Book Review: Ajaya – Roll of the Dice by Anand Neelakantan

It is never easy to convince people to believe in a notion
or a perspective that contradicts what they have heard and believed all their
lives. Anand Neelakantan however is one writer who has mastered this art. I read
and reviewed his debut novel Asura a few months back and overall I as so happy
with the way that the author had treated the subject that when Leadstart
Publishing came to up to me with Ajaya- Roll of Dice…I said yes without
thinking twice.
Asura and Ajaya do have a lot of similarities in the sense
that they are based two of the greatest epics of our culture. His
protagonists are the “villains” of these stories and Neelakantan has attempted to
see them in a different light. He takes the stories we had heard, read and
re-read all our lives and has given them his own spin to force us to think
whether there could a possibility beyond what we have been told to think all
our lives. His books have proved that he is the master of every coin has two
sides philosophy.

Ajaya- Roll of dice is about Suyodhana which is supposedly
the real name of Duryodhona. You do find a lot of similarities with the
Mahabharata and you obviously can’t help compare the version you are reading
and the version you have read. But what is surprising is the fact that Neelakantan version makes sense at a certain level. I also feel that the fact
that he never adds the god element to his character makes his books all the
more interesting. Even in Ajaya- the Pandava and Karna are not portrayed as son
of gods…they are portrayed as mere mortals with aspirations,   doubts, feelings and ambitions just like any
of us.
Another interesting about this version is that also goes beyond
the conflict for the throne…it talks about issues of caste, discrimination,
untouchables and dharma. How these have different interpretations for
different people and how they affect the characters and the story as a
whole. 

I would have loved to talk about the story but I don’t want
to ruin your experience of reading the Neelakantan’s version of the great epic.
All I would say is that if you are able to see beyond the usual mindset we have
towards the characters of Mahabharata, you would appreciate the what a
brilliant job the author has done. The story will keep you engaged, surprise
you, shock you and will force you to think at a lot of places and I am definitely looking forward to the next part- Rise of Kali
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