The House of Blue Mangoes- David Davidar : 16/52

Tamil movie meets a rambling mega soap opera

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Maybe it should have been three different books. A trilogy or something.

Chevathar. Having watched endless Tamil movies with caste wars, this part of the book played in my head as a Thevar Magan-like movie with Kamal Hassan playing Solomon Dorai and Napolean as Muthu Vedhar. Detailed descriptions and lyrical prose bring the entire village to life, but somehow, the characters fail to linger in your mind. Solomon isn’t built on a solid foundation. His role in the book ends too quickly and though it is his legacy that is supposedly carried over in the next two sections, you don’t feel his presence anywhere. I expected a little more about Joshua, but he came and went in a flash. It is strange that caste wars don’t get even a passing mention in the other two sections of the book.

Doraipuram. The only character  I really liked was Aaron. The accidental Freedom Fighter. Daniel wasn’t a well chalked out character. I couldn’t place what exactly he was or what he wanted to be. Did he want to be the thalaivar or not? Was Doraipuram his dream or his ego trip? Was he a dedicated doctor or just an eccentric rich man who got lucky? It seemed very contrived, the way the settlement was built and populated. Characters just popped in and out without giving you the opportunity to actually know them. That gossiping woman who had an entire chapter dedicated to her, I read the book two days ago but seem to have forgotten her name already. Such forgettable pieces of characters.

Pulimed. Was the tiger woven into the tale just to give the name of the place more impact? Or did the author just remember the Jim Corbett book he read long ago and decide to plug it in? If this had been a separate book, it would have had more weight. The brown man in a white man’s domain with an inbetween wife having an identity crisis. Life in a remote tea estate tucked in a corner of South India when Britain was at war and India was on the cusp of independence was very well described. But again, Kannan aka Thirumoolan isn’t someone you’d remember or quote long after you’ve finished the book.

A lot of Tamil words and references have been peppered in. I wonder how non Tamil readers, leave alone non Indian readers can relate. Calling this book an epic or a saga or any other cliched term is an exaggeration, but it is worth a read if you have a lot of time and no expectations.

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