Rani Padmavati. The name itself is an enigma, like the Rajput queen who inspired generations of litterateur that dedicated pages in writing odes to her beauty. Even six months ago if one were to ask me what came to my mind when I hear that name, I would say Abanindranath Tagore’s Rajkahini. The fictional account of the tales of Rajputana was a companion in our growing up years, and has shaped our worldview of the Rajputs.
Thanks to the charade in the name of protests last year, before the theatrical release of a film on Padmavati, and the drama that ensued, the Rajput queen has now become a household name in India. Whether or not people have read about her, they have an opinion on how she should be depicted in films and books. In times like these, Anuja Chandramouli’s book is a reprieve from the constant moral policing and sanctimonious preaching that history has now become.
Like always, Anuja Chandramouli gives us an insight into the characters, that were hitherto unexplored. They are not cast in black and white. The balancing act by the author, desisting from glorifying Rajputs (or vilifying Khilji) deserves special mention. The task of retelling a story that has been told many times enough in the past, comes with inherent risk of failing to stand out of the others. A fresh perspective adds a charm to a narrative that no amount of marketing blitzkrieg can achieve.
The free-flowing narrative, crisp writing, and emphatic delivery ensure that the book is unputdownable. The pages keep turning themselves, until the last word of the novel is processed in our brain. Chandramouli’s book carves its niche in this herd of stories, novels, poems and plays dedicated to the ‘Burning Queen of Chittor’.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by the author
DISCLAIMER: ALL IMAGES USED IN THIS POST HAVE THEIR RESPECTIVE COPYRIGHTS
As a 90’s kid living in India, the famed Akbar-Birbal stories were part of my growing up years – firstly, thanks to the Amar Chitra Katha comics, and secondly, courtesy the animated series on Cartoon Network. Known for his sharp mind, analytical skills, and quirky wit, Birbal was one of Akbar’s ‘Navaratna’ (nine gems).
From mundane matters pertaining to state of affairs, to something as absurd as counting the number of crows in the kingdom – popular tales of Birbal encompassed it all. So, it was absolutely intriguing to land a book about ‘detective’ Birbal who is entrusted with solving a murder mystery. ‘The Tree Bears Witness’ by Sharath Komarraju shows us a new side to the popular historical figure.
Given the times we live in, where any reference to historical figures is met with a threat to life, or a bounty on the head, it is brave of the writer to pen a fictional tale of the murder of Sujjamal, brother of the newly-wedded Rajput queen of Emperor Akbar. Imagine an envoy of a foreign country dying under mysterious circumstances in India – Sujjamal’s murder has similar far-reaching political consequences, as his marriage with the Rajput princess was a political manoeuvre.
Given the gravity of the situation, Akbar turns to his trusted lieutenant to bring the perpetrator to justice using his famed grey matter. While Birbal sets on the task, he has a herculean challenge laid out before him. Palace politics plays out, as powerful people try to throw Birbal off-course in his task. An innocent scape-goat is jailed for convenience and rivalries play out in a way that makes Birbal’s work even more arduous.
The brisk pace of the story, with all the twists, makes this novel an enjoyable read. Birbal could very well be a modern-day CBI sleuth who is investigating the murder of a diplomat; the spirit of the story would remain intact. The delectable writing, with historical setting, set this book a class apart. The climax, where Birbal assembles the entire royal clan to reveal the murderer, reminded me of how Feluda always finished his cases.
Overall, ‘The Tree Bears Witness’ by Sharath Komarraju is an exciting murder mystery that adds a dash of history to a fictional tale of whodunit. If you read between the lines, the political subtext in the novel will surely impress you.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by Amazon.
DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Book Have Their Respective Copyrights