Bones TV Show Review

songs-bonesBones is one of those shows I had known about for a while but never really felt the urge to watch. However, that changed last year (or perhaps it was 2015, I don’t quite remember). After finishing the X-files for the umpteenth time and feeling lost without a show to watch, I chanced upon Bones. Netflix alleged that it was similar to X-files  and I having ended my last X-files binge and desperate for more, decided to take the plunge.

Like X-filesBones details the lives of two ‘partners,’ FBI Agent Seeley Booth, played by David Boreanaz, and Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan, played by Emily Deschanel. However, unlike the X-files, Bones doesn’t deal with exclusively paranormal phenomena and is actually based upon the best selling books of an actual forensic anthropologist, Dr. Kathy Reich. In an ironic twist, Dr. Brennan actually writes book about her forensic adventures using a character named Dr. Kathy Reich (LOL). As such, the show is a tad bit more ‘science-focused’ than other procedurals. Oh I forgot to mention, Bones is basically a police procedural in that each episode features a new mystery. However it also follows X-files method of having an over-arching story-line as well. Whereas X-files focused upon government conspiracies, Bones focuses more on the lives of its protagonists. To be honest, I think that’s where the similarities between the two shows end. Beyond that, they are quite different (although it amusing to note that Bones has actually referenced the X-files and other pop culture phenomena in its show before).

In essence, the show is about how Booth and Brennan (also called Bones by Booth, hence the name of the show), use the bones of murder victims to figure out how they died and bring the killers to justice. Booth heads up the Major Crimes branch at the Bureau, while Dr. Brennan works at the Jeffersonian Museum (based upon the real-life Smithsonian Museum in the United States), in its medico-legal lab. Booth finds the bodies and brings them to Bones, where then she and her science team use the bones/ body tissue, and surrounding particulates, to provide clues about the dead person/ how they died. Booth then interprets these clues to narrow down on a list of possible suspects and find the killer (Brennan actually assists him with this as she often participates in suspect interrogation and active field work). Brennan’s team consists of the following: Dr. Camille Saroyan, played by Tamara Taylor, a forensic pathologist who actually heads the medico-legal lab, Dr. Jack Hodgins, played by TJ Thyne, an entomologist, botanist, and geologist/mineralogist, Angela Montenegro, the in-house artist and computer expert, and a variety of other forensic interns/ assistants. As a result, the show, at least initially, was quite science-y at its centre. Brennan and her team would often sprout real life facts about bones, insects, etc. in order to determine time of death, cause of death, location of death, etc. However, as the show progressed, the science took more of a back seat.

The show has actually been on-air for about 12 years, having first aired in 2005. And the first few seasons of the show are quite different from the later seasons. In fact, the first season all but screams that it was filmed in the mid-2000s with its equipment, clothing style, look, etc. However, that doesn’t mean it was bad. It was quite enjoyable and still fun to watch. Yet, the long duration of the show has had an impact on the characters, particularly that of Dr. Brennan.

When the show first began, Brennan was shown to be this socially awkward scientist. Possessing a genius level intellect, she often had trouble with pop culture, often remarking, “I don’t know what that means,” when it came to simple stuff like Booth referencing the team work of Mulder and Scully from the X-files. Yet, despite her awkwardness, she was still ‘relatable,’ for a lack of a better word. She understood some common phenomena like ‘booty calls’ and wasn’t overly detached from the world. Despite her awkward social skills, she still had *some* skills. She was also more willing to accept mistakes, was super confident and independent, and spoke normally; a pretty likeable character. However, as the show progressed, her character changed. Instead of progressing and maturing, she began regressing. She became progressively more and more awkward, possesses almost little to no social skills, and is incredibly arrogant. Her speech patterns have also taken on this odd random word-elongation tone. Like I read somewhere else, the writers took out all the stuff that made her complex and instead just heightened her more annoying traits. Sometimes, I legitimately do not understand how people stand her.

