someday ill be in company of all....

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Book review: Mistress by Anita Nair

Author: Anita Nair
Publisher: Penguin India Pvt Ltd
Price: Rs 399
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Source: Borrowed

Buy Mistress from
Buy Mistress from

When travel writer Christopher Stewart arrives at a riverside resort in Kerala to meet Koman, Radha’s uncle and a famous kathakali dancer, he enters a world of masks and repressed emotions. From their first meeting, both Radha and her uncle are drawn to the enigmatic young man with his cello and his incessant questions about the past. The triangle quickly excludes Shyam, Radha’s husband, who can only watch helplessly as she embraces Chris with a passion that he has never been able to draw from her. Also playing the role of observer-participant is Koman; his life story, as it unfolds, captures all the nuances and contradictions of the relationships being made-and unmade-in front of his eyes.
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 Before getting into the book let me talk about Kathakali (story-play) classical Indian dance-drama known for its elaborate and exquisite make up...The art is a combination of Literature, Music, Painting, Acting and Dance..The performances are based on the stories from The Mahabharata and The Ramayana, ancient scriptures (Puranas ) of India..There are classical Kathakali stories that are chosen for the performances, starting by dusk it goes on all night..Artists by means of Mudra (hand gestures) and facial expressions that comprises the Navarasa convey the story  with rhythmic dialogue complemented by drumming.. Kathakali is believed to be originated during 16th century in southern Kerala, India.

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Now , about the book ,the story is set on the banks of river Nila that instils the beauty of art,  wonder of creativity and depth of love and passion and the pain of infidelity....Koman is a renowned Kathakali artist, Christopher Stewart , Chris a travel writer visit the Matt to interview him, but a deep attraction develops between Radha, Koman's niece and Chris , complication sets as Radha is married to Shyam.... There are more complicated relationships in this novel to be explored one that between Angela and aging Koman, Koman has a way for many such intimacy ...There is an intricate love story that is told by Koman between Sethu and Saadiya in a mythical Arabipatinam... The novel comprises nine chapters named that goes by navarasas and each chapter revolves around the title..The characters are memorable even Malini Koman's pet bird that calls aloud from its cage"Kallan, Kondhan" (thief) adds its own deeper meaning to it..

Before you end up thinking that the book is all about many complicated relationships let me tell you that it's not, the book explores and discovers the art of Kathakali in a new light through daring and bold characters especially the one like Radha, various aspects of the art itself is picturesque...Radha has no remorse nor has any hesitation of showing her bond  between Chris to her husband Shyam..I ended up pitying Shyam but at the same time wondering what stopped from acting against Radha's actions...Watching Radha and Chris together, Koman compares it against the kindle that of Duryodhana and Bhanumati in Uttara Swayamvaram....Kathakali is portrayed in an everyday human perspective, overwhelming the reader with its beauty...Nair knits relationships and the Kathakali bhava to complement the novel into a full circle...I had a problem with the characters when they looked down upon the people who didn't understand the art of Kathakali,I guess I took it personally because I belong to that category of mortal souls who don't understand much about it....The book is a real beauty of the reader who enjoy the art of Kathakali and and also to those who appreciate it but for others this would sound like a mere tale of interwoven and  complicated relations that loses its charm by the end of it....

Book 2 for book blogger recommendation challenge (BBRC2012)

1 comment:

  1. Great review VB.

    I would love to see a live performance of Kathakali. I have read abriged translations of The Mahabharata and The Ramayana and would love to see some of these musical artistic works. A little Googling indicates that there are lots of English subtitled videos of performances online. I will give them a look!


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