A legend’s rise and inexplicable fall
Anuja Chandramouli hitches a ride on the recent wave of historical fiction in Indian literary scene with her latest ‘Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor...
Anuja Chandramouli hitches a ride on the recent wave of historical fiction in Indian literary scene with her latest ‘Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts’. She has established mythological fiction as her forte and this facet of her writing bleeds into this novel as well.
With a flashing flourish of flamboyancy, she describes the settings, surroundings, scenes and sights that were appropriate to the period. At times a tad bit excessive, her dramatic fancies add to the grandeur that exalted Prithviraj Chauhan’s legacy into the pages of history.
The novel is a comprehensive account of the life of Prithviraj and the events that transpired to pave his path to the throne and subsequent downfall into depravity. The author spends an inordinate amount of time setting up the lineage and family tiffs pre-birth of Prithviraj, verging on the edge of becoming a boring and long history lesson about the family tree of the Chahamanas and Chalukyas. The exhaustive list of names got convoluted and seems to have flummoxed even the author for in the first few pages the names of Prithviraj’s grandmother and mother are used erroneously.
Supporting characters like Prithviraj’s mother, grandmother, uncle, father, friends, teacher, etc, were crafted with a deft hand. The author does an excellent job of portraying the emotional and sentimental sides that drive the plot forward. Character interactions are funny, snarky, concise and deep when needed.
Central character’s magnanimity was built up to fantastical levels with their perspectives making the exaggerations too seem natural and deserved. The verbal and non-verbal sparring between opposing pairs like Karpuradevi and Kanchanadevi, Kadambavas and Kanha, Jaya and Padhri, etc were thoroughly entertaining.
The narrative seemed lopsided with a good opening and middle but with a rushed third act. The book summary was especially deceptive in pitching the tale of romance, treachery and tragedy when most of the novel focused on the rise and very little in the fall. The supposed love story of infamy was done and dusted in mere pages leaving the reader feeling clueless and disengaged from the plight of Prithviraj. A better executed and elaborated unravelling would have propelled the quality and experience of the tale to greater heights. A great chance missed by the author.
Prithviraj’s fame and god-like stature didn’t seem all that deserved because of a lack of incidents that marked him as a genius. The only saving grace was that his drive to achieve was hammered in, his skill with swordplay, archery and horse riding were major focuses. The romance was clichéd and repetitive in multiple interactions of Prithviraj’s relationships. That reduced the potency of his heartbreak when he lost Samyukta.
The novel is a middle of the road average take on a historical figure that comes with a set of strong preconceptions. Anuja does a good job of painting his life in a new light with an emphasis on not just Prithviraj’s life but on lives that affected him and were touched by him.
Readers with a penchant for drama, political strife and treachery will appreciate the book. The persistent romance may act both as a deterrent and appeal for some others. Pick up the book if you have time to kill. It is a fun one time read particularly for ones interested in Prithviraj Chauhan.
By: Shirish Kumar