Which brings me to another point: the writers in the show SUCK at showing vs. telling. They always do the latter. For example, we’re constantly told that Brennan has a good heart, that she’s BFFS with Angela, people love her, etc. But we’re rarely shown it, instead people just talk about it (and the audience is supposed to believe it I guess). In regards to Brennan having a good heart, there have been episodes that have shown just how much she cares. Particularly in the earlier seasons, there were some really, really great episodes where she showed A LOT of heart (particularly those that dealt with foster kids). Yet aside from those few, she’s actually quite insensitive in many others episodes and its difficult to believe the repetitions of her being this really good hearted person. Like I mentioned before, she actually comes across as an emotionally stilted jerk a lot of the times. And regarding her friendship with Angela, I don’t always see it either. Angela always mentions that she loves Brennan, but as of late, the friendship and love are sorta missing.  A lot of the time, Brennan just sprouts some logic or random anthropological facts while Angela doesn’t really understand it and talks about her own stuff. Or Angela talks about something and Brennan tends to just focus on her own stuff rather than talk about Angela’s issues. Honestly, these issues could easily be resolved, if instead of shoving down such dialogue, the writers just make scenes that show it instead. Showing stuff is always better than having  people remark upon it constantly (and yes, I do mean it happens quite consistently).

And finally, as Dr. Brennan is a forensic anthropologist foremost, the initial seasons of the shows actually focused upon this. While on active field duty with Booth, Brennan would often make anthropological observations about the societies/ tribes/ peoples they were dealing with and it was often fascinating. However, as of late, I’ve begun to find that the anthropological focus has diminished a bit. Brennan no longer makes anthropological observations about the cases. A lot of the time, she just sticks to examining the bones and dealing with some discussion she and Booth are having. Now this change isn’t the worst thing in the world, and the cases they investigate do remain quite interesting as the seasons progress. However, I definitely do miss the science-y and anthropological focus of the initial show. In my opinion, it was what made the show stand out among the many police procedurals that currently exist.

However, even these complaints, I still enjoy this show, at least for the most part. I think the earlier seasons are definitely most enjoyable than the later ones. However, the later ones are decent as well. Plus, the acting in this show is pretty great as well. All the actors, not just the leads, are pretty consistent performers. However, my favourite thing about the show, is the fact that it has some really, really beautiful episodes. Surprisingly, for all its flaws, sometimes the writers manage to hit the ball out of the park spectacularly. Some that particularly stand out, are 2×09 “Aliens in a Spaceship,” 3×13 “The Verdict in the Story,” 4×26 “The End in the Beginning,” 6×09 “The Doctor in the Photo,” and 8×16 “The Patriot in Purgatory,” among many others. I have actually watched these and other memorable episodes countless times, but their impact never lessons.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a crime procedural with a science-y touch and to witness some fantastic, heartfelt episodes.

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Snowpiercer Movie Review

snowpiercer-movie-poster-2014-1020770694

I have no clear idea what propelled me to watch this movie. Maybe it was because it fit in the sci-fi genre (ma favvv). Or maybe it was because it had Chris Evans in a very de-glamourized role. Honestly, I have no idea. And after I watched it, I literally questioned myself why I even watched it (?!?). Like what was I thinking?

In a nutshell, the movie focuses on a post apocalyptic world. In an effort to “fix” global warming, scientists end up triggering an ice age. Life on Earth is virtually wiped out. The only people who managed to survive, are aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that continually travels around the Earth (for over 17 years). However, the inhabitants in the train are also divided along class lines. The Elites live near the front of the train, bathing in luxury. For example, on the train, they’re given freshly grown fruit (there’s a literal green house in a train compartment), children are educated, they have extravagant parties, and there’s even a “drug” they are hooked on. All in all, basically living like the elites of today, but just on a train. On the flip side, both literally and metaphorically, are the poor residing in the rear of the train. They are treated quite horribly and only given a small gelatinous protein bars to sustain them. Similarly, their children are not educated and they barely have any access to clean water.

