Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pop goes the epic: Draupadi in High Heels, Karna’s Wife and other new-age retellings

[Yes, here I go obsessing about you-know-what again, this time for the Indian Quarterly, and with a focus on two new novels with Karna in a starring part. This is a slightly different version of the piece that appeared in the magazine]

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In the glossy new TV version of the Mahabharata, there is a scene where the princess Gandhari blindfolds herself so she can join her soon-to-be-husband Dhritarashtra in the world of the unsighted. This is among the most dramatic early moments in Vyasa's epic, and is usually presented in exalted terms - the princess proclaiming her resolution; the flamboyant, and decisive, binding of the cloth around her eyes - which is why I was intrigued by the new show’s handling of the scene. Much of the shot is filmed as point of view: we see Gandhari holding the blindfold, but then we watch it through her eyes as it comes closer and closer to them, eventually blurring the whole screen. The effect is akin to a handheld-camera horror film, complete with scary music and agitated breathing on the soundtrack. An earlier episode has established that the princess is afraid of the dark and awakens in a cold sweat if the wind blows out the dozens of diyas in her room. What she is now doing to herself feels much more immediate.


One doesn’t have to read too much into this, of course. High production values and reasonably thoughtful script notwithstanding, this Mahabharata, telecast five days a week, is very much aimed at viewers of daily soaps – which means presenting incidents in mundane, homely terms, stretching scenes out endlessly, and setting up episode-closing cliffhangers. The blindfold scene is a set-up for the next, hyper-dramatic sequence where Gandhari enters the Kuru sabha for her wedding, and viewers – along with the other characters in the story – get to see her with her eyes covered for the first time.

But the scene works on another level too, by showing a majestic act in human terms. Rather than a self-assured princess reaching for the Grand Gesture with her thoughts on posterity, this is a scared, impetuous girl who may have made a decision without realising its implications (and of course, there will be major implications for the story). It makes Gandhari easier to relate to, sympathise with or chastise, and it also ties in with what a number of recently published books have been trying to do – to make these old stories more accessible, with results that are inventive and facile in equal measure.


Such retellings of epics are not in themselves a new phenomenon. There have been countless “perspective” versions across the Indian languages, some notable ones being from major writers such as MT Vasudevan Nair (Randaamoozham, translated from Malayalam into English by Prem Panicker for his blog, and then by Gita Krishnankutty for Harper Collins) and Shivaji Sawant (the Marathi classic Mrityunjay). But a majority of those works were in the realm of literary fiction, and aimed at readers who had a deep enough knowledge of the epic to want to explore alternate narrative possibilities. What has been happening recently is a little different: stories from the Mahabharata and Ramayana are being revisited in ways that would appeal to a wider range of readers, and in the garb of fast-paced genre fiction.

And inevitably, certain characters have special appeal for the new generation of bards. Prominent among them is Karna, half-brother of the Pandavas, who is abandoned as an infant, raised by low-caste foster parents and discovers his true identity too late. One of ancient literature’s most compelling tragic heroes, Karna is a notably "modern" figure even in straightforward Mahabharata translations. His presence continually runs against the very assumptions of the period – such as the “God-granted” division of people into social hierarchies by their birth rather than their capabilities – and raises uncomfortable questions for the other characters as well as for the reader. (What happens when a person comes up against consistently hostile circumstances, or when personal dharma collides with what is perceived as the greater good?) The new TV show gives Karna rousing speeches where, apparently addressing the camera directly, he punctures the hubris of the high-born people around him, including one where he sharply tells the Brahmin teacher Drona that there is no such thing as a divine or magical birth, because every birth is a wondrous event for the parents concerned.

An earlier issue of this magazine carried an essay about literary crushes. As a child, traversing the vast landscape of the Mahabharata, I was obsessed with Karna, and could see him as the template for the angry young men played by Amitabh Bachchan in films like Trishul. Reading C Rajagopalachari’s translation of the Mahabharata aloud to my mother, I would sometimes excise sentences that showed Karna in a poor light. In my defence, I was all of ten years old; but it means I can relate to the many attempts now being made to turn Karna into an almost conventional, vanilla hero rather than a deeply complex person capable of extremes of anger and spite.

