Book Review, Historical

Empire Of The Moghul – Brothers At War written by Alex Rutherford

n331665 This book is the second in the Great Moghul series. The Mughal empire falls into the hand of Humayun after Babur’s untimely death just after he had conquered Hindustan from the Lodhis.

Though a fearless warrior, Humayun is a dreamer of sorts, preferring to watch the stars instead of court activities. He finds himself thrust with a legacy that he feels he needed more time to get adjusted to. Babur’s death had left the fledgling empire vulnerable with enemies closing from all sides. But as the new emperor soon finds out, its the enemy within that is much more lethal.

Babur had left the whole of the new empire in the hands of his eldest and favourite son. This left a lot of hearts broken, but the one who is most affected is Kamran, his half brother who is only a few months younger. Askar and Hindal were to follow Kamran’s lead, though Hindal, the youngest, was always a reluctant conspirator.

So begins this book, which, as is readily apparent, is much well written than its predecessor, Raiders from the North – about Babur. The action is more gripping and seems less like a tract of historical text. The characters have much more flesh. Of course some of the old characters from the previous book make an appearance – especially Khanzada, the pillar for Humayun in the most difficult of times.

And as you progress, you realize that the old cliché – truth is stranger than fiction is well, so true. The story of intrigues, love affairs, battles, betrayals, the incredible turning around of fates and an end that any fiction writer would have been proud to have come up with. The book is so packed with so many twists and turns that you literally have to keep reminding yourself that this is in fact historical fact (of course with liberties taken from a writers point of view).

Humayun’s dreamlike character, his addiction to opium (encouraged14603_Humayun by the scheming mother of Kamran), his haywire schemes of running his court according to the stars, the titanic clashes with Sher Shah Suri, Humayun’s miraculous escapes, his fleeing across half of northern subcontinent seeking refuge (at one time reduced to a handful of men in rags pursued by armies), his reversal of fortune, the constant betrayals by his brothers, the constant battles when one battle has been won, his love of the women in his life – especially Hamida (the mother of Akbar).

All these read almost like a potboiler. I mean, for it being a novel based on history, I found myself on the edge of my seat many times as the book was polished off in a couple of readings.

For me, as with the first book, the appeal is in knowing more about the Mughals in a way that Wikipedia can never teach me – learning while being entertained. It is strange how little we really know of our history. As we witness the early Mughals struggling to reserve a vision that Babur had nurtured, we almost see modern India in the making as one of the greatest empires in modern world begins to take foothold. You get to know more about other characters – like Sher Shah, who are dismissed in a couple of sentences in most school books.

Importantly, it brings into focus a Mughal who is so often overlooked in history with almost everyone else hogging the limelight, even though it was him who actually set a firm foundation in India for the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Mughals. Humayun was emperor in actuality for a very short time and died almost in a bizarre tragedy when he tripped and fell down stairs after he had secured his kingdom after long gruelling years. We see a man who in more peaceful times would have become more of a poet rather than a king. His acts of benevolence especially in forgiving his brothers again and again is a feature that is almost impossible to imagine in his times when kings eliminated rivals at the first chance. Humayun comes as irritable personality  possessing all faults but more than compensating for them with his more generous qualities.

All in all, a gripping and enjoyable read. And hopefully the writing would keep on improving with the next one – on Akbar. Cant wait for that one…

Advertisements
Standard
English Movies, Thriller

The Illusionist directed by Neil Burger

2006_the_illusionist_wallpaper_0012 Take the acting genius of Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and the beauty of Jessica Biel and a villain played by Rufus Sewell, put it in turn of the century Vienna, throw in some great cinematography and make it a story of mystery, intrigue and love and yes lots  and lots of magic and what do you have?

A sublime watching experience, that's what you get…

Eisenheim (Norton), son of a cabinetmaker leaves home to go around the world after his budding romance with imgthe illusionist1Duchess Teschen (Biel) is thwarted, but not after he meets a travelling magician with whom he is fascinated.

He comes back many years later and he performs magic which seems almost paranormal in nature. He performs magic that no-one has ever seen before and rapidly becomes the talk of the town, attracting the attention of the crown prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) who is at this time engaged to Teschen (planned marriage for political reasons).

Eisenheim and Teschen meet on a show and embark on an affair but this time they plan to disappear properly. They weave a plan that has magic and mystery in huge dollops. The crown prince is the way though…

The acting is superb all around. Giamatti is superb in his role as the chief inspector in the pay of the crown prince and yet someone who has imgthe illusionist3a conscience and a thirst for knowledge of magic. He is also the narrator of the movie and the person who finally unravels the whole mystery. Norton is simply sublime in his role as the enigmatic and the intense magician. The variety of roles he can do is simply breathtaking…

The cinematography and the music score deserve a special mention.  Since the movie is a period piece, the ambience both visual and  auditory is vital. This movie has a wonderful synthesis of both.

Its a complete immersive experience – both from the visual point of view and from the story point of view. The the-illusionist11performances at the show are very gripping and very intense, especially the ones at the latter part, which border on necromancy.

This is a movie that can be seen again and again and which will be enjoyed everytime…

By the way, you will see some similarity with the movie “Prestige”, since both are period pieces and have elements of mystery…but both are different and both classics in their own right…

Standard