In the beginning of the movie, we’re treated to scenes from the lives of the poor people. Along with being subject to threats, violence, poor food and living conditions, their children are also inspected and occasionally taken away. Chris Evans plays Curtis, one of the poorer people. He’s been receiving covert messages from someone in certain gelatinous bars. Motived by these messages and their general living conditions, Curtis and his mentor, an elderly man named Gillam (portrayed by John Hurt), begin thinking of ways to revolt, to improve their conditions. With the general poor populous, they theorize that if they can get to the front of the train, they can control it and their living conditions. Hence, they set out. What happens next, are bloody, violent, crazy battles through which Curtis and his companions progress. Seriously, it’s pretty insane with people being stabbed, shot at, axed, etc.

At the end of the film, after having to sacrifice many of his close companions, Curtis finally reaches the front of the train and meets its creator, Wilford, played by Ed Harris. Here’s where things get flipped, and Wilford reveals that the entire revolution was actually engineered BY him and Gillam (!!). Wilford explains that the train was originally built with a specific, balanced ecosystem. However, over time, as the populations of the rich and poor increased, the ecosystem went off balance. As the train was the “true eternal,” it was imperative that the ecosystem be maintained. So along with his friend Gillam (Wilford and Gillam were friends), the two conspired to have Curtis and his poor companions revolt. In the ensuing revolt, the plan was that 74% of the poor people would be killed in the carnage, to ensure that the ecosystem would return to balance. Along with balancing the ecosystem, the revolt would also ensure that the poor people still had hope (hope meant that they wouldn’t *all* join the fight so less chance of it being successful) and its violent suppression would keep the system intact through a fear of authority (remember, a lot of people were killed in the revolt).

After revealing all this, Wilford explains that he’s grown old and would like to give Curtis the reigns of the train. In other words, Curtis would become the leader and be responsible for maintaining the ecosystem. Curtis is Wilford’s choice, because as he puts it, Curtis is only one who has seen the entire train, from back to front, and hence actually understands how the train works as a balanced ecosystem. Curtis is distraught after learning this, especially about Gillam’s role in the plot. However, just before Curtis could accept the offer of leadership, it’s reveals that the train uses child labour. As the train had been continuously running for 17 years, some parts had become extinct. In order to ensure that the train continued to run, because it was the only “eternal,” the children of the poor people were used as machine parts. For example, a child was forced to crouch down in small, unsanitary, dangerous, polluted conditions and manually pull out coal from the movie train to ensure that the train didn’t stop. This is the final straw for Curtis, as it turns out that one of the children used as slave labour, is actually the child of one of his friends, a child that he himself adores.  He’s vehemently disgusted, refuses Wilford’s offer, and sacrifices his arm to save the child, Timmy.

That last part is actually really great because it functions as the closing of a circle. As Curtis explained in the film later, the initial conditions for those at the back of the train were so horrible, that they had to resort to cannibalism to survive. In fact, to his own horror and regret, Curtis participated. He describes how he was about to eat a baby (the baby coincidentally turns out to be his best friend later on L-O-L), when Gillam stopped and sacrificed his arm in lieu of the baby. Gillam’s single act of sacrifice moved everyone in the poor section and changed them. Instead of killing and eating each other, people began sacrificing themselves as food. However, Curtis could not bring himself to sacrifice his arm, no matter how much he tried. Eventually, as the train conditions settled, the poor people were given the gelatinous protein bars to eat, stopping the cannibalism. However, in the end, Curtis does in fact sacrifice his arm to save a child. So like I said, coming a full circle. Really great scene.