My literary crush was a platonic one, but two new books, both written by women who clearly feel strongly about Karna, explore his possibilities as a romantic hero. In these novels, Karna – about whose love life we learn almost nothing in the original Mahabharata – has transformed into an irresistible, golden-eyed (or blue-eyed) hunk, a sensitive new-age metrosexual, a darkly mysterious stranger who is essentially good-hearted and who might be saved by the love of the right woman. Both books begin with the heroine’s first glimpse of this man, whose physical features and personality are described in near-fetishistic terms. A strong strain of wish-fulfillment runs through them, and both are roughly classifiable (if you like classifying books) as “commercial” or “mass-market” fiction, though in my view they are very different in quality.


The less interesting of the two, Aditi Kotwal’s Draupadi in High Heels – an entry in Penguin India’s Metro Reads imprint for popular fiction – centres on a poor little rich girl named Deeya Panchal who, in the midst of jet-setting around the world, socialising with the likes of Sonam Kapoor at fashion shows and brooding about ex-boyfriends, discovers that her life has uncanny parallels with the mythological Draupadi's. For one thing, she is in degrees of romantic or potentially romantic entanglements with three suave, business-family brothers, the modern-day versions of the Pandavas (“Uggh. I suddenly felt like a doll which was being passed around from one brother to the other”). She also confides important matters to a close friend named Krish Gopinathan (Krishna), and is drawn to a handsome social outsider named Karan, whose origins are “shrouded in mystery”.

Though the framework here is the genre often derisively called chick-lit (“brat-lit” might be more accurate for this novel), the central idea has been explored before. The possibility of an unarticulated connection between Karna and Draupadi – both fiery, headstrong people – has persisted for a while in folklore and in regional extrapolations of the epic; it was there in Pratibha Ray’s celebrated Oriya novel Yagnaseni, in P K Balakrishnan’s Malayalam Ini Njan Urangatte (translated into English as “Now Let me Sleep”) and more recently in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions, which ended in a bohemian post-war Heaven where Draupadi is finally free to express her real feelings for Karna.

In contrast, the Deeya of Draupadi in High Heels goes about her work on terra firma. She not only chooses Karan to be her life partner, but also helps him discover his real identity. (He was the product of a hushed pre-marital affair involving a socialite and her German boyfriend in England!) The book’s final two sentences – “As I looked into his light-brown eyes which glowed with abundant love, I realized that a man with a golden heart like his deserved all the happiness and acceptance in this world. And I was so glad that I got to share these moments with him!” – should tell you everything you need to know about the mawkishness of the prose, as should the supposedly descriptive passages (“What fascinated and captivated me the most was his face – which was the most perfect that I had ever seen!” and “Some strong, indefinable feeling swept through my body and found its place at the bottom of my stomach”). 


But they will also tell you that this is an attempt to give Karna a happy ending, to retrospectively correct the wrongs done to this anti-hero – and in fact, this impulse is common to many Mahabharata-retellers. In 1991, the acclaimed film director Mani Rathnam made Thalapathi, with Rajnikanth as a modern-day Karna, which ends with the protagonist achieving validation and self-worth. “[As a reader] I’ve always wished that he lived on,” Rathnam told Baradwaj Rangan in one of the interviews in the book Conversations with Mani Ratnam, “So much has gone wrong. There’s so much stacked against him. Maybe there’s a bit of hope, a bit of optimism in this, but I felt that his death would look too doomed, too tragic.”

The other new Karna-as-romantic-hero book is Kavita Kane’s Karna’s Wife, redundantly sub-titled “The Outcast’s Queen”. Despite its weak points – flat dialogue, for one – this is unquestionably a more serious-intentioned work than Kotwal’s, and founded on a closer psychological understanding of the epic. (Kane has probably read her Mrityunjay too.) The protagonist here is a freshly created character, a princess named Uruvi who becomes Karna’s second wife after performing an action that is exactly the opposite of Draupadi’s: she rejects Arjuna, whom everyone expected her to marry, in favour of the intense social outcast.

A problem with some “perspective” versions of the Mahabharata is that they turn their protagonists into near-omniscient narrators – The Great Golden Sacrifice of the Mahabharata, for instance, is part-narrated by an Ashwatthama who seems blessed with a panoramic view of everything that is happening to all the other characters. The same charge could be leveled at Karna’s Queen: the fictional Uruvi conveniently happens to have grown up around the elders of Hastinapura and is even the foster-daughter of Kunti (mother of Karna and the Pandavas), which means she is privy to all sorts of information. The very opening page is a description of her first view of Karna when he challenges the Kuru princes during their competition; Uruvi has a ringside seat here, right next to Kunti, and she chirps on in modern slang, providing such commentary as “Bhima is downright mean!” and “Ma, please, it’s fair enough!”

