In Short Books

Draupadi on AXN

The phrase ‘show, don’t tell’, does not seem to mean much to Arnab Ray, if his thriller, The Mahabharata Murders, is anything to go by. Ray is bent on enlightening the reader about his protagonists’ every little reaction and response, so much so that the reader is hardly given a chance to exercise her imagination.

This, coupled with the frequent use of clichés, the clunky prose, and the grammar in dire need of a copy-editor, gives you a novel that is less than underwhelming.

The Mahabharata Murders is an attempt at a whodunnit, which structures itself on the Mahabharata . Ruksana Ahmed is “homicide detective” in Kolkata Police, and her “partner” is the dashing, six-feet-three Siddhanth Singh.

Ahmed jokes self-consciously about these AXN crime dramaesque titles and positions, but that doesn’t stop her author from regurgitating clichés from CSI,Castle or CID.

Ahmed and Singh are investigating a murder where the suspect seems to think of himself as an incarnation of Duryodhana, out to avenge the death of his brothers — you know, the ones who were killed by the Pandavas thousands of fictional years ago.

His first victim is a beautiful ( Ray hammers home the point) model, whom our Duryodhana sees as his Draupadi. He then picks out a Sahadeva and a Nakula, and now the detectives must keep the serial killer from getting to the rest of the Pandavas.

It’s not only that the happenings at the level of the plot give you a sense of déjà vu at every turn, with you recalling bits and pieces from this crime drama and that, but Ray’s storytelling also falls short. Characters are laden with mysterious pasts, which are neither engaging nor capable of drawing our sympathy.

And then Ray uses his female lead as a justification to make sexist generalisations: “She had come from Siliguri to study, and then, as most girls who know they are pretty, started modelling on the side.”

The narrative rambles on with such pithy insights, making it quite a torture till the finish.


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Printable version | Apr 13, 2022 1:09:39 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/books/draupadi-on-axn/article19852164.ece