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Old tale in a new package

Old tale in a new package
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Vadhan in his ‘Agniputr’ is retelling an old tale – one of good versus evil, wrapped in such strong narrative prowess that the tale is elevated to an...

Vadhan in his ‘Agniputr’ is retelling an old tale – one of good versus evil, wrapped in such strong narrative prowess that the tale is elevated to an unputdownable read. The story has all the essentials like the amoral Casanova protagonist, the rational stern beautiful female lead, the stubborn cunning antagonist and convenient hurdles preventing an early resolution of the grand conflict. From the get-go the story is predictable, the author employees all the usual troupes and still never lost the reader throughout the tale. By fully owning the clichés the author captures a freshness that hasn’t been seen in a long time.

In 1940 a murder used to awaken a horror, the Sutram, in the memorial grounds of Surya Castle in Gudem. A cripple gave his life to prevent the horror from destroying the village and the world at large. The sacrifice was a temporary fix; the threat is reaching a zenith and will soon be unleashed onto the world. Sheila is a quantum physicist and scientist on the hunt for any substantiated paranormal activity. A quirk of fate puts her on the path to Sutram.

Raghuram Surya is a renowned lawyer in Delhi. A philander with impeccable manners and doles of wit is the last surviving member of the Surya family. A government order of requisition for his ancestral castle in Gudem propels him headlong into a collision course with the Sutram.

He will have to dive deep into his roots to understand and prevent the malevolence he is fated to face. Sheila will be his guiding light and he is her way back to happiness. Kiromal is the Home Minister of India, the real power centre of the nation and yet he craved more. The Sutram was too strong an allure, a means for more power, a fruit ripe for the picking. Guided by the mysterious delirious tantric he intends to gain control of the Sutram and play God.

The ensemble has strong support characters like Major Kant, a rigid strict but kind-hearted military man and Potti, a loyal retainer of the Surya household. Surya Prasad has long passed on but his legacy stands firm, his past actions are the guiding hand in his son’s present. The enigmatic P Eshwar makes scant but profound appearances shaping the entire tale. The narrative’s hold on the reader can be attributed primarily to the quality time spent in establishing, detailing and deepening the few characters thoroughly.

The political commentary on contemporary Indian politics is sprinkled thickly in the beginning of the tale to splendid effect. A dialogue between the Defence Minister and Sheila has some of the most quote-worthy political statements in recent fiction. The banter between Sheila and Raghu is lopsided indicative of male perspective the author naturally carries into his writing. This may very well be a hidden critique on the relationship between Sheila and Raghu and the world we live in, it is obviously patriarchal.

The book is a solid 4 out of 5 for threading the needle and being a fresh take on an old storyline. The narrative is such a balancing act among mythological fiction, sci-fi, political fiction, thriller and horror genres that it’s a miracle that it is as cohesive and well put together as it is. A thoroughly entertaining and captivating read, just make sure you have time to finish it in one go for it will be impossible to stop once you start.

By: Shirish Kumar

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