Anyways, the movie ends with the entire train exploding and only two people surviving, Curtis not among them. Like I said, pretty crazy movie. But, it would be amiss to assume the craziness to be synonymous with a bad movie as this movie is far from bad. It actually prompts some really great discussions and is peppered with decent script-writing, acting, and directing. I mean, I already mentioned the full-story circle of Curtis himself. However, that’s not the only themes at work in this movie. I read somewhere that the movie was actually an allegory and I’d have to completely agree. For me, one of the biggest themes throughout the movie was the theme of human hubris. In their ego and pride, humans believed they could eradicate global warming. And yet, their arrogance was what led to their downfall and they triggered the next ice age. Similarly, throughout the train, Wilford continually harps on about the train being the only “eternal,” believing that the train would go on forever. Thereby also justifying his actions and boosting his own ego. However, as the end of the movie shows, the train was not eternal and the world had in fact begun thawing from its ice age. In their own arrogance, the characters let their hubris cloud their minds and ended up warping the world and their actions.

I also really liked the way Curtis’s character evolved. Throughout the movie, Curtis is presented as the hero. The protagonist who’ll lead the poor people to a successful revolution and end up changing the world of the train. However, as the film continues, cracks appear in this description. We see how Curtis sacrifices his best friend in an effort to ensure his revolution succeeds. Curtis himself confesses how he was willing to resort to cannibalism to survive. In fact, he openly admits that he preferred to eat human babies because they ‘tasted better.’ He’s actually not the hero. This is especially highlighted when his views are contrasted with those of Namgoong, played by Song Kang-Ho, who was an engineer put into a coma as a punishment for doing too many drugs. On an abstract level, Curtis believes in the system of the train. He operates within the system and attempts to hold it in place. In other words, he implicitly supports Wilford’s ideas. On the other hand, Namgoong steadfastly refuses the system. While Curtis plans to take hold of the train by reaching the front, Namgoong plans to blast out of the train. He’s been observing the outside world and has come to the realization that things are changing, i.e. the ice age is subsiding. He openly rejects the system and instead embraces a new one, one not regulated by class or economics. In the end, its Namgoong whose plan Curtis concedes to. Hence, Curtis is shown to be wrong; he’s not the hero. However, he’s also not quite the villain, he’s just simply a human.

Of course, these are just two themes that I found and really resonated with. I’m convinced that there’s many others that I haven’t picked upon but others have. It’s an extremely thought-provoking film. And as this is technically a movie review, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the acting or directing or writing. In terms of acting, if you can’t tell by my review, Chris Evans really knocked it out of the park. He was fabulous as Curtis and gave a very believable performance (although I will say, he did look a tad too muscled, but that’s just me). And the supporting actors, like Song Kang-Ho, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Ed Harris were all really great as well. Directing was pretty good as well. It was actually directed by a South Korean filmmaker, Bong Joon-Ho and apparently this was his english-language debut.  My only issue with his filming, was that he made Namgoong’s character speak exclusively Korean. I just thought it was kinda strange. Aside from that, I thought he did a pretty great job, especially when it came to the action sequences and the visual affects. Definitely enjoyed the cinamatography as well. And coming to writing, again, really good as well. Apparently the movie was based upon a French graphic novel. I have not read the novel, but I definitely really enjoyed the themes the movie touched upon.

My rating: watch it if you’re feeling philosophical and be prepared to be taken aback by the acting (Chris Evans especially) and its thought-provoking nature.

Udta Punjab Movie Review

album_artI had heard of this Bollywood movie before it had even released, because of how controversial it was. Apparently, there was a scene in the movie where the main character literally peed upon people and the Indian Censor Board made nearly 100 cuts in the film. The latter action led to protests, claiming that the Censor Board was acting arbitrary and employing censorship in a free speech country. As a result, the film was pirated heavily before it was even officially released. So, as you can probably surmise, it created quite a ruckus in its early days, despite still being in production. Hence, when it came out, I was a little hesitant to watch the film for the content and decided that I would rather wait for the movie to be released online rather than watch it in theatres. Luckily, it appeared on NetFlix and I took the plunge and watched it.

Broadly, the movie deals with the theme of drug abuse in the Indian state of Punjab, and it does so through the usage of four distinct characters who also inhabit distinct parallel stories; those directly involved with drugs and those indirectly.

