Ramayana Redux is what I might call this – in the “Lord of the Rings” format with a “Clash of the Titans”-ish lore. Its a heavy-duty remix of all Ramayana’s written till date (as Banker writes in his epilogue), with a very widened touch of his own visualization of this epic. The dramatization of the events are invigorating (some of them were good to note – as you will read ahead) – and not like the Ramanand Sagar’s episodes of his version of the same epic. A story retold – but makes for one good reading.
In fact there are a good many things, terms etc that I got to learn from this book, thanks to Banker, I am slightly more educated. Also The Seven Sages or Seers – by the way they live long – seven thousand years on last count for Rishi Vashisht!!! I desire to learn that trick!!
I love mythology – I am also a firm believer that the myth is actually true!! Rama is not my favorite historical character, but I loved the flavor of his character in this book. A human being, destined for greater glories for the betterment of mankind..we have heard this idea for ages now, but the commencement of the story with a focus on the evil lurking around – making a Demi-God or Avatar feel uncomfortable and mortal – is slightly offbeat. Ashok Banker says that the original story has not been told properly, i.e. the Valmiki version, which has been distorted and culled and re-culled every time some one wanted to re-write Ramayana. Hence the various versions of the epic. I guess this is one more of the same.
The differences are not subtle, they are a plenty. The arrival of Kala-Nemi too early in this book whilst in the original it was very late in the epic, Surpankha is also depicted early here – both of them spies of Ravana. Jatayu also comes in as a spy of Ravana. Ram and Sita were childhood friends and Ram secretly desires her, so much so as Laxman desires Urmila!!
I am not reviewing this book critically, but I guess, I will point out a few things which I found were invigorating thoughts.
Invigorating note 1 | The Initiation: The readers’ “initiation” to the story, through Ram’s dream was something of note. A different beginning, I shall say. The unfurling of the dream sequence, “physique-al” description of Ram, the gory details of the “rape of Ayodhya”..was quite a starter for an epic known for its portrayal of civility and nobility!!
Invigorating note 2 | The Bitchiness of Kaikayi: Now, it has been told to us in bedtime and afternoon “dadi/nani” stories that that Kaikayi loved Ram more than her own son, Bharat. But it turns out, that she was a bitchy and conniving queen, hell bent on creating trouble for anyone coming between her and Dasaratha and her political aims. She is under grim influence of Manthara – who in this version turns out to be a follower and spy of Ravana !
– strangely coincidental I guess, Ravana is referred here as the “Dark Lord” – akin to the “he-who-shall-not-be-named” in the Harry Potter series.
Kaikayi also manages to boil up the atmosphere as the husband-usurping warrior queen. A real Vamp in this sense.
Invigorating note 3 | The Sensuality and Sexuality: Never have we seen the Ramayana from the eyes of sensuality or lust. Its a family story without the sex and uncensored violence!! The details are still very restrictive, but the imagination is clear in the minds of the reader – or is it just me?
There is not too much description, but as I said, the subtle lust does exist in the queen’s palace and in the depiction of the mannerisms of the “married” concubines. The way it has been written is sexy!! Got to read the other books to see how far this goes.
Invigorating note 4 | Death of Laxman: So what if you are the brother of a demi-god and have been given the powers or strength to counter the vagaries of abominated beings (Rakshasas) – you can still die a horrible death! The poor chap did not know he died and was revived at at cost of giving up a Kshatriya oath – of not killing a woman !! This allows us to realize that all was not hunky dory as has been retold to us over the years!!
All said and done, if you want to savor the writings in this Ramayana!! Forget what you read or have known earlier. You will see it in a new light! I have not read the original and have only made do with the epic serial on DD channel (during the pre-24×7 TV days) – I find this piece interesting to delve in. Classic Story retold in a Tolkien-ish manner with a large flavor of Banker – has worked hard!!
Next book it is !!