April 9, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'Chanakya's chant' by Ashwin Sanghi

To say I was excited to read this novel, would be an understatement. As Ashwin Sanghi's earlier work, 'The Rozabal Line' ended up being in my top reads for 2010, I had higher expectations from this book. The story alternates with every chapter, one set in ancient India (around 340 BC or 2300 years back) and the other in modern India.And that's what the book sets out to do, merging the two Indias, to prove that Chankaya's thoughts are as prevalent today as they were in ancient times. The book as the name suggests is about the main character, Chanakya and his strategies to unify Bharat after the king of Magadha, Dhanananda murders Chanakya's father, the renowned teacher, Chanak. He dreams of a unified Bharat under the rule of his disciple, Chandragupta Maurya, whom history has shown to be a great king but he merely remains a pawn in the hands of Chanakya, his guru.

Fast forward to the modern day world and you have Pandit Gangasagar, who is supposedly reborn as Chanakya and one fine day comes across a mantra that if recited for a certain number of days, would give the person access to Chanakya's power. Gangasagar too has lost his father at an early age and then struggles in life to make it big in the world of politics and when he does, he too backs a young protege, Chandini Gupta, who goes on to become the PM of India as shown in the prologue. And the book is pretty much a route to Chanakya's and Gangasagar's aspirations. Both of them keep strategising all day with some wonderful intellect and set up some devious plans to reach their dreams. On one end, Chanakya does not have any qualms in using his childhood sweetheart to usurp the power of Magadha and on the other hand, Gangasagar does not give a hoot before killing the two men that Chandini loved. Lying, cheating, lust and deceit are only tools to aid their greater purpose. If you analyze the smooth cover, you get the drift of the story there and then.

Ashwin Sanghi pretty much uses his trademark style of narration, carefully introducing each and every nook and corner of the story, sometimes with too much technicality that an average reader would find difficult to grasp. Apart from the main characters of Chanakya and Pandit Gangasagar, the others are not so strongly sketched and the main ones for most of their part, keep devising strategies all the time, some which one fails to understand the purpose of. Combining business with politics and media with the dirty P, Ashwin Sanghi accurately describes the nexus between such operations. I would have loved to see other shades of Chanakya as intellect and strategy were already always associated with him. Ashwin Sanghi as usual has researched the subject well before writing and goes on to provide a long list of references towards the end, something not many writers do, even in historical fiction.

Some of the events are inspired from the real life and the author handles them craftily, taking lessons from real-life politics and scams and at times, even getting into the accounting aspects of it. Secondary characters form a major crux of the story. Though weakly portrayed, they end up being at the receiving end from both the main characters in the story and sometimes you end up thinking whether any protagonist can be so 'perfect'. The little flaw that brings them down comes only in the end and that too as a very minute aspect. Overall, I enjoyed the story but not as much as Ashwin Sanghi's debut novel 'The Rozabal Line.' A decent book with a some great research work lends this book a strong backbone. Read it for that and more. A 3.5/5 for Ashwin Sanghi's second novel.

Get it from Flipkart.

3 comments:

Ben said...

Nice review, Faraaz.I am reading 'Urban Shots' now and plan to read this book immediately afterwords.

Faraaz Kazi said...

Thank you. You should :)

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.

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