At this stage I was ready to dismiss Karna’s Wife as another facile retelling, but reading on I found points of interest in it. Uruvi – even though she is part of Karna’s life and is affected by his actions– can be viewed as a sutradhaar figure who is essentially outside the narrative, a stand-in for the author. It is almost as if Kane traveled in a time machine to Hastinapura (think of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court) and then set about confronting major characters like Bheeshma, Kunti, Duryodhana, and Karna himself, and either telling
them off or getting a clearer understanding of their feelings. If one were to be really generous to this book, one might say that what she has attempted (consciously or otherwise) is a form of literary and social criticism – revisiting the story as a 21st century person, bringing modern morality to it, and doing this not from a safe distance but as an insider. (In an interview, Kane was asked which character from the Mahabharata she would like to meet and speak with. “Karna, of course!” she replied, “And I would have done exactly what Uruvi did.”)

If Karna is a dashing lover in these books, the new TV show also presents him in terms that resemble the Western comic-book superhero. Poetic licence has been taken with the impenetrable armour and earrings attached to his body, gifts from his divine father, the Sun God. In a touch that may remind you of Clark Kent turning into Superman in the phone booth, the new serial has the protective armour making its appearance only in specific moments of crisis; it then spreads across Karna’s muscular abdomen, which, seen in close up, resembles that of modern superheroes in full gear. The parallel with Superman, who is encased as a baby in a protective bubble by his father Jor-El, is hard to resist. And of course, the armour will also turn out to be Karna’s Kryptonite when he has to give it away. All of which may be a way of reminding oneself that the Superman story is itself a modern myth that is derivative of ancient ones. The circle completes itself here.

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It’s worth asking why the epics are such an endlessly replenishing mine for contemporary writers. One obvious answer is that these are rich stories with multiple strands, forever open to new interpretations and psychological analyses. A more cynical answer would be that they provide lazy or unimaginative authors with a ready-made template: the plot, structure and character types are largely in place, and the embellishments (or twists, as in Draupadi choosing Karna over Arjuna) are all that are needed.

Everything hinges then on the quality of execution, on what new ideas are introduced, and how convincingly they are injected into an existing palimpsest. One of the more notable (in theory at least) attempts to shift the epic to a modern setting was in Sandipan Deb’s gangster novel The Last War, which set the Mahabharat in the Mumbai underworld, casting Arjuna and Karna as Jeet and Karl, two expert hitmen primed for a final showdown. It was a good idea to move the story to the Bombay of the last 60 years, letting the many familiar dramatic episodes play out against the backdrop of a fast-changing city, with occasional references to such real-life events as cricket match-fixing. (In this version, Yudhisthira goes to jail when he is tricked and implicated in a cricket-betting controversy.) And there is an irreverence built into the book's very fabric: the very first chapter has the modern versions of Krishna and Arjuna faux-philosophising over glasses of Scotch, and all the characters are basically thugs.

But this also raises questions about Deb’s decision to lift plot details and even dialogues wholesale, and to clumsily stick them into situations where they become anachronistic. For instance, the episode of Arjuna seeing only the eye of the wooden bird he has to shoot at is presented exactly as it is in the original, except that of course he is using a rifle. After Draupadi (called Jahn here) is nearly raped, she swears that she won't tie or oil her hair until she has soaked it in her assailant’s blood. Besides, the prose includes several pretentious references to “dharma” or duty. Deeply ambiguous as this concept already is in the original Mahabharata, it is rendered meaningless in a situation where everyone is operating outside the law.

However, one might note that even in this amoral version – where there are no real standards of “good” and “evil” – the Karna character is the one who secretly makes the phone call that helps preserve Draupadi’s honour. It seems that even the author of a hard-boiled underworld rendition of the epic can’t resist whitewashing Karna, almost to the point where his complexities are siphoned away.

