Terry Gilliam - Bravo Python!  

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Here's a question. Name a movie that has Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer and Verne Troyer and looks like one of the most visually stunning films ever? I present to you... The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.


Book Review : Demons of Chitrakut - Ashok K. Banker  

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Okay, so I JUST finished the third book, literally 30 seconds ago. I just put it down and I have to tell you how it is. Okay, I think I already used the words brilliant and awesome, so, in an attempt NOT to repeat myself, I'm going to try and find some synonyms. It was : astonishing, awe-inspiring, beautiful, breathtaking, daunting, exalted, grand, imposing, impressive, magnificent, majestic, mind-blowing, moving, real gone, something else, striking, stunning, stupefying, wonderful, wondrous, zero cool.

 I have no idea what "zero cool" and "real gone" are, but what the hell, I'll throw them in there for good measure. :)

After decimating the Asura forces in the Siege of Mithila, the triumphant heroes are wed to their respective brides and the royal retinue is on its way back to Ayodhya. Rama is to be crowned the new king of the Suryavansha line and he is to take his rightful place at the helm of the greatest of Arya nations, Ayodhya.

On the way to Ayodhya, they are stopped and challenged by Parushrama, the slayer of Kshatriyas. I won't go into too much detail here but the backstory is that his father (a brahmin) is wrongfully killed by a few arrogant kshatriyas and Parushrama embarks on an epic cleansing of all the kshatriyas on the mortal realm. Once he completes the task, he goes into meditation, coming out again and again to complete his task. He is awakened from his current tapasya by the breaking of Shiva's bow. He comes out to challenge Rama and Rama bests him, proving to him that his time is at an end. This is because the current race of kshatriyas are dharma-abiding, god-fearing people who accept their place in the world with honour and humility. Parushrama genuflects before Rama and then gives up his crusade to spend the rest of his years meditating.

But all is not well in the Unconquerable city. How could it be? Any stripling worth his salt knows this is just the beginning of Rama's travails. Manthara, Kaikeyi's governess and the secret apprentice of the Lord of Lanka plots to overthrow Rama and sow dissent in House Ayodhya. She plans, schemes and sets her plans in motion which eventually leads to two things. One, Rama's 14 year exile in the demon-filled Dandaka-van and two, for Bharat to be crowned King with Kaikeyi as the First Queen (Dasaratha's).

But the plan backfires, as Bharat wants no part in the kingship that rightfully belongs to his elder brother and refuses the Sun Throne. Rama, the perfect human being that he is, accepts his exile without a word and heads out, but Sita and Lakshman join him vowing never to leave his side, no matter where he may be headed. As Rama heads out, the word spreads like wildfire that Rama has abdicated the throne and has been exiled and the country stands at the cusp of revolt and civil war. Bharat refuses his place on the throne and exiles himself, followed by Shatrughan and vows never to step foot in Ayodhya for as long as Rama is not king. The burden then falls on Kausalya to rule as Regent in Rama's absence, which she takes up as her duty.

Rama, Lakshman and Sita encounter many people, incidents and places on their way to their destination of Chitrakut. These are again written in very human terms. Lakshman is not as all-forgiving as Rama is and resents the fact that they've been outcast for putting their lives on the line, slaying Tataka, taking on Ravana and saving Mithila. Sita is fearful that Rama is destined to a life with violence (not of his choosing) which she is afraid of.

They reach Chitrakut and build themselves a hut in which to live out their exile in peace but they know that danger is literally just around the corner. The entire Asura army wasn't wiped out at the siege. One battalion still survived as they couldn't make the siege on time and took refuge in the Dandakan forest that borders Chitrakut.

It is here that Supanakha finally attempts to seduce Rama. She tries sorcery to pass herself off as Sita and fails as Rama sees right through the disguise. She leaves maimed and injured and comes back with the army of 14,000 asuras.

This time, the brothers don't have the power of brahman anymore (read the previous book) and are but mere mortals fending off an army. Rama, Lakshman and Sita (yes, Sita is an accomplished warrior in her own right) fight off the forces until they are joined by the unlikliest of allies. The story draws to a close with Rama telling his band of outlaws that the struggle will be long and hard but that at the end of the day, victory will be theirs, no matter what. They agree to start attacking the 14,000 strong force with guirella tactics in order to decimate their numbers.

Paralelly, we follow the story of the defeated Lankan lord who, after being vanquished, is brought home by his brother but loses complete control over the island nation of Lanka.

Yet another masterpiece. I'm not going to say anymore cause too much gushing will just ruin it. Read the books in order, or else they won't make sense. And tonight, I go home and pick up the next one, Armies of Hanuman.

Book Review : Siege of Mithila - Ashok K. Banker  

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I know it's been a long time since I posted anything but I've been super busy. Lots of things happening which have something to do with my absence. But I shall elaborate on those later.

