woven around the rest of the plot. The writer looses finesse when it comes to build the thriller and anticipatory angle of the narration. I am a kind of reader who likes almost whatever she reads. This book failed to impress me either in the plot or narration or the language. The plot is too predictable, the twists are expected and the language is laden with grammatical and spelling mistakes (which in the foreword, the author attributes to not listening to his wife). Having read both the Shiva Trilogy and Chanakya's, I can dare say Mr.Tharoor falsely claimed that Legend of Amrapali is on par with the brilliance of the other two books. 

The story begins with the escape of a young man Pushkumar, from the royal prison and proceeds to take the readers to a flashback of almost 18 years. Amrapali was found under a mango tree in Vaishali by a couple who lovingly raise her with care and affection. Being a doting father, Somdutt makes sure his daughter Amrapali gets education from a rajguru Narhari. She learns all forms of vidyas including kootnitti, rannnitti along with various other feminine art. Amrapali becomes an expert in dance and entices every soul in Vaishali. She starts falling in love with her childhood friend Pushpkumar oblivious to the fact that Manudeva, the lustful king of Vaishali is plotting a deadly plan to get her at any cost. How fate deceives Amrapali by separating her from Pushp, how all her loved ones fall prey to the cruelty of Manudeva, how she becomes a nagarvadhu and finally how this divine beauty becomes successful in spear heading the smartest political coup of Vajji confederacy is the rest of the story. Without a strong explanation by the author, readers are left to wonder how a nagarvadhu can shake the stability of the highest democracy of her times.

Whatever the loose ends of his narration, Anurag Anand has succeeded in giving a wonderful picture of Amrapali's character. She is the innocent child, embodiment of celestial beauty, richest in purity of heart, undisputed queen of dancing, a tender lover,a sensual nagaravadhu, a vengeful politician, a magnanimous social worker, a great friend, and many more. One cannot help feeling a liking towards the central character of the plot.  The narration is also interspersed with few beautiful quotes such as this one: "The ache of losing someone or something when you are so close to making it your own that you can reach out and touch it, is far overbearing than that of losing something you always had or contrastingly had never dreamt of having."

This book is a breezy read and it takes a maximum of 3 hours to get it over with. I suggest the book to only those who do not take their reading seriously or who want to read a book just to get a topic for discussion over coffee table. It is not to be read by those who are looking for an intellectually appeasing work with great plot, gripping narration, good language and something to carry back to life. 


  1. Oh!! This was on my list of books to read. Every book I buy from Infibeam or flipkart has a bookmark with this book advertisement. Now I know what to do with this entry in the list :-)

  2. It better be left in the shelf ;)