That’s another feature common to contemporary retellings though: the need to subvert conventional ideas about the “bad guys”, or to reveal the shaky moral foundations of the “good guys”. Among recent books, there are Anand Neelakantan’s Asura and Ajaya, which eschew the history-as-told-by-the-victors narrative to present the Ramayana and Mahabharata through the eyes of Ravana and the Kauravas respectively. The Rama-Sita relationship has been thoughtfully dealt with in such modern-lens retellings as Samhita Arni’s The Missing Queen (a “speculative thriller” about a journalist’s search for Rama’s missing wife after the war with Lanka) and Sita Sings the Blues, an animated film by the American Nina Paley, who intersperses episodes from the Ramayana with the story of Paley’s own estrangement from her husband.


And always, there is the story of Surpanakha, Ravana’s sister who becomes the catalyst for events in the Ramayana after she is rebuffed and disfigured by Rama and Lakshmana. The incident – though presented in terms of the good guys giving a demoness her just desserts – is an inherently ambiguous one, and can be interpreted in terms of gender-directed or caste-directed violence. This has been done many times in modern fiction (an example being Amit Chaudhuri’s spare, uncompromising short story “An Infatuation”), but one of the most enjoyable Surpanakha retellings I have read is a piece in the anthology Breaking the Bow, which collects speculative fiction inspired by the Ramayana. Kuzhali Manickavel’s “The Ramayana as an American Reality Television Show” is a clever account of how the Surpanakha episode may have unfolded in the voyeuristic-exhibitionistic cyber-age, with statements from the aggrieved rakshasi’s blog, the hysterical social-media reactions by her fans and detractors, and Twitter ripostes by the “Real Rama”. It adds up to a commentary not just on the ancient epic (it is easy for contemporary writers to poke holes into the social mores and pomposities of an earlier era) but also on the vagaries of our own time.

In any case, the past few months alone have brought us romantic Karnas, a gangster Mahabharata and the Ramayana as science fiction and thriller, along with prolonged daytime soaps where one might conceivably, in future episodes, get to see Duryodhana helping his son with his Algebra homework. And all this in addition to the ever-growing corpus of books by Amish Tripathi, Krishna Udayashankar, Ashok Banker and others, where Indian mythology is retold in a style resembling 20th century Western fantasy from Tolkien onwards. Or Amruta Patil's beautifully illustrated visual retelling, Adi Parva. But why stop there? Other genres and tropes are yet to be explored. Personally I am toying with the idea of getting onto the bandwagon and fashioning two of my personal obsessions – tennis and irreverent humour –
into Mahabharata novellas. One of them would stage the Kurukshetra war as a series of Grand Slam matches, with the Karna-Arjuna battle played out in the manner of a Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal epic in a Wimbledon final. (As Orwell said, sport is war minus the shooting. Such a story would require no “arrows can be injurious to health” signs.) The other would cast Groucho Marx as a non-sequitur-spewing Krishna, confounding Arjuna and everyone else on the battlefield with a modern Gita that begins “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” Like Groucho, the epic is whatever you want it to be.

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[Some related posts: the Rashomon-like world of the Mahabharata; Iravati Karve's Yuganta; The Palace of Illusions; The Last War. The PDF of Prem Panicker's Bhimsen is here. And something about the Karna-as-Rafa illustration that went with the piece.]

21 comments:

  1. I'm an avid reader of Indian mythology genre books. Naturally I find your article very interesting.

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  2. High production values and reasonably thoughtful script? Perhaps I should start watching it the show

    Actually I should have watched from the beginning, because the Mahabharat story is always compelling, whatever the treatment

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    1. Anon: well, keep in mind that I wrote this piece when the serial was just around 50 episodes old - it is now around 115 episodes and has settled much more into the stretched-out-daily-soap format, which means plenty of tedium to go with the good bits.

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  3. Are you wicked or cruel?
    :)

    But I agree, that for most of the writers.. it is easy to revisit these epics.

    Having said that, Prem's english translation is very very good.

    -The Alco..... guy

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  4. Jai,your blog is a delight to read. Being a newly minted reader of indian mythology,i found this post very informative...thank you:)

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    1. Glad you liked it, Ruchira. Do also take a look at some of the other posts I have linked to at the bottom, or do a search for "Mahabharat" - you'll find that I have obsessed endlessly about it!

