Book Review- The Misters Kuru : A Return to Mahabharata

Blurb:

The Pandavas are back!

Draupadi, Amba and Kunti are well settled in their modern-day Kalyug in New Delhi. So, imagine their surprise when, completely out of the blue, Yudhishtra, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva – the Pandava brothers – drop into their world from the heavens. What follows is even more laughter and tears as new battles are fought, old fires are rekindled, and the men find their place in the modern world. If you thought the women had the adventure of a lifetime in Ms Draupadi Kuru: After the Pandavas, the men from the Mahabharata will certainly give them a run for their money. One thing is certain – by the end of their visit, nothing will ever be the same again.

Review:

When I picked up this book, two of the main questions in my mind was “What are the Pandavas doing in the modern age?” and “How does the author manage these mythological characters in this setting?”. The cover has an upbeat vibe to it. Taken together with the blurb, I expected the book to be a light read, without much sense of jeopardy. It’s safe to say I wasn’t disappointed.

The funny thing is, I didn’t expect focus on the sexual aspects of the relationships. The book, though, dives right into these. I was taken aback, but in a good way. It was refreshing to see mythological giants being treated the same way as a writer would treat mere mortals.

The author uses the setting for a variety of genres. There’s a coming-of-age story, a will-they-won’t-they romance, a socio-political drama, and a family drama as well. Ms. Das adroitly manages this mix.

I haven’t read the previous book in this saga, Ms. Draupadi Kuru: After The Pandavas. But it wasn’t hard to follow the story and the characters despite that. I enjoyed how Draupadi is taken from the abla naari treatment that she usually receives, and remodelled into this modern, fiercely independent and go-getter woman. Kunti is more in the traditional mould, although her character also gets some agency here. The one character I think was grossly underused was Amba. She’s there in the beginning, and the author uses her to wade into one of the first, heavy themes in the story – post-partum depression. But it’s a pity that we don’t see her after that.  The rest of the stories and conflicts have a general cheerful tone about them. Amba’s story could have served as a balancing act.

Speaking of balance, we have the five Pandavas coming down to Earth together. Naturally, this means the book has to make a big choice – Either keep the focus on the three men who were the key in the actual epic, or widen the canvas to give Nakul and Sahadev page time and risk cramming the book with characters and plotlines that might be superfluous. It is a difficult question, and one I think the author was largely able to pull off. The catch here is that the strongest storyline remains that of Arjun-Draupadi. This is the one that has the most interpersonal tension (and baggage), and it’s where I enjoyed the book the most. The other Pandavas do have their fair share of focus, but none’s story feels as strong as that of Arjuna’s.

The romance storylines are done extremely well. There’s tension, there’s anticipation, and the payoffs feel earned, rather than being forced down on us. The book’s pace is strong and the language is lucid.

The book’s main problem emerges out of the identity of the protagonists. One, the story needs a conflict. Okay, the Pandavas are here. But what challenge are they facing as a group? How to make that a difficult proposition for them? Now this isn’t a big deal if the heroes are normal human beings. But when they are who they are here – the winners of the Battle of Kurukshetra – the task gets that much tougher for the author. So she brings in a political angle. This allows her to critique and comment on contemporary events while also placing the Pandavas’ in the modern ways of life. While the messaging here is admirable, this angle feels forced and distant. There never felt like any real danger to the heroes (no real jeopardy, as I mentioned above), and even before the final “battle”, the happenings didn’t create a binding interest in me.

The other problem I felt was this feeling of a male gaze pervading the book. I know this sounds odd, given the author is a woman, but let me explain. The Pandavas, at least 3 of them – Bhima, Arjuna, and Nakula – are prime male specimens, so to say. There’s the hulk of a man, the focussed archer warrior, and the handsome dude. But their physical features don’t get as much play and description (apart from Nakula) as Draupadi’s do.

I would have wanted to read more on Draupadi’s struggles in the modern world, but I guess I should probably pick up the other book in the series for that. As it is, I feel she’s the strongest character here too. I think there’s enough for a third book in the story, shifting the focus back on her.

Verdict: The Misters Kuru is a breezy read, with plenty of social commentary and an endearing romance story at its heart.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

Reviewed as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. Click here to know all about it.

You can order the book from the Harper Collins India website here or on Amazon here.

Have thoughts on this book or this review? Please share them in the comments section.

Thanks for reading.

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