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March 15, 2011

Book Review - 13 : Chanakya's Chant

Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Publisher: Westland Publications

A hunted, haunted Chanakya vows revenge for the gruesome murder of his beloved father. Cold, cunning, calculating, cruel, he becomes the most powerful political strategist in India pulling off a wicked and astonishing victory and succeeds in installing Chandragupta on the throne of the mighty Mauryan empire. But history, which exults in repeating itself, revives Chanakya two and a half millennia later, in the avatar of Gangasagar Mishra, a Brahmin teacher in smalltown India who becomes puppeteer to a host of ambitious individuals—including a certain slumchild who grows up into a beautiful and powerful woman, Chandni. Can this wily pandit—who preys on greed, venality and sexual deviance—bring about another miracle of a united India?

When was the last time you read a book wishing you could start reading it again as soon as you complete it so that the excitement in your stomach stays longer? Well, Chanakya's Chant provides one such instance of THAT sheer pleasure in flipping through the pages. There are so many plots, sub-plots, flash-backs, intrigues and counter-intrigues that you definitely need a master guide to keep a straight track. Going for a parallel narrative, the author presents a stunning amalgamation of the past and the present. The life of the two main protagonists - Chanakya (2300 years ago) and Gangasagar (in 1900s) are identical but take entirely different routes to achieve their means, ultimately turning it into a thriller novel.

Watch the trailer before start reading as it provides a nice build-up to the book. And it may also helps to read about Chanakya so that you are not caught off-guard with the history when the action begins as early as the second chapter. Released recently by Shashi Tharoor, the main strength of the book lies in its extensive research of the Chanakya era and cleverly mixing the details to present nuances of current politics, corruption and twisting of principles based on one's own convenience. The dialogues are witty and charming, and even though they do get corny at times, you tend to neglect them in the fast pace provided during the story telling. It is a little funny when Chanakya utter a liberal dose of cuss words, but as they say it's all in the game.

True that some of the characters are unidimensional, there is very little growth curve for them and may leave you underwhelmed. But then the story is not about side-kicks, they are mere puppets in this fascinating tale of two cunning and manipulative people in politics who will go to any length to make things work for their proteges - Chandragupta Maurya and Chandni. It could have been a little shorter, there are portions where copy-paste has been used liberally and this could have been avoided with some better editing. The climax where Gangasagar helps Chandni becoming Prime Minister of India is a little too far fetched to say the least and makes up for some unconvincing reading.

But in the end, it provides enough crackle to keep you hooked. That's 4/5 for Ashwin Sanghi's second book, Chanakya's chant. If you are bored with the numerous chick-lit or debut author novels, it's a perfect time to pick this one up. The treatment is completely desi in its essence and never shy away from showing the good, bad and ugly of Indian politics through two entirely different ages. This is one history lesson you won't find boring!


Samadrita said...

I'm reading Ashwin Sanghi's first at the moment. And after this review will definitely take up his next. :)

Vinnie said...

paanch mein se char...badiya hain!
vaise Ashwin ne kitne peti diye aapko?? :)

i still didnt receive my complimentary copy :(

mohit said...

An enjoyable read Chanakya's Chant by Ashwin Sanghi. loved the way it balances two completely different storylines. I particularly liked the one written 2300 years ago.

Pavithra K said...

Ha! The book just got delivered. Thanks for affirming that i made a good choice :)