Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reflections: Ponniyin Selvan - The Finale



Thoughts on Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5a.

And finally, here are my concluding remarks on this epic series! It feels like I’m back from a time-travel of the past, and have returned with renewed pride and attachment towards my native land! I’m content that I eventually got around to reading and appreciating this series, albeit through English translations. Some day I plan to listen to the Tamil audio narration since I now know the story to fill in any gulfs in my understanding, and can instead dwell on the beauty of the language (as much as I can follow, that is!).

I have to admit - I didn’t expect the finale to contain any more sudden turns of events, but how wrong was I! I thought the finale was just going to be the grand ending that tied up the remaining loose threads in predictable ways. But now I realize that the entire series was spun around that one pivotal historical incident which springs up on us in this final book! It really crowns the magnanimity, nobility, righteousness and generosity of Arulmozhi Varma (King Raja Raja Chozha). I’ll leave it at that, before I spoil the suspense any more, unless of course, you’re well versed in Tamil history and already are aware of how the events turned out.

It’s quite incredulous in some ways that the story has a happy ending - that is, the good parties prevail and the wrong-doers are avenged. Like an old Tamil movie, or a Dickens novel, good and bad were delineated sharply, and the turn of events (many by chance) came together to bless the good! It makes the entire era sound fantastical and mythical - a time where Dharma had a clear meaning and it did prevail in the end! I also appreciated the little discussion on Dharma that was interleaved in this volume.  Of course, the great writer, Kalki has played a key role in defining the characters as good or bad to suit the turn of events. Still reading about how the characters face a turning point of realization, and turn into new leaves, is quite stirring. How often do we desperately wish people would face such turning-point-moments in our own lives, and then sadly accept that such moments are reserved just for great stories and movies! It was nice to be transported to a more pristine and simpler time when people did change! The only down side (just a little) is that it makes some of the characters seem a little inconsistent and fickle... although it’s not Kalki’s fault. But the author does repeatedly mention that human nature is unpredictable and can change drastically from time to time, and thus acknowledges some of the inconsistencies.

What this series manages to do is impart heavy moral lessons, which is why it is hailed as a great epic.

Digested Thoughts - I have run out of words at this point and will only reiterate my thoughts from the 5 other posts I’ve written. This epic surely deserves its recognition and praises. It’s been a long time since I was this addicted to a series. It was engaging, entertaining and was crafted expertly to create multiple dimensions of suspense and mystery. It brings history alive with much welcomed romanticism, and beautifully portrays the essential virtues of the Chozha Kings that need to be emulated by present and future leaders of our land. This is definitely one of the best books (series) I’ve read. 


13 comments:

SUMI said...

I hope I can read this series sometime and impress my mom ;-)

Neeraja said...

You definitely should - you're sure to be impressed with it before your mom ;)

SecondSight said...

Yay, you finished ! I was rather disappointed at being left hanging with that last review!!

Will get to the series soon :)

PM said...

Hey came across ur blog from Appu's link!! I have heard rave reviews on Ponniyin Selvan but didn't get a chance to read it! Now i am inspired to start this series :)

Karthik said...

With such emphatically positive reviews, I am also inspired to read this series sometime:-) Its great the translation has retained the pull of the original!

Neeraja said...

SecondSight - I'll be happy to provide you with all the books :)

Preethi! - What a surprise! Yeah, the series is quite addictive and entertaining. You shouldn't miss out :)

Karthik, after a point the translation was forgotten since I was invested in the story and the characters :). But I'm sure no translation can do justice to the original!

Srishti said...

I am happy to see this smiley in this review :) :) so happy that you joined the club.

Neeraja said...

Again, ALL credit goes to you!! :)

Sudha Rangarajan said...

Hey Neeraja, came to your blog from Google while searching for reviews on Ponniyin Selvan translation by Mr.C.V Karthik Narayanan. In your review of the third part you have mentioned him whereas in the second part's review you have mentioned Ms.Indra Needamangalam. Did you read parts translated by different authors? I am a die hard fan of this book and am thinking of gifting the series to a non Tam friend. Having read the original , I am unable to decide whose would be better in English!!

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

n Guess I have come to a treasure trove of book reviews! Very glad to have discovered the site!

Neeraja said...

Hi Sudha, thanks to google for getting you here ;). The first two parts of the book are available for free online (whose author is Indra Neelamegham). I found these two ebooks through Project Madurai. I couldn't find the other parts of the book and hence resorted to Karthik Narayan's translations (which I bought). Both authors are good, but Karthik Narayan's books are easily available through McMillan Publishers in India, and make for a nice gift set :). Also, at places, Indra Neelamegham's writing was a little literal and needed a bit of editing. Hope it helps!

Sudha Rangarajan said...

Neeraja, that definitely helps!!
Thanks a lot for such a prompt reply!

Nithyan said...

I just finished Ponniyin Selvan in Tamil. Very addictive Novel. I never found a novel this addictive. I think it is mainly because it has a thread of historical truth. However, I do find some things missing in the novel. The novel revolves around emotions a lot. I would have liked it more if there was more historical facts - about how the armies were built, martial arts, the system of government, the history behind the many rituals which are followed even today, etc. Sometimes I found some narrations too boring when Kalki keeps using same kind of phrases over and over and also with too many adjectives. I think this was a literary style of the 50's. I could find this especially because I finished the series in 2 weeks - all my spare time went for the novel. Ponniyin Selvan is sure a master piece, however a little more historical research would have helped it better. I am eagerly waiting to visit the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tanjore when I visit India.

Neeraja said...

Nithyan, thanks for your comment! Yes, it is indeed a very addictive book. True, it would have been interesting if Kalki weaved in more historical facts and presented a social & political discourse along the way, but I think the book's immense popularity is due to the emotional aspects of the story and the memorable characters :).
I actually read the translation and not the original Tamil work - and I did think that the translations got too verbose or repetitive at times. I assumed it was because of the inadequacy of finding suitable adjectives and phrases in English, but I guess even the Tamil version had the same issue. Yeah, the literary style of the earlier era was quite different!
I'm glad so many people enjoy this masterpiece even today :)