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  5. I read Karna's Wife and Ajaya over the past week, and I have to admit, Ajaya was quite a compelling read. Sure, there are some bits that may cause one to raise his eyebrow and go, "what on earth is that", but a very interesting perspective. I hope the 2nd installment is as good as the first. As for Karna's wife, I enjoyed most of it, but the constant reminders of Karna being a good looking man get a little jarring. I'm still waiting for a good english translation of Mrityunjaya. Hopefully somebody will do the needful soon :)

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    1. Vikram: I have been reading and rereading P Lal's English translation of Mrityunjay, and though it is raw/rushed in places (it is a mammoth undertaking to begin with), I think it captures the power and the psychological acuity of the original quite well. I would recommend it to anyone.

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  6. I love that you've tackled these new age re-tellings without preconceived notions or judgements. Like you say, there is an easy way out here to get published with the story, characters all ready. All these people do is drop them in a modern setting shaping them into stereotypes that originally would have never required any Mahabharata allusion in them. Having said that, I'd love to see someone like Anuja Chauhan tackle a Draupadi or Karna angle in south Delhi backdrop. When it comes to this genre (the, again, derisively titled chick-lit or brat-lit) in India, she's the real deal!

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    1. Gradwolf: Anuja is the real deal, indeed - one of the most interesting writers currently around - and coincidentally I had a brief Mahabharata-related chat with her on a Facebook comments space recently. Don't know if she has any such plans though...

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  7. I had to review a play called Karna which featured some of the biggest names in Madras theatre - both on stage and behind the scenes. Oh man, the play was so banal. It just turned him into this one-dimensional wronged-hero type guy whose wrongs were all conveniently explained by his circumstances. And I had _just_ finished reading Yuganta at that point. You can imagine what the review was like.

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    1. Sure, but I hope you can see that Yuganta is hugely simplistic in places too (and Karve even contradicts herself in places). And as always, what matters isn't the thesis or the perspective - what matters is how well it is executed, and how fully its realises an inner world. Sawant's Mrityunjay is a very sympathetic portrayal too, and because so much of it is told in Karna's own voice there is plenty of what one could consider "justification" - but it is one of the most brilliant, most fully realised interior studies I have ever read.

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    2. Of course, Jai. I look at Yuganta very differently now from how I looked at it when I had just read it. :)

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  8. i have just read the review and on my way to discover lost and the forgotten tales of long gone yesterdays !I thought i knew something of it all until I read this....thank you.your take is most reverential and faithful to the classical texts and refreshingly critical of the wannabe's.

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  9. Jai: This is quite wonderful! I have been a huge fan of the Mahabharatha since I was 7 years old, and like you I read Rajaji's version, but in Tamil Vyasar Virundu (Vyasa's Feast). My students are reading The Palace of Illusions for their unit on Indian religions, but one of the challenges I encounter in using retelling is that it presumes an in-depth, a priori knowledge of the originals. Do you have any ideas as to how to tackle this? Arni's Sita's Ramayana was easier for my students as people around the world seem to be familiar with this epic--much more than the Mahabharatha, which is a pity!

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    1. Thanks, Meera. I agree that it can be a problem reading something like The Palace of Illusions without having experienced a canonical version of the epic (even a greatly condensed one). The only suggestion I can make is to give them a lucid,easy-to-read translation first. Perhaps the R K Narayan one (not a personal favourite of mine, I have to admit), or even something like Devdutt Pattanaik's Jaya, which provides the basic story in very simple, entertaining prose and also has notes at the end of each chapter with info on regional extrapolations, alternate tellings and sub-plots.

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  10. Sorry for deviating from your post a bit, but seeing the sheer number of books which see Karna in a positive light, I cannot help commenting on the huge fan following that he has today. Somehow, I have never been able to sympathize with Karna. One might argue that his actions before the war (his promise to Kunti) redeem his past transgressions, but I have never bought the argument somehow. How can one forget his role in Draupadi's disrobing, where he is the prime instigator or the fact that he was complicit in most of Duryodhan's plans to bring down the Pandavas using underhanded means? While I admire the complexity inherent in him as a character, that does not really take away his flaws in any way. Also, I think Karna's portrayal in popular culture is quite different from what I've understood from the K.M Ganguli translation. I'm aware that it's not perfect, and represents only one recension of the Mahabharata, but there is a significant difference in the portrayal nevertheless.

