This is something entirely different from what we have read, heard and seen so far based on epic mythology Ramayana. This is story of Ravana from Ravana's perspective written by Anand Neelakantan. Everything is seen from the angle of Ravana and not Ram. This 500 odd pages excellently and engrossing fiction based on epic characters and titled as ASURA Tale Of The Vanquished: The Story of Ravana and His People. It used to be really painful to leave in between this tightly woven story for day to day chores and then steal out some more time to get back into it.
The story goes in bi-narrative style in parallel chapters - total 65. It is by turn Ravana and Bhadra narrating the events happening. Anand Neelakantan must have done lot of homework and research before writing ASURA Tale Of The Vanquished: The Story of Ravana and His People. Ravana, his kingdom - Lanka; his brothers - Kumbhakaran and Vibhishan; his son Meghnad (or Indrajit); his half brother Kuber; his sister Surupnakha; his wife Mandodari; his life; his thoughts; his childhood - everything about Ravana is prominent in this interesting book. It might have lot of fiction embedded into it but everything that happened in Ravana's life has been shown, depicted and presented from Ravana's angle. A lot is learnt about Asuras, their life pattern, their strengths and their weaknesses in this book. A lot unknown about Devas - Indra, Brahma, Varun and specially Rama is told in this book that was unknown so far. All various forms of living beings - Vanaras, Devas, Asuras, Yakshas and Gandharvas; were part of this earth and had their portions of land to rule upon.
This mammoth marathon read ASURA Tale Of The Vanquished: The Story of Ravana and His People by Anand Neelkantan might choke your energy when Ravana is in pain and energize you when Ravana is in gain. All mood swings go along with Ravana's in this story. There are many secrets revealed in the story. Ajinkaya is step brother of Meghnad and is as brave as his father or step brother. Ravana, though is away from normal behavior of Asuras of polygamy, but one day, after fighting with his wife Mandodri, rapes a young and beautiful housekeeping staff, who gives birth to Ajinkaya. Ajinkaya is tall and well built like his father. Bhadra is one of the prominent characters in Ravana's life and is involved in most of the important incidents in Ravana's life - with or without his knowledge or consent. Bhadra is one person who lives under the mastery or Ravana throughout his life just for two goals - one to take revenge from Devas who killed his wife and daughter when attacked on his village, and second to serve Ravana by helping him in achieving his targets so that he would take revenge from Devas for him.
Though Ravana had mixed feelings for Bhadra from time to time and vice versa, but overall Bhadra does a lot for Ravana during his whole life and even after the death of Ravana. Bhadra helps Ravana to acquire Lanka from Kuber. He also helps him to win over many of his enemies. He becomes the step father of Ajinkaya.
Ravana has been shown as a man of principle during his lifetime, with elements of being daring and brave. He was first termed as Rakshasa by his mother when she gets hurt once and leaves his empire forever. Ravana hated the dubious style of Rama of killing a brave Vanara King Bali from behind a tree while engaging him fight with his brother Sugreeva. Rama and Lakshman have been shown as normal height, dark colored young men. Ravana is over two decaded older than Rama. Ravana also hated Deva's custom of leaving their wife to please their citizens, in case the wife has been taken away (kidnapped) by any Asura. Ayodhaya is shown as a very small kingdom and in a quite shabby/ poor condition as compared to hugely developed and rich Lanka kingdom.
Biggest secret is the relationship between Ravana and Sita and his purpose of kidnapping her during her exile in jungles with Rama and Lakshman. Ravana also had valid reasons of not killing Ram and Lakshman when he got easy chances to do the same. For all these reasons ASURA Tale Of The Vanquished: The Story of Ravana and His People by Anand Neelkantan becomes an interesting and a self-introspecting read.
The downside in quite insignificant as compared to the significance of interesting story, excellent presentation and well woven script. There are some proof reading and spelling mistakes that I found on pages - 192, 245, 248, 262, 298, 311, 339, 376 and then after that I got engrossed so much in the story that it compelled me to ignore those minor errors. Overall it is a must read for readers interested epic mythology, fiction, and biography.