Book Review: Heads You Win

Randamoozham - second turn

I would not have known about Randamoozham,
 the Malayalam novel by M T Vasudevan Nair, but for the news item about plans to make a Rs.1000 crore movie based on it.   A book based on Mahabharatha - so what's new, I wondered.  As for movie, I still remember the wonderful serial of B R Chopra, that used to air in Doordarshan, which kept roads free on Sunday mornings.

Though I can read Malayalam, I picked up Bhima: Lone Warrior,  English translation of the book by Gita Krishnankutty.

The book is a first person narrative by Bhima, the second of the Pandavas.  You could call it his autobiography or Mahabharatha that we know, from his view point.  The story starts with Bhima and his family coming back from the forest to Hastinapura, after their father, Pandu's death.  Hastinapura is ruled by the blind King Dhritharashtra, elder brother of Pandu.  He warmly welcomes his nephews.  Pandavas also get to meet their cousins, the Kauravas,  Duryodhana being the eldest of them.

The initial bonhomie between the cousins give way to conflicts, even at an early age, due to predictions that Yudishtira will rule Hasthinapura and Bhima will be the mightiest warrior and Arjuna the greatest archer.  It is also not helped by their teacher Drona, who gives preferential treatment to Arjuna over others.

To cut a long story short (since this is not an unknown story), Pandavas escape being burnt alive and live incognito in villages, only to resurface during Draupadi's swayamvar.  Post-marriage, Yudishtira is cheated in a game of dice and the Pandavas end up being banished to the forests for 12 years followed by a year of living incognito.

This is followed by the bloodbath that is the Mahabharatha war where the Kauravas are vanquished.   It is however a pyrrhic victory since there is nothing much to celebrate.

Bhima is in a peculiar situation being younger to an arguably weaker elder brother.  He disagrees with many of his brother's actions but has no choice but to acquiesce.   Though the strongest of them all, he is still less popular than Arjuna, who is better looking and is skilled in archery, the most popular combat weapon.   When viewed from his perspective, his entire life was a compromise.

The author has removed the divine elements from the story, due to which Krishna is just the King of Dwaraka and the cousin of Pandava.  None of the divine interventions of Krishna (like during Draupadi's disrobing incident) happens in this book.  Nor does the popular encounter between Hanuman and Bhima (when the latter is in search of a flower for Draupadi).

Devoid of divine aspects, I found the prophesies and their presence in the book inconsistent (since that is the basis of many incidents).  Also,  the story is now about warring Kshatriya families, which is arguably not so exciting as the story of triumph of good over evil.

I wonder how successful will the movie adaptation be, considering the following:

  • In a successful movie like Bahubali, the story was unknown and hence there was an anticipation (like why Kattappa killed Bahubali).   Mahabharatha story is known to all and thus very predictable.
  • As mentioned above, without divinity, the story loses charm.  There are many questions too - how on earth could Yudishtira, dharma incarnate, take up gambling and lose kingdom to the vice?  
  • And my personal favorite - the entire story narrates the travails of the Pandavas, with very few incidents to celebrate. 
  • And above all - radical religious fanatics should not take up cudgels accusing movie makers of belittling their Gods.  (The exposure of the book is too limited today for this).

Let us wait and watch.  But courtesy this book, I hope to read a few other books of MT and in Malayalam.


  1. I had enjoyed this log ago


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