    My point is, I could never understand these spin-off novels of the Mahabharata which try to portray Karna as a hero, and not just a tragic one, who deserved a better end. I am not making a case against books like 'Mrityunjay', which are point of view narratives, and will thus carry the biases of the character in the original, but the books that have been mentioned in the post. Same goes with the non-existent relationship between Karna and Draupadi. I cannot even begin to fathom why two characters, both of whom have been insulted by the other at some point in the epic, would develop romantic feelings for each other, especially Draupadi, who has been the victim of Karna at his worst.

    - Ashwini

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    1. Also, I think Karna's portrayal in popular culture is quite different from what I've understood from the K.M Ganguli translation. I'm aware that it's not perfect, and represents only one recension of the Mahabharata, but there is a significant difference in the portrayal nevertheless.

      Ashwini: yes, but that's true to a large degree of almost every character in the epic. The original is written in the grand, archaic tone, and (as Krishna Chaitanya points out in his excellent book The Mahabharata: A Literary Study), it doesn't sentimentalise any of the characters. That is the job of the retellers who have brought a greater degree of humanism to their portrayal of the characters, and tried to understand each character's personal struggles and demons (whether this is done in a straight retelling such as Kamala Subramanian's book, or a POV retelling such as Mrutyunjay or Randaamoozham or Yagnaseni).

      The thing is, once that humanism (which you won't find in the KMG translation) enters the picture, then Karna is very naturally one of the characters who will draw the attention of a large number of writers, reinterpreters and readers, because the struggle against circumstance is so pronounced and so dramatic in his case - and because it is such a fascinating prospect to "get inside his head" and to try to understand what is going on there. And also because his story is often a sharp counterpoint to the smug, divinity-oriented narratives where there is a clear sense of cosmic justice meted out by God Incarnate. Even though Karna is respectful to Krishna in the original (and that scene between them is such a vital, central part of the Mahabharata), he does also in a sense "reject God" by turning down Krishna's very tempting offers. All this makes him a singularly modern character in some ways - an apt inspiration for Bachchan's Vijay in Deewaar, confronting God in the temple.

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    2. I am not making a case against books like 'Mrityunjay', which are point of view narratives, and will thus carry the biases of the character in the original

      Sure, but in that case what is your issue with the other books mentioned here? Or more specifically, which other books do you have a problem with? Because I'd think the POV/bias thing would apply to all of them.

      I do agree that there's something quixotic about the Draupadi-Karna pairing, but I suspect it stems from two things: one, that they are very similar people in some ways - arrogant, willing to nurture and cherish their wounds - and writers can't help examining the possibilities of a special connect between them, or imagining new episodes where they encountered each other. And two, the simple fact of Karna being the eldest Pandava and therefore having a "right" on Draupadi if the secret were known. Add to that Krishna's suggestion that Karna has the finest qualities of all his brothers in him (at least potentially) and you have the poetic idea that Draupadi could have avoided the controversy/shame of being married to five men, and instead married this one man.

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    3. One last thing (can't get into detail about this since I have to rush), but as I may have indicated in my earlier essay for Caravan, I think sympathy or empathy for Karna is usually a function of the sort of person you are. Even as a child I had a very strong melancholic strain, a lot of anger inside me, a sense of life being perpetually unfair and true happiness being hard to come by (or even undesirable beyond a point, because why raise your expectations?) - and I felt drawn to the character at a visceral, hard-to-explain level. I felt like I knew what was going on in his head, how his harsher actions and speeches were often representative of a deeply unhappy, embittered state of mind; how, perhaps because he felt that he wasn't getting the respect or consideration he deserved, he almost willfully set off on a self-destructive path, the thinking being "They don't see my qualities, they constantly underrate or ignore or insult me - so fine, let me live down to their expectations."

      I suspect Shivaji Sawant, Kamala Subramanian and anyone else who wrote so tenderly about Karna had the same irrational empathy. Cal it a personality defect!

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  11. I can see where the Draupadi-Karna angle originates from, with a reference being made in the Bheel Mahabharata, and that the rich folklore that surrounds it is one of the things that makes the epic unique and special. But somewhere I think, the 'original' (by this term I mean the BORI critical edition, which can be called the closest to what the original might have been) is being forgotten and contradicted in these modern retellings.

    -Ashwini

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