Book Review~ The palace of Illusions (a better Mahabharata?)

1774836The palace of illusions is one of the best book I read in 2016. The way Chitra Banerjee has taken the mythological epic and given it a beautiful take while keeping the facts intact is simply breathtaking. The character of Draupadi in Mahabharata has always been a controversial one. She is the woman who is born from fire, the woman who marries five men at the same time and the woman who is humiliated in front of a whole court when her own brother in law tries to disrobe her. This is the story of Paanchaali who until now was a two dimensional character who suffered at the hands of fate and men but we never came to know what kind of a person she was until now. Banerjee’s Draupadi has a voice and opinion, her conscience is strong and her flaws are evident. The book is a re-telling of the Mahabharata but the approach is totally different. Draupadi’s views give it something more and it doesn’t feel like a recycled story. Banerjee added some new plot points to make it much more spicy and it includes Draupadi’s feelings towards a man she isn’t supposed to have feelings for. This unsaid love story somehow takes up a lot of pages and all your sympathies. Some may argue that this new plot point was unnecessary and that the author was just looking for something scandalous to make her recycled story a bit refreshing for the readers. Even though I agree with these points I must say that I wasn’t complaining. download (4)This new angle was the most original part of the book and could actually make you wonder whether there was any truth in it (who knows?). This is not the only addition made by the author, another aspect is the close relationship of Draupadi with her brother Drishtadyumna as the original text doesn’t tell us much about the brother’s personality or his equation with his sister.

The characters may be old but the approach is fresh and so is the outlook. The way draupadi describes the Pandavas and their sexual preferences is amusing. After Draupadi herself another character that keeps you enthralled is the mischievous God Krishna who enters from time to time and gives you something to think about. Through this depiction the author shows some of the different shades of the beloved deity and his friendship with Draupadi.

The writing is so compelling that it is hard to put the book down. There are many questions that are asked throughout and the book also shows a mirror image of our flawed society. We know that Mahabharata is an epic about the flaws of human society and this book makes some of them very evident through its bold narration. the author voices the injustice and discrimination towards women in the Indian society which holds ground even today. The fact that Draupadi doesn’t approve of her own name because it means ‘the daughter of Drupad’ and nothing else is a simple way of showing how women have always been put in the shadow of men and their huge ego. Her physical appearance and skin colour are some points on which the society doesn’t hesitate to comment on. Even though Chitra Banerjee has given her protagonist a strong voice, she couldn’t let her take stands on many occasions of injustice because after all it is a re-telling of an old epic and she had to stick to the facts. So even this new and improved Draupadi is not perfect but atleast she makes a point here and there.


Memorable quote- “What is the most wondrous thing on earth? Each day countless humans enter the Temple of Death, yet the ones left behind continue to live as though they were immortal. . . ”

Rating- 8.5/10



Of breasts and victim cards…

In the past week there have been some controversies concerning two actresses and their ‘feminist outlook’. Kangana Ranaut who has always been a controversial figure in bollywood had a verbal fight with the queen bee of Bollywood Karan Joher, and it  is all over the internet. Kangana recently appeared on Joher’s talk show as a guest and had quite an opinion to give about his work. karan-johar-kangana-ranautKangana called Karan “the flag bearer of nepotism” and this comment created quite a stir in Bollywood and Indian media. Let’s rewind a bit to the 62nd Filmfare Awards where Alia Bhatt won the best actress award. Her speech was filled with gratitude and in the end of her speech she very graciously thanked Karan Joher saying that he was the one who made it all happen for her. Well that’s because Karan was the one who gave her the first break in 2012 with the unrealistic high school drama ‘Student of the year’. Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan (both star kids) were launched that year by Karan Joher. This is not all, most films coming out of Dharma Productions star Karan’s favourite youngsters and star kids nowadays. Still Kangana’s comment has not pleased people and she is getting a lot of backlash for it. Karan who kept silent on the show later replied by saying that If kangana is so displeased with the industry she is free to leave it. What is wrong with this statement is the fact that a priviledged successful director has made this comment about someone who is self made and stands strong today only because of her talent. Kangana had to struggle to enter this industry which is mostly run and ruled by star kids and people with connections. Also karan said that Kangana should stop playing the ‘victim card’ and ‘woman card’. How does giving your opinion like a pro mean that you are playing the victim? Kangana gave her point boldly without even caring about the fact that it could damage her career prospects later. And where does the ‘woman’ aspect even come into play in this whole scenario? Is it the fact that Karan’s male ego got hurt because he was shown the mirror by a woman? I have been a Karan Joher fan since I was a kid, no matter how cheesy his films are I still watch them for the extravagant style. But this episode has definitely made me disappointed because Karan chose the wrong words. He could have just said that he has the right to work with anyone he wants but instead he went for this cheap remark about Kangana playing a victim. This just proved Kangana right and made Karan sound like a movie mafia.

Another incident that happened recently is the controversial Vanity fair photo shoot done by Emma Watson. What was controversial about it? Well a lot of people thought that because Emma is a feminist she doesn’t have the right to pose nude or nearly naked for a magazine. Emma-Watson-Covers-The-March-Issue-of-Vanity-Fair-MagazineA lot of people feel that a feminist cannot portray herself sexually and therefore it was a hypocritical move by Watson to pose for that photo. This debate is so pointless because feminism itself means giving a person the choice to live his/her life on their own terms! It is about equal rights, oppurtunities and choices. What does Emma’s photo have to do with it? Emma replied by saying that “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom. It’s about liberation. It’s about equality. It’s not — I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it.” That is precisely what it means and this is why it is essential to teach about it in schools. These are the same people who have always sexualized women everywhere and are afraid to release films because they feel they are ‘lady oriented’. Women have always been dictated how to live their lives and told to ‘cover up’.  This ideology is really harmful and has left many scars on our history and it needs to stop now! So back off people and go learn the real meaning of feminism before commenting about it.



Just another Feminist blog?

I have heard people commenting that there is “too much feminism these days” and that these “feminist girls are the ones that are already priviledged”. What is wrong with these two sentences is the fact that people who make these comments have no idea what feminism means or why it is required.  So feminism by definition stands for equal rights and oppurtunities for both the sexes. So what is the meaning of “too much feminism”? It is just a way for those who are ‘priviledged’ by the patriarchy to hide behind it as they feel threatened by those who wish to break it. Yes feminism is for all those people in villages as well as for those who walk the streets of urban areas. It is for those who still don’t get to go to school and for those at the top of their careers. It is for the girls, it is for the boys and for those who struggle to be identified as any of the two. We fight today so that a day comes when we can paint a picture with colours other than pink and blue. So that we can be free of the expectations and fears that are attached to our being. So that we can smash that hard glass ceiling once and for all so that the future can be seen through eyes that are colour blind.

For those who say they do believe in equality but still can’t call themselves feminists because they hate the word. Well we don’t care about the word, what matters is the idea. What matters is the choice that girl in that corner deserves, what matters is the emotion that guy on your side withholds, what matters is the ambition that we all have the right to achieve. So let us talk about things that matter…

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