For now, I'd like to say, I completed Book 2 of The Ramayana series by Ashok K Banker and yet again, it was excellent.

Book 2 picks up moments after Book 1 left off. The Princes of Ayodhya have vanquished the Asura Tataka and have fulfilled their servitude to the Brahmarishi Vishwamitra, or so they think.

News has reached the Arya nations of the advance of an Asura horde sweeping across the country, heading straight for the defenseless Arya nation of Mithila, home of Janaka and his four daughters. After the last Asura war, Janaka has turned his entire nation to the pursuit of one thing, enlightenment. It is in this pursuit that the army was, for all intents and purposes, disbanded and ritual and pooja became the mainstay of the populace along with the pursuit of a higher state of dharma.

Vishwamitra informs the young princes that the next road on the way to stopping Ravana lies in Mithila. He doesn't inform them till much later that this is the target of the ten million strong Asura horde that threatens to wipe out the defenseless Arya nation.

Along the way, they meet new friends, face more perilous missions and finally, enter the Swayamvar of the Princess Sita on the eve of the Asuras landing at Mithila. It is there that Ravana, in disguise, tries to steal Sita away by winning the competition only to be bested by Rama at the last moment. The challenge is to lift the Bow of Shiva (which is iron cast and weighs 500 kilos), string it and shoot at a target. Rama steps in to challenge the demon king and bests him, thereby winning Sita's hand and also tying their fate together.

But is there a point? The mainstay of the Asura army is knocking at their doorstep (literally) and there is virtually no time to call on allies or reinforcements as every nation is too busy getting their own armies on alert. So, the Rajkumars' Vajra (50 horses and a few elephant), the two Princes, the Brahmarishi and a host of sadhus face what looks like a lost cause.

Or is it?

This is another tale resplendent with Vedic mythology, more tales of good vs. evil while the two brothers march along their preordained path to glory, hand in hand with dharma.

It is little known whether Rama was a real historical figure whose acts of bravery were so legendary that he went down as an incarnation of Vishnu or whether he was a complete fabrication of Valmiki, the robber turned saint who recieved the divine story from Ganesha.

Here is an excerpt from the Author's Note:

Adi-kavya: The first retelling

Some three thousand years ago, a sage named Valmiki lived in a remote forest ashram, practising austerities with his disciples. One day, the wandering sage Narada visited the ashram and was asked by Valmiki if he knew of a perfect man. Narada said, indeed, he did know of such a person, and then told Valmiki and his disciples a story of an ideal man.

Some days later, Valmiki happened to witness a hunter killing a kraunchya bird. The crane’s partner was left desolate, and cried inconsolably. Valmiki was overwhelmed by anger at the hunter’s action, and sorrow at the bird’s loss. He felt driven to do something rash, but controlled himself with difficulty.

After his anger and sorrow subsided, he questioned his outburst. After so many years of practising meditation and austerities, he had still not been able to master his own emotions. Was it even possible to do so? Could any person truly become a master of his passions? For a while he despaired, but then he recalled the story Narada had told him. He thought about the implications of the story, about the choices made by the protagonist and how he had indeed shown great mastery of his own thoughts, words, deeds and feelings. Valmiki felt inspired by the recollection and was filled with a calm serenity such as he had never felt before.

As he recollected the tale of that perfect man of whom Narada had spoken, he found himself reciting it in a particular cadence and rhythm. He realized that this rhythm or metre corresponded to the warbling cries of the kraunchya bird, as if in tribute to the loss that had inspired his recollection. At once, he resolved to compose his own version of the story, using the new form of metre, that others might hear it and be as inspired as he was.

But Narada’s story was only a bare narration of the events, a mere plot outline as we would call it today. In order to make the story attractive and memorable to ordinary listeners, Valmiki would have to add and embellish considerably, filling in details and inventing incidents from his own imagination. He would have to dramatize the whole story in order to bring out the powerful dilemmas faced by the protagonist.

But what right did he have to do so? After all, this was not his story. It was a tale told to him. A tale of a real man and real events. How could he make up his own version of the story?

At this point, Valmiki was visited by Lord Brahma Himself. The Creator told him to set his worries aside and begin composing the work he had in mind. Here is how Valmiki quoted Brahma’s exhortation to him, in an introductory passage not unlike this one that you are reading right now:

Recite the tale of Rama … as you heard it told by Narada. Recite the deeds of Rama that are already known as well as those that are not, his adventures … his battles … the acts of Sita, known and unknown. Whatever you do not know will become known to you. Never will your words be inappropriate. Tell Rama’s story … that it may prevail on earth for as long as the mountains and the rivers exist.

Valmiki needed no further urging. He began composing his poem. He titled it, Rama-yana, meaning literally, The Movements (or Travels) of Rama.


Man, I love this series. So, dutifully, I'm on the third book already... Demons of Chitrakut.

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