Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: The Immortals of Meluha

At about the one-fourth mark of the novel “The Immortals of Meluha” by Amish, there is a scene of an ambush: the evil Nagas attack the travelling party, which consists of Shiva, the Tibetan hero; Sati, the princess (who Shiva loves, though without reciprocation) and their protective guards. Typical of the book, the suspense of the attack is in its unadorned language, its heroine fighting alongside the hero, and the decisive defeat emanating out of the quick thinking of the hero.

In a book which mixes mythology, history and fiction with unassuming adroitness, it’s easy to be held totally captivated as the narrative hurtles from one action scene to another, one lovelorn scene to another.

Its 1900 BC and a tribe called Gunas, living at the foothills of Mount Kailash in Tibet are called away to Meluha, with the promise of an unparalled life of serenity and luxury. What they don’t know is that the Meluhans are on the lookout for a NeelKanth (the blue-throated) to lead them to victory in a battle for survival. And that Neelkantha turns out to be - Shiva himself.

Shiva is incredulous and unbelieving of the legend, as he cannot see himself as a hero, a Mahadev, who can destroy all evil and become the leader of a huge prosperous nation and its fine inhabitants, he himself being nothing more than a tribal leader.
But this is where the first of the primary themes of the book comes into play: heroes are often born out of the sheer belief of others. And even though there could be things which are preordained, you still have to find victory the hard way. It’s a compelling thought, and ensures that victory is not always inevitable in the book.

Shiva has to fend terrorist attacks, he has to battle prejudice, he has to fight deep-rooted tradition and finally he has to lead his new-found nation into a full-on battle. And that is when, in a stunning closure, comes the second theme of the book: the heart of evil often isn’t. Shiva understands the pyrrhic nature of victory, and realizes that his enemies are elsewhere.

The book is so simply written that it is almost a guilty pleasure to read it. There is not a single line which you could call quotable. The dialogue is often stilted and the descriptions artificial. But the narrative is fast-paced, the story tightly-woven and the action scenes well-written. And though the inner worlds of the characters are not explored with any great insight, they come across as well-rounded individuals with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. And the romance is well-crafted to its conclusion, with the heroine being an apt equal, and not a simpering piece of wallpaper.

I have no idea of the verisimilitude of the backgrounds or of the positioning of the historical characters, but they all add up to some fine heavy-duty and heavy-breathing scenes. A book whose sequel I would like to lay hands on pretty quickly.

Read our interview with the author here .

This book is reviewed by Sunil Bhandari.Sunil is a finance man in a corporate job, who converts balance sheets into pieces of poetic fancies! Sunil loves films, writes to live, lives to write.He blogs at

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