Ravana Refuses to Die



Ravana Refuses to Die

By : Sandhya Rao  /  2017
Tags : 
Ram Leela,
Overall Rating : 
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Children will enjoy this book, especially those with an above-average vocabulary. It’s obvious the author has had a grand time spinning out the four yarns in this collection featuring four intrepid young adventurers resident in the town of Babubari. He’s freaked out with the language, using it to absurd (happily) dramatic effect and that, undoubtedly, will delight the readers. It’s racy and irreverent and exclamatory.

Muru, Chippa, Jitu and little Chipkili are fast friends and they have pretty awesome fun together. In Ravana Refuses to Die, the eponymous first story in the book, that’s literally what happens at the Ram Leela production: there’s Rama desperately prompting Ravana to die, and to stay dead, and Ravana plain refusing until his long-pending dues are cleared. In A Vimana Lands in Babubari, Muru’s on a mission to build a pushpaka vimana with the somewhat reluctant assistance of his friends, all save Chipkili who cannot keep anything secret and this mission is top secret. Tyres and other stuff go missing from the local shops and there’s consternation all around. In Hanuman’s Army, people don monkey costumes a la Delhi 6 to catch some thieving real-life monkeys. Chipkili is kidnapped by a rather wicked monkey in costume and how she’s rescued is the plot. The last story is On Ravana’s Belly, where the famous four help Bhollu divine water so he can farm and earn his keep. There’s an oily (literally) villain of great girth and no mirth, and an unnecessarily loquacious barber to spills the beans. However, all’s well and everything ends well too.

The illustrations are equally kinky, in true Priya Kuriyan style. In any case, the character of Ravana is a wonderful springboard for storytelling and visual narration. Both author and illustrator make good on this advantage.

However, there are a few false-ish notes that adults would or could stumble over. While the title story, which opens the collection, has a certain sense of completeness to it, the second starts off more tentatively, giving the impression that it should actually have been the first story. There’s a lack of character consistency that can throw the reader off, which leads to the observation that even in a collection of short stories featuring the same characters, the ‘growth’ chart of the characters and their relationship to each other must reveal integrity. The rule doesn’t apply just to novels, but to short stories of this nature too.

Then again, that old bogey, stereotyping. While I do believe that sometimes this PC-thing is taken too far, there’s also a limit to finding fat funny or mean or stupid. There are some bits where the telling palls, or the narrative gets on an information trajectory. This is where the editors needed to have intervened more vigorously. For instance, at the end of Hanuman’s Army, you have SSP Ricky Singh giving a long spiel about the how and why of the stealing of a necklace, which is plain boring to read; it even sounds like the author got bored. It freezes the energy of the storytelling.

Still and all, the book’s a ‘funtastical’ read, even as it makes pertinent points about this, that and some other things.

Sandhya Rao is primarily a reader who can’t thank her stars enough that there are so many stories and so many wonderful writers to bring them home to us. She is also a journalist and writer of children’s books.



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