The story begins with rockstar Tommy and his mania. After getting lucky in England, Tommy lands a music record deal and becomes a huge sensation in Punjab, India. Not sure what to sing about, he sings about the only thing he knows: drugs. His songs are full of references to alcohol, drugs, misbehaviour, etc. His usage of drugs affects him adversely, to the point where he accidentally shoots his beloved uncle in the ear. After getting arrested for possession, he finally experiences the adverse effect his songs and persona have had on the youth of Punjab. There’s a chilling scene where two young boys, in the same jail as Tommy, begin singing one of Tommy’s songs, never once missing a beat. They praise him and speak of him as their idol. It’s only afterwards that we learn that the boys were in jail for killing their mother — after she refused to give them money to get their next hit.

However, no matter how much Tommy wants to leave the drugs behind, he has no idea how to as they fulfil such a pivotal role in his life. There’s a scene where after getting arrested for drug possession and his shooting mania, Tommy is convinced to give a concert promoting drug abstention. However, before he goes on stage, Tommy begins freaking out. He’s never performed without drugs, he only ever performs about drugs. Without them, he doesn’t know what to do. His cousin covertly comes to his rescue and gives him a small hit. At first, Tommy is repulsed and throws away the package, after remembering the whole drug-induced shooting fiasco. The uncle he shot at, was the uncle who looked after him after his father died, the uncle who sent him to London, the uncle who funded his sister’s wedding, the uncle who manages his career, the uncle who was willing to go to jail for him, the uncle he himself adores. However, his anxiety gets the best of him and he takes the hit. On stage, he begins to lose it, revealing his anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and humble origin story. However, his fans revolt, wanting to hear him sing about drugs. Tommy looses fully and urinates on his fans, to their fury. They break through barricades and begin chasing him. This is where he comes into contact with Bauriya.

“Bauriya,” played by Alia Bhatt, was a former rising hockey star. But her father’s early death forces her to move to Punjab and work as a migrant farmer to earn money. While working in the fields, she inadvertently comes across a packet of drugs. Naively, she dreams of selling them and finally living the high life. Through street smarts, she calculates how many kilos she has and how much she can sell them for. She gets into contact with a local drug lord and brokers a meetup. On the way to the meetup, she’s incredibly happy. She dresses up pretty and is thrilled when a local boy notices her. However, the further she gets to her designation, the further she realizes what a stupid position she’s put herself in. She becomes wary of the attention of the men leering at her and gets pursued by the drug lords goons. Finally realizing her folly in getting involved in such a dangerous and dirty situation, she attempts to rectify by throwing all the drugs down a well. However, she’s caught by the goons and taken back to the drug layer. They decide what to do with her, and come to the decision to take her as a sexual play-thing.

In an heart-breaking scene, Bauriya realizes what’s happening and desperately fights to be free. She manages to make it out of the room she’s been held captive but then is pinned down and forcibly injected with heroin. As she fades with the drugs, she’s presumably gang-raped. She’s kept as a play-thing and used by numerous people, all while being given drugs to keep her restrained. She wakes up one night, in a drug haze, and walks through the goons house (the drug lord lives in a normal Punjab house) until she ends up at the entrance. She stands there, unaware, until another goon points at her and snaps her out of her haze, making her realize her opportunity for escape. She runs away and meets Tommy whose also on the run, but from his fans.

Tommy discusses his sad life and asks her if she’d like to join him in suiciding — because he sees no other way out. Bauriya scoffs at him and iterates her intent to live and fight on. After Tommy’s fans find him and beat him up, Bauriya manages to use her hockey skills to save him. Fed up of his talking, Bauriya finally reveals her horrible story — kissing him and telling him that her captors did everything to her but that. Tommy is taken aback and finally realizes that there’s other options. After seeing Bauriya get recaptured by the drug goons, he makes it his priority to rescue her.

