Thursday, 5 January 2017

Saanvri: the story of a concubine by Vinod Pande | Niyogi Books

Published by Niyogi Books, Saanvri: the story of a concubine; is an appalling novel by the filmmaker Vinod Pande. Use of the prefix ‘filmmaker’ before the novelist’s name is intentional. The very tale of Saanvri appears more of a filmmaker rather than of a novelist. The story of Saanvri unfolds much like the narrative of a film script, which seems bound to be converted for the silver screen in future or the idea of its conception as a film might have come before its commencement as a novel.

Bold and explicit in nature, the dominating aspect of this novel is its storyline. The novel’s plot is adapted from the real life account of Bhanvri Devi – a Dalit midwife in Rajasthan, whose brutal murder in the year 2011 shook the nation to dismay. Pande was vigilant about the incident and he wanted to document it in any form. Known for showing real mirror to society, Vinod Pande chose the medium of novel writing this time.    

Told in a racy style, the novel does not demand much of expertise from its readers, as the language is effortless, however, effective. It scathingly represents the struggle of a young girl who instead of numerous exploitations, rises to strength in her womanhood and makes sure to live according to her own choices. Once a victim – Saanvri transforms herself into a dreadful exploiter and turns the system upside-down.  However, deceived by the patriarchal structure, she destroys herself in the process by the hands of high-profile political mafias.

The constant employment of slangs and abuses in the novel seem unnecessary at times, and hence, make it a perfect Bollywoodized script. The folk elements give a rustic overtone to the novel and bring it more close to the Indian readership, especially those familiar with the Rajasthani culture and dialect.

Romi Mittal, a film journalist and columnist calls it right,
                        “Pande’s book is a scorcher!”
It is, indeed. 

About Vinod Pande
Vinod Pande has walked many a path: a civil servant with the British Government, a broadcaster with the BBC, the maker of several documentaries and ad-films, he helmed one of the popular TV networks launched during the late nineties and ran his own advertising agency in London. After his foray into Bollywood, he was a member of the jury for important award ceremonies and chaired the selection committees for the Indian entry for the Oscar Awards on two occasions. He is, however, most well-known as the producer, writer and director of the Hindi film Ek Baar Phir; other notable ones like Yeh Nazdeekiyan and Sins; and acclaimed TV serials Air Hostess and Reporter.

He lives and works as a filmmaker and author in Mumbai. After Don's Wife, a story on forbidden love, born in the crucible of crime, this is his second novel. His next novel, Destiny, is soon to be published. 

Reviewed by Varsha Singh
Managing Editor, Reviews

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Bravest Princess by Elizabeth Dawson Baker | Bloomsbury

Widely acclaimed for penning enthralling children’s fiction, Elizabeth Dawson Baker holds an immense capacity to captivate her readers and keep them hooked up until the end of her books. She has the expert capability of filling her readers' hearts with great enthusiasm with significant poise and ease. The Tales of the Frog Princess is one of her famous work that too keeps the readers attached to the story, until it's every suspense opens up and all the mysteries gets solved.

Her recent book The Bravest Princess is specialized for the children of the age group around twelve to fifteen years, but the grownups fascinated by fairy tales with interest in magic would also cherish this book. It is guaranteed that they won't be bored and will certainly find themselves lost in a world of magic, love and mysteries.

This book deals with the sweet love and romance of Princess Annie and Prince Liam along with the adventures that they go through while handling the situations that obstruct their way. Princess Annie, the younger sister of Sleeping Beauty is a very specially marked character in the novel with some special characteristics defining her character in a well-illustrated manner. She is completely detached from magic and has the proficiency to expose the real self of something or someone from the veil of magical spell, with her single touch and as a result of which all the other princess staying in the kingdom fear her presence around them, for whenever she's near them their real looks get exposed. The book starts with the marriage ceremony of Sleeping Beauty namely Gwendolyn and Beldgard, and then the story ameliorates to Helmswood, where Princess Annie and Prince Liam has a lot of sickening and shocking surprises in stock for them.

The only princess of Helmswood kingdom, Princess Snow White and Annie are shown to be best friends and a single "call for help" drives her best friend, Annie to Helmswood. At Helmswood Princess Annie gets a responsibility to help princess Snow White in order to choose the best groom for herself, who would probably prove to be the best suit for her, along with protecting herself from the terrifying dangers thrown by the wicked witches to harm her.

The Bravest Princess is a novel full of suspense, where each character is different from the other holding a unique dimension of thought process. Some exhibit distasteful villainous and monstrous behavior while some show generous, pleasant and desirous behavior. As a whole it is the kind of a book which raises the readers' ferment and keeps them indulged. However, all the expectancies of the readers are revealed only at the end of the book giving all answers to the questions raised during the process of storytelling.

However, some parts of the story of The Bravest Princess remain untold, but the adventures keep unfolding till the end. It has the hilarious and endearing elements which keeps the stimulating passion of the readers alive. The journey of this book is certainly a refreshing one.  

Reviewed by Anamika Banerjee
Anamika is doing her Graduation from P. K. Roy Memorial College, Dhanbad, Jharkhand. 

Flora of the Southern Western Ghats and Palnis by Pippa Mukherjee | Niyogi Books

Depletion of biodiversity and its management is a buzzword now a days and this topic is discussed at different fora. It is however an ironical fact that the ones having interest in taxonomy of angiosperms are also becoming extinct very fast and attempting flora writing as a rare endeavour. In such situation the Niyogi Books’ “Flora of the Southern Western Ghats and Palnis” authored by Pippa Mukherjee is like a cool breeze in desert.

Mukherjee has selected an area for vegetation study and its description which is important not only in India but at the global level. The reason is its being a designated hotspot. Western Ghat is a heaven for botanists and is full of botanical marvels.

The pictorial document presented by the author is a result of extensive fieldwork and keen scientific observation. About 200 plants of the research area have been described, most of them being easily available in Southern Western Ghat.

Apart from native species, the author has also introduced and described species which provide a broader scenario of changing vegetation pattern of Western Ghats. Wherever necessary, the author has mentioned endemism (this is a condition where species is confined to a restricted area and is not found elsewhere) of species as well which is a significant fact for botanist and naturalists. Binomial name of plants with variety and authorship is useful for researches for seeking further reference.

Apart from this, common vernacular name of plants and name of plants in other languages is also given making the flora a convenient reading. Lack of common name of plants in Hindi or other common North Indian language is however a negligible shortcoming of this book.

The taxonomic key presented for identification of plants is simple but scientific and a ready reference during field visit. It is appreciable that unnecessary technicality is avoided in preparing taxonomic keys. Apart from flowers, leaves are also an important tool for identification of plants. A near real line diagram of leaves is an added benefit for identification for field studies. Description of every plant is supplemented with good quality photographs. The book also provides common English name of plants described. An exhaustive index presented at the end of the book is also added value. Bibliography is short however.

On the whole Flora of Southern Western Ghat is a soothing text in present time when writing a flora is uncommon. This book will prove to be of great value for students, researchers and teachers of botany. This flora will surely be acclaimed by nature lovers also.

Reviewed by Dr. Prashant Kumar Mishra
Department of Botany
Vinoba Bhave University
Hazaribag, Jharkhand