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Duryodhana: A story retold!

January 9, 2016

Duryodhana by V Raghunathan (Raghu), though based on the Mahabharatha, is indeed a product of the author’s vivid imagination. While most popular versions of the epic portray Duryodhana as the perpetrator of all that is wrong, as one who likes to side with the underdog, Raghu sees a good reason to view him as the wronged party instead.

The human race is not so much black or white as grey is how the prologue of the book begins. Duryodhana starts by saying the title of the chief villain of Mahabharatha belongs unequivocally to him. Why? Did it sway too much towards how the victors of the climactic war at Kurukshetra wanted it told? After all, it is human nature to find everything about the vanquished a vicious black. As the author builds on this perspective, the narrative of the story as has been told over and over completely changes.

Suyodhana , which is what the central character of the book claims to be his original name, extols the values on which he was nurtured. Raghu gives him all the fire power to rationalize his actions and omissions right from his childhood up to getting battle ready for Kurukshetra. The end game – he carries no burden of Kurukshetra!

While reading through the pages, thanks to the masterly story-telling, you almost begin to sympathise with Duryodhana’s cause and woes as he successfully muddies the water. Be it the necessity to eliminate Bhima or later the Pandavas and Kunti – it is all for the Rajdharma. His paranoia driven by the malafide ways of Kunti in pushing the case of Pandavas. The spin on Krishna’s complicity; societal inconsistencies leading to unfair treatment meted out to Karna and Eklavya by Drona.  Not to miss the need to displace his blind father from the throne.

The Panchali swayamvar and the injustice to Karna; creation of Indraprastha; the chink in Yudhishthira’s character given his proclivity towards gambling and his focus on the rights of a king alone rather than his duty as a husband or brother or king. Raghu makes the case for Duryodhana so compelling that you also begin to believe into the villainy of Yudhisthira. As he weaves the drama of Shakuni’s machinations with the dice play, the senior most Pandava is made to look a weakling. As the game of dice climaxes the author kicks up a mighty resurging tsunami of a passion for Panchali. The need to end the story with the battle scene is obviated by the foreplay of the war raging in the head and heart of the chief character. Raghu keeps Krishna merged in the backdrop, emerging only when Panchali shouts for his help.

So overpowering is the effect that Raghu lets Duryodhana succeed in making everything and everyone look and feel grey. It leaves a hangover that refuses to clear easily. A unique experiment worth undergoing whether or not you are a believer and for sure a great script to enact on the stage!

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