Meanwhile, on the other side, police officer Sartaj, played by Diljit Dosanjh, uses his wits to directly benefit from the system. Although he doesn’t explicitly partake in the drug trade by taking them or selling them, he does encourages their illegal sale alongside his other corrupt officers. However, when his younger brother gets involved, Sartaj’s world is taken for a spin as he finally experiences first-hand results of his activities. He forcefully admits his younger brother to a rehabilitation centre. Feeling incredibly guilty, he decides to straighten his world and secretly teams up with Dr. Preet to reveal the main men behind the drug trade to the government, in hopes that things would change.

Dr Preet, played by Kareena Kapoor Khan, is vehemently opposed to drugs and runs a rehabilitation centre alongside publishing several article about the dangers of drugs. It is through Sartaj’s younger brother’s overdose that she meets Sartaj. They both decide to team up and take down the illegal drug trade by outing the men. She generally plays a more outside role in the conflict before Sartaj recruits her to spy with him. Using his police training, Sartaj manages to scope out a fake business through which drugs are illegally obtained. He manages to trace the business to a building and finds out that a local politician, who publicly abhors drugs and argues against them, has been actively taking part in the drug trade. He convinces Preet to come along with him to a stakeout and using her medical acumen and his skills, they manage to get incriminating proof for those behind the illegal drug trade and the main drug lord. Through their time together, they grow close and Sartaj develops a crush on Preet. After they finish their report, she reciprocates and the two make plans to go on a date after submitting their report to the government.

However, during that same night, Sartaj’s younger brother, suffering from withdrawal symptoms, angry at being detained against his will in the rehabilitation facility, and wanting to go back to his old lifestyle, breaks glass and manages to escape the facility. Preet comes and attempts to stop him. In an heart-breaking scene, instead of treating him like any other patient and saving her hide, Preet instead attempts to handle Sartaj’s little brother head-on, thinking of him as more than just any other patient due to the Sartaj connection. In the ensuing struggle, the younger brother ends up fatally stabbing Preet. As Sartaj is a part of the local police, they come to the crime scene and begin attempting to stage the murder as a robbery attempt gone wrong, in an effort to protect the brother as they see Sartaj as one of their own. However, in their attempts, they come across the damning report written by Sartaj and Preet that outs all of them as a part of the drug trade. Furious, they grab him and take him to the house of the local drug lord, the same place where Bauriya is being held.

I’m going to refrain from giving out the ending because I think it’s one of the more interesting scenes. In general, I think this is one of the best movies I’ve seen made in 2016. There were a lot of times where I was taken aback by just how hard-hitting and uncomfortable some scenes where. It didn’t shy away from portraying the grim realities of drug abuse. There’s nothing glorifying about it. As the movie showed, everyone is affected by it and no one wins.

What I also appreciated, was how the story was told. There wasn’t really an overt preachy message being shown. If anything, both good and bad people suffered. Also, while the theme of the movie was serious, there were moments of dark humour that elevated the movie. One really great example, was the one mentioned of the boys singing to Tommy in jail earlier. It starts off funny but then quickly becomes horrifying. And I think it symbolized the attraction and eventual life-cycle of addictions well. Also, even with the extremely dark theme and story-telling, I appreciated how the makers displayed little glimpses of hope. There are two scenes that particularly stand out to me:

1. In an effort to rescue Bauriya, Tommy sneaks into a hospital to meet a drug goon to figure out Bauriya’s location. The goon recognizes Tommy and demands that Tommy sing a song before he reveals the location. Tommy proceeds to sing a song. However, instead of singing about drugs or any of his previous songs, he instead sings a beautiful song (sidenote– the song was actually written by a famous Punjabi poet in the 1900s) about a girl, presumably Bauriya. That scene is so beautiful because it symbolizes the hopeful future, not only for Tommy, but also for Punjab. Tommy finally found something else to focus upon, to become his muse; thereby lessening his reliance on the drugs. Whereas the fact that the song was actually composed by a Punjabi poet and speaks of such beauty is hopeful, symbolizing that the land is capable of producing more than just drug addled youths. Sidenote — Tommy actually sort of symbolized Punjab for me — something caught up in its dependence/ system and seeing no out but then realizing that there is hope and freedom.

