Friday, 4 August 2017

The Rise of Sivagami by Anand Neelakantan – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘When five-year-old Sivagami witnesses her father being branded a traitor and executed by the Maharaja of Mahishmathi, she vows to one day destroy the kingdom. At seventeen, she recovers a manuscript from her crumbling ancestral mansion. Written in a strange language called Paisachi, the manuscript contains a secret that may redeem her father or condemn him further.

Meanwhile, Kattappa, a proud and idealistic young slave who blindly believes in his duty, finds himself in the service of a spoilt prince. Alongside, he must try and keep his brother, who resents their social position and yearns for freedom out of trouble.

As Sivagami tries to unravel the manuscript, she finds that the empire of Mahishmathi is teeming with conspirators, palace intrigues, corrupt officials and revolutionaries. An Ambitious nobleman will do anything for power and money. A secret group of warriors under the leadership of a seventy-year-old woman is determined to stop the slave trade. A forest tribe, deeply resentful of having been driven away from their holy mountain three hundred years ago, is preparing to wage war against the king.’

This is a prequel to the Bahubali franchise, a bilingual Telugu-Tamil film which took the Indian film industry by storm, both for its extravagance and storyline; and the prequel is the story of the famous character from the film – Sivagami; written by Anand Neelakantan, the author of bestsellers such as Asura and Ajaya: Roll of the Dice.

Note: I shall be using the names of places and characters as per the names in the book and not the Tamil names which I am more familiar with (eg – Mahishmathi instead of Magizhmathi).

Sivagami is a seventeen year old girl, living with her foster father; about to be handed over to the Royal Orphanage and she thinks of her five year old self, wherein she witnessed her father, a nobleman in the kingdom, executed for treason after being subjected to torture. From then on, her ambition is vengeance against the royal family of Mahishmathi and destroying the kingdom. The story also focuses on the life of the other famous character from the film; being the slave Kattappa, his origin, his family, his love for his brother and his devotion to the duty of protecting Prince Bijjaladeva. The book also focuses on the governance of the kingdom, the nobility, the corruption in the system which various conspirators are trying to exploit in order to gain control of the kingdom. There is also a romantic sub-plot between Shivappa (Kattappa’s brother) and a girl from the orphanage.

The film focused a lot on the story but concentrated very little on how the kingdom was run and it was good that the author established that in the very first book of the series; giving the viewers a clear picture of who were the powerful people besides the royal family and who all held the influence. The author has also brought out the contrasting characters of a lot of individuals very well – Sivagami with her courage and ability to stand up to authority, Bijjaladeva the spoilt prince, Mahadeva the prince who is a pacifist which gets construed as him being cowardly, Kattappa and his loyalty and Shivappa and his idealism.

The book was also fast paced, wherein, the extent of fillers was very limited and every sub-plot was moving quite fast to meet at a common point. The story was also very well written by the author, with good choice of words and phrasing and with very minimal editing issues.

The only aspect I found was that the author perhaps assumed that the people who read the book would have seen the film, and thus, his description of the fortress of Mahishmathi, was lacking, because the readers would immediately tend to visualise the grand portrayal of the same on the silver screen. I also felt there were occasions where he was merely reversing the situation in the film and adding it as a plot to the book; such as Prince Mahadeva’s (Bahubali Sr’s father) fancy for Sivagami. Additionally, I also felt that he introduced too many sub-plots at the same time that it became difficult to handle at times and I was only glad that he had initially given the list of characters without which I would have surely been lost.

So, I would say that this is a fine start to the franchise, this is the first time I am reading a book based on a film (the other way round has usually left me disappointed) and I was quite satisfied with the first instalment and I am looking forward to more. Based on what is stated, I would award the book a rating of seven on ten.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,


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