Wednesday, May 6, 2009

a review: the palace of illusions

The presentation in form of the first person narrative technique (Draupadi's persona used as a mouthpiece) used in Divakaruni's 'The Palace of Illusion' is simply brilliant! But at the same time, I wish the facts were not so different from Vyasa's Mahabharata that got translated in various regional languages later.

Am probably writing this because like any other Indian, am quite sensitive about this great epic, the abridged form of which I first read when I was just seven and since then have developed a strong liking for the image of Vasudev Krishna, which continues till date!

Debaroti, a colleague of mine was amused when she heard from me that in 'The Palace...', Draupadi went through dreams, imagination, hallucinations and trance-like state. She wondered aloud if the narrator (heroine herself) had been taking sleeping pills and if so, then what could it have been!

Infact, I have a feeling that either the author or her narrator was under a strong impact of opium just as the great poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (composer of 'Kubla Khan') used to be while writing/ narrating.

For example, the presentation of transformation of Shikhandi from a woman to man in this novel is absolutely illogical. The Oriya novelist, Pratibha Ray's 'Yajnasheni' mentions that Shikhandi underwent a surgery and had her muscles toned.
Around 5000 to 7000 years back, Bharat was quite advanced in the field of Medicine, especially surgery! The 6th century BC surgeon, Sushruta, notable for his ground-breaking writings on plastic surgery - was the first one to record as to how a medical person should operate on cataracts. He compiled an encyclopedia of medical treatment which contained detailed anatomical information and descriptions of 300 surgical procedures. Among them the first descriptions were of rhinoplasty and octoplasty: plastic surgery of the nose and the ears. [reference: The Reader's Digest - The Truth About History]

And so far Divya Drishti is concerned, Vyasa had granted it to Sanjay (Dhritarashtra's chariot driver) only. It is only in this book that we see Draupadi receiving the Divya Drishti!

I always knew that Karna admired her beauty and personality and she had respect for him but Panchaali - Karna romance is not mentioned anywhere. So after reading ‘The Palace of Illusions', I searched the internet for correct info regarding Panchaali and Karna (presented in the novel as an absolute Mills & Boon/ Victoria Holt hero) getting united in heaven.

Even when she is lying in the lap of Himalayas - dead and stone cold, she or probably her spirit is seeing Krishna and Karna coming before her one after the other. Lying there she is trying to figure out whose presence always gave her soul an embalming effect (Krishna) and whose presence heightened her desires (Karna)! Must say that Draupadi's imagination was running wild even after her death!!!

One of the comments of the readers:

· "... Is there any truth to the love Draupadi felt for Karna (in the Mahabharata text) or simply adding masala?"

· OR, do read this link and see people's reactions to Panchali and Karna getting united in heaven!

One may not be able to go through Kaliprasanna Singha's (the famous 19th century author)Mahabharata, but then the ideal references would be:

· Draupadi - Pratibha Ray's 'Yajnaseni' (The Oriya original was published in 1985, the English translation in 1996) is more close to Vyasa's Mahabharata and also has logical presentation.

· Pritha by Samaresh Basu. It gives an idea about the society when the incidents of Mahabharata actually took place.

Instead of ‘the palace of illusions' or 'panchaali's mahabharat' the name ideally should have been 'the illusionary palace' or something similar which highlights the opium effect under which the novel has been written/ narrated!!

One must read Pritha and Vyasa's Mahabharata (translated in English or any other regional languages) before reading 'Tha Palace of Illusions' to avoid getting misguided about the actual facts as mentioned in the translated versions of Vyasa'a timeless epic!

- nilanjana

first rain of the season

where art thou?

O First Rain of the Season!
the weather makes me hum the tune of -

brishti, brishti, brishti
aey kon aporup shrishti
eto mishti mishti mishti
aamar haariye geche drishti!

- a famous bengali song of the yesteryears!

probably the parched earth n the chaatok paakhi are also humming the same tune with me!

- nilanjana

a review: vidhu vinod chopra's 'Parineeta'

We all are aware of the fact that ‘Parineeta', is a Vidhu Vinod Chopra adaptation based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's (the famous Bengali novelist) genre ‘Parineeta' (1914)! 1962 - Calcutta with its Howrah Bridge, tram and panipuri - is suggestive of a different backdrop, not that of Kolkata of 1914!

A fantastic visual presentation, Vidhu Vinod Chopra's ‘Parineeta' would have been more appropriate if the backdrop had been that of early 21st century!

Because in 1962 no middle class Bengali girls (Parineeta and her sister) would have worn salwar kameez (that too sleeveless); similarly, non-bengali ladies (Gayatri) from the elite society in Bengal were more conservative and would have avoided wearing off-shoulder and low-cut outfits - even if they could have worn English gowns!

While watching the film one has an idea about the brand endorsement also which is quite interesting -
Nataraj pencil in Shekhar's hand...

Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate in the hands of the 2 young actresses playing the roles of Parineeta and Koyel - reminding us of the Dairy Milk wrapper of the 1980s...

Flurys (A Swiss Confectionery-which has been a landmark of Kolkata since pre-independence) for The Apeejay Group...

Saridon is a product which was developed in 1969 by Roche and was brought to India in 1969 i.e. 36 years after it was launched! In 1962 backdrop, we see a middle class family (heroine's family) using Saridon (given to Parineeta by Koyel before she goes to the night club with her other family members).

The music was fabulous; so was Sanjay Dutt's entry quite dramatic with the flavour of a ‘1942 - A Love Story' song tune!

We find Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Parineeta, like any other female protagonists of Sarat Chandra's novels including his Parineeta - is also an optimist even though we find her neck deep in the ocean of absolute hopelessness (in the movie)...

A brilliant commercial movie for the eyes to feast on the glamour and presentation skill of the filmmaker!

- nilanjana