2.  When Bauriya is first given the drugs in an attempt to subdue her, she obviously experiences a feeling like no other. In the movie, this feeling is symbolized by her swimming freely in a vast open space; floating and being weightless. At the end of the film, when she’s finally drug-free, she goes and begins swimming in the ocean. And the director filmed the scene exactly like the previous swimming scene, with her floating and being weightless. In order words, implying that it was possible to achieve immeasurable peace and happiness using things other than drugs. Thereby providing a hopeful message that drugs aren’t the only things that will bring you peace/ there’s no reason to take them.

On that note, Alia Bhatt’s acting is fantastic. Her Bihari accent does slip a few times, but the sheer amount of emotion and feeling she brings as Bauriya is outstanding. Her monologue after beating up Tommy’s fans was amazing. Another shining star was Diljit Dosanjh. From what I understand, this was his debut performance and he just knocked it out of the park. He brought so much depth to Sartaj and completely grounded his actions. I was taken aback. Kareena Kapoor Khan and Shahid Kapoor were also fantastic of course. However, I will say that Kareena Kapoor Khan’s acting as Preet reminded me quite a bit of her performance in Jab We Met as Geet. Also, the two mentioned before just blew me away. Stand out, wonderful performances. An absolutely wonderful, hard-hitting film.

That said, I’d also warn people. This movie is incredibly, INCREDIBLY offensive in its language. I don’t think there was a single scene in which swear words were not used. And there is some violence as well.

My rating:  Be prepared to be blown away by the darkness and grimness of this film and marvel at the story-telling abilities of the film and actors.

The Oath of the Vayuputras Book Review

the_oath_of_the_vayuputrasI was incredibly excited to get my hands on this book. After having read The Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas, I felt like I was ready to finish off this series and discover how the legends of the Indian Gods came to be. As a refresher for those of you unaware: The Oath of the Vayuputras is the final instalment in the Shiva Trilogy (other books listed earlier), and attempts to tell the story of Indian God Shiva and his companions as if they were humans rather than Gods (who eventually became Gods through their stories/ actions). The Immortals of Meluha (TIoM) introduced us to Shiva and the strange new world he discovered. The Secret of the Nagas (TSotN) fleshed out the world and narrowed down on a specific plot. And The Oath of the Vayuputras attempted to consolidate everything together with one giant battle.

Therefore, much like the previous book, The Oath of the Vayuputras picks up where the last book ended. Along with finding out the secret of the Nagas, we also finally discover what the purpose of the Neelkanth is: to destroy evil. However, as we learned throughout the first and second book, there wasn’t quite a clear consensus on what the evil exactly was. At first, Shiva thought it meant he had to conquer the Chandravanshi’s and then he thought it meant that he had to unite India. In this book, the true evil is revealed. I’m refraining from posting the actual spoiler, but like in the other books, this discussion on evil takes on quite a philosophical character. And like always, I found it quite enjoyable to read it.

Anyways, after the evil is revealed, it turns out that people are not quite convinced by Shiva’s definition of evil. As such, a war begins between, with those supporting Shiva (many of the side characters we were introduced too in earlier books) and those against him (the rulers of Meluha, Swadeep, and some priests). This war actually forms the crux, and numerous pages are devoted to describing the various battle formations, actual battle scenes, and the aftermath of such battles. Along with the war, the book also begins touching about the entire Neelkanth myth.

