It was long due at my end to read this hindi masterpiece, of which I had heard rave reviews from a lot of my family members. I was keen for another reason too, it being my first hindi novel. I have always loved and respected hindi as a language. Not only one of the very scientific and prolific language, it has a good and solid literature base. It is only unfortunate that the newer generations in India are receiving it very poorly but it is a whole another issue. Today I am all set to write about Mrityunjaya.
Mrityunjaya means ‘the conqueror of death‘. The name is given to Karn, the character from Mahabharat. I am glad that I chose the novel as the first one to read from Hindi literature. Marathi author Shivaji Savant had achieved a magnificent glory at the age of 27 by writing this timeless classic. In one sentence, Mrityunjaya is the story of Mahabharat as told from Karn’s perspective.
I have always been influenced by the story of Mahabharat. It seems to me as a huge collection of Shakesperean style stories (of course Mahabharat can’t be compared to any piece of literature) featuring diverse human emotions, weaknesses, sacrifices, traditions, chivalry and what-not. And of course, it bears the holy Gita for which I have no adjectives. We i.e. most of the hindus have heard it, seen it on television and read its story many a times. But what we have seen is the story of Pandavas and Sri Krishna as they perceived it. It has all been told keeping them in thr front and what a big difference that might make can be realised by reading Mrityunjaya. After all, isn’t a story always a view from a particular angle. Change the angle and you’ll see it in new light. That is what Shivaji Savant has demonstrated. He chose the angle of Karn. And when you come to think of it, he is such a magnificently interesting character in mythology.
I remember hearing Amir Khan once say in ‘walk the talk’ that he would like to portray the character of Karna if given a chance. He didn’t fail to add that physically he isn’t an ideal choice though. In the story of Mahabharat which 99% of the people know, Karna has been illustrated as a dormant and perhaps a cruel character. But if one looks into it carefully, he is more like a misplaced hero whom you can’t libel honestly, whose gallant personality can’t be ignored and yet, you can’t worship him for he is on the wrong side of justice. Very few characters can be compared to him for their misfortune.
In the book, his side of story is so appealing that the author even succeeds in getting the readers to detest the Pandavas who are otherwise considered heroic. This is not to challenge any facts but is, well, more than interesting. Other thing that captures my attention in reading a hindi classic is the impact of language on the expression. The same feeling and way of expression in english may not look as elegant as in hindi and vice versa. What I mean is that just translating the words into another language doesn’t convey the beauty of original expressions. It may work some times but I believe that it will fail most of the times. And that, perhaps, is the reason that translated books/movies aren’t as pleasing in most cases.
The tragedy or misfortune of Karn as Sootputra, as Angraj, as Suryaputra, as Kaunteya, as Radheya and as the eldest Pandava is very heart-wrenching in the climax. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves reading. A beautiful story in itself, further beautified by the writing of Shivaji – a must read for book lovers.
Another master stroke of the author is the usage of six different narrators for various incidences. The narrators are chosen from the life of Karn who shed more colorful lights on the chain of events and help the readers get a better insight into the character of the lead as the author wants to depict. I found the style cleverly enigmatic in reaching closer to the reader’s emotions.
I would just quote the last words of Karn as he was beheaded by Arjun-
(damn, I can’t recall them verbatim right now, will post it as soon as I can get hold of this book again)