In TIoM, we were told that Lord Ram established a system of living which was replicated, down to the minute details in Meluha, and greatly respected by other kingdoms. It turns out, that the Vasudevs who communicated with Shiva in TSoN, were actually devotees of Ram who encompassed his teachings and were tasked with ensuring that they were followed (?). However, despite this connection, the Neelkanth wasn’t really a manifestation of Ram or even directly related to him. Lord Ram’s duty (and the duty of his later reincarnations (?)) was to pave a way of life, to ensure that the good was revealed and used. The Neelkanth, on the other hand, was to analyze when the balance between good and evil tilted toward evil, and then eradicate that evil. Fittingly then, the Neelkanth was a manifestation (reincarnation?) of Lord Rudra instead. Lord Rudra, as implied, was a fierce and just God who existed to ensure that good prevailed over evil and destroy the evil. Just as the Vasudevas were devotees of Ram, the Vayuputras (in the title of the book), were accordingly devotees of Rudra. As such, it was their duty to monitor the world and decide when the need for the Neelkanth arose and then accordingly raise the fabled One. However, as TIoM showcased, the Neelkanth wasn’t really chosen or declared by them. Instead, to everyone’s shock, Shiva’s blue neck exposed him as the Neelkanth. Hence, there also existed some confusion over whether Shiva was really the fabled the Neelkanth, or just some impostor who happened to coincidentally have a blue neck.

To this end, the book delves, albeit a little, into Shiva’s background and how he turned out the be the Neelkanth. Turns out, his uncle was a former Vayuputra. He recognized that the good was slowly turning evil and advocated for the declaration of the Neelkanth. However, the other vayuputras refused to listen to him. Hence, the uncle, Manobhu, stole the ingredients necessary to “create” the Neelkanth (blue neck), and secretly administered them to Shiva as he was convinced that Shiva was indeed the fabled Neelkanth, sent by the universe/ God. What was also interesting, was that apparently, Shiva’s mother was the sister of the Vayuputra leader (who also secretly defected and helped make Shiva the Neelkanth), while his father was Manobhu’s brother, aka also related to vayuputras.

Anyways, pretty interesting book. In general, I thought the book did a decent enough job of closing Shiva’s story. I particularly enjoyed how almost anti-climactic the end was. The end destruction commences amid sadness, without much fanfare or dispute. It was unexpected and created a melancholic tone that I think worked quite well for the book. It was enjoyable to read. That said, I definitely had a few complaints.

Firstly, I don’t quite understand why this book was named The Oath of the Vayuputras. To be more precise, through the title, I expected the book would deal with the Vayuputras at length. As mentioned earlier, we do get their backstory and there are actually quite a few chapters upon this. However, when it comes to the Vayuputras themselves, we’re only really given a few chapters (maybe 3?) where we actually get to see them. I just, it felt very misleading. Actually, I also found myself curious about the Vayuputras, about their way of life, their engineering, their own individual stories. Alas, we don’t get much on that.

Secondly, I was quite unsatisfied by the whole how-Shiva-became-Neelkanth story. We were given the basics of what happened, but not really why it happened. How was Manobhu sure that Shiva was the fabled One?  To this end, there is a tiny discussion on Shiva’s third eye (?) but even that isn’t explicitly explained. For someone quite new to Indian mythology, I would’ve much preferred a more in-depth explanation. On this note, I also found myself quite interested in the lives of those before Shiva, namely his parents and relatives (like Manobhu). I mean, we got more hints into the background of Sati and her father Daksha, than we did Shiva. It would’ve been nice to have the same focus on Shiva’s background.

Thirdly, there was also a lot, A LOT of unnecessary detailing. There were times where Amish just went on and on in describing places, things, people, etc. I mean, I understand the need for detail, but there’s also something to be said for being efficient with words. The overly detailed passages also led to the book to be quite long in its length, with over 500 pages of words. It was annoying and in my opinion, majorly detracted from the book/ reading experience. I found myself skimming through a few passages and/or pages as I got so bored with the overly verbose descriptions.

All in all, a decent enough conclusion. It could’ve definitely been improved upon (seriously, where were the editors?) but it was decent enough.

My rating: read it to finish the Shiva adventure and learn some more about Indian Mythology, but skip it if you aren’t interested in either.