with news, emotion works with ambition, and imagination plays
with reality in a thrilling read. Love and Power are both drugs
and Chanakya Returns tries to keep us addicted. THE HINDU
Chanakya Returns is so apt a theme for our upside-down times that
it is surprising no one had thought it up before Timeri Murari.
TSJ GEORGE, New Indian Express.
And as the story grows, Chanakya slowly seeps into a powerful
position of the top political family of the country, as the trusted
and capable advisor to almost everyone in the family. From the
beginning, the story anchors you with a deep thoughts and beautiful
description of power play, of love and betrayals. shadowdancingwithmind.blogspot.
Politically, the dynamics of
this tale is fascinating. Murari presents Chanakya as a man who
renounces all idealism in favour of naked ambition. Aditya
Love and Power are both drugs
and Chanakya Returns tries to keep us addicted. Many have tried
to resurrect the legendary maestro of political puppetry and failed.
Timeri N. Murari, with his latest work of fiction, bucks that
Chanakya’s overwhelming legend has intrigued many of us. Whether
it is the picture woven by the Amar Chitra Katha, watching TV
stories about him, or just reading his work and his life as adults,
we wonder what it would be like to dig deep inside his head. To
have him land up in our times, and express himself through his
work certainly has our attention.
A modern day Chanakya rises through the ranks to help his ward
Avanti negotiate the labyrinths of power and love. Characters
and personalities pass by as the journey gathers speed and the
bumps start increasing. And, like the Maurya scion in history,
the dynast is handled with care; tough decisions being made on
As a writer, this is stepping into a lesser known world where
history collides with news, where emotion works with ambition,
and imagination plays with reality. Comparisons with real life
people and situations may exist — guessing who’s who, and drawing
parallels with father-daughter relationships is tempting — but
it takes away from the core story. The characters — what they
are, and what they bring to the (reading) table — are strong,
and the author knows them well. He has visualised them, explored
their minds, hearts (and bodies) and opens them out for us — but
only as much as Chanakya, the master craftsman, would have us
The paradox of power and love comes to the fore. The two try to
coexist, cooperate, collide and cross over. And sometimes, the
choice has to be made… The book makes its own choice. Power is
its strength, and love is its weakness. Power and love are incompatible,
Chanakya believes, and the book agrees. In Chanakya Returns, the
corridors of power far outweigh and out-value the streets of love.
The drama is in the power, and there lies the story. The thread
of a route to power, about choices that one makes, and the beauty
of their consequences inspires us enough to turn the page quickly
— for Murari’s prose and dialogues and style are well suited to
paint pictures of the pursuit of power.
In love, the clever use of words makes great reading and fodder
for thought. However, the power of love is more than that — it
has to be felt through the reading, it has to be as tangible as
the love for power that is your constant companion through the
book. And the power of love remains hidden in this book – you
are desperate for it to come through, you want to weigh both on
the same balance.
There are a few lines that would bring a smile to the readers’
lips — the plagiarising Machiavelli, for one. But those moments
of brevity are the seasoning. The meat is in the intrigue, the
gravitas, the skulduggery when doors are shut and most lights
are off. The shadows. That’s where Chanakya works from, and that’s
where the book goes to roost.
This is a book that you want to like. You want a fair battle between
Power and Love — you want both to reveal themselves, bring on
their armies, and spill blood on the pages. You want it to raise
questions about the way today’s politics works and to question
if the greater good is fair justification for the blood-spattered
journey. And it does raise some philosophical and moral questions.
If you like politics, a touch of history, and wheel within wheels,
read the book, for it will pique your interest. But even if you
don’t like these themes, read the book anyway, for you will be
supporting a writer who has pushed boundaries across time and
words and power and love. THE HINDU
Chanakya Returns is so apt a
theme for our upside-down times that it is surprising no one had
thought it up before Timeri Murari. But then, no one had thought
of Murari's The Taliban Cricket Club either. His newly minted
Chanakya is a master of 21st century politics. He has a grouse
or two, mainly about an Italian plagiarist called Machiavelli
who stole Chanakya's theories and achieved fame. "This is
the problem with death", muses Chanakya. "One thousand
seven hundred and fifty-two years later your work appears under
another man's name, granting him the immortality that is rightly
But the plagiarist never got
the opportunity that Chanakya got with his second coming. In his
modern avatar, Chanakya began advising Avanti, heir to a family
that has ruled the country for long, young and malleable and aware
of her favoured position in life. "I began service as a humble
clerk though not humble myself. I ensured I was loyal to her alone
and to none else. She noticed this loyalty and confined her thoughts
and emotions in me". Familiar?
Read about his advice on love.
"The heart is not to be trusted as it is brainless. Love
is a watery foundation. Like the flip of a coin, love can fall
into hate. Power is an aphrodisiac, it is unending hot sex in
1001 positions, it is magical, it is miraculous. Your followers
will worship you like an idol that can confer riches and miracles
more than any god". No wonder Avanti was persuaded to believe
that the love of power was better than the power of love. Familiar?
Perish the thought. This is a novel where "any resemblance
to any actual persons...is entirely coincidental". T
S J George.
Read his column:
And as the
story grows, Chanakya slowly seeps into a powerful position of
the top political family of the country, as the trusted and capable
advisor to almost everyone in the family. From the beginning,
the story anchors you with a deep thoughts and beautiful description
of power play, of love and betrayals.
Read the full review.
Any tale narrated by Chanakya—the teacher and philosopher
widely identified as ‘Kautilya’ or ‘Vishnugupta’ who authored
the Arthashastra— would be intriguing. More so when the narrator
is a spirit that is reborn to this world after thousands of years
in the void. Rebirth is the reason for Chanakya’s presence in
Murari’s world, but as for the how of such a thing, Chanakya replies,
‘I cannot answer… despite my years of non-existence, as I did
not find [God]… I am embarrassed by this to a certain degree.
Especially as I was a Brahman once, a believer in Mahavir and
am now an unbeliever’. There is a beauty to simplicity, but it
is entirely possible to wield Occam’s razor too bluntly.
Timeri N Murari is known for his bestsellers The Taliban Cricket
Club (2012) and The Taj (2007). In his latest novel, he is no
less engaging, speaking to jaded modern India with acerbic wit.
His Chanakya—once Mohanlal, the son of a modern day farmer who
finds himself possessed by the spirit of the ancient strategist—is
a dry, humourless man who believes in neither God nor love, driven
only by desires honed by ‘sucking on star dust for more than two
thousand years’. Burned at a young age in an accident, Mohanlal
finds that ‘something mysterious was growing in my mind... Mohanlal
was receding; Chanakya was growing more powerful, claiming my
thoughts and my heart’. The grown up Mohanlal, now calling himself
Chanakya, is a somewhat unsummoned guide who inexplicably is given
charge of Avanti, the daughter of the President of a nameless
state in India. Avanti is conflicted between her love for her
father, her ambition and the passion she feels for a filmmaker
she wants to marry. The novel begins with the latter conflict:
in Chanakya’s own words, ‘His name is Aditya, a nobody, and love
will only lead her to the role of a housewife, serving one man
and not a nation’. But Murari explores a more risqué angle as
well; there are suggestions of a less than platonic relationship
between Avanti and her father.
Politically, the dynamics of this tale is fascinating. Murari
presents Chanakya as a man who renounces all idealism in favour
of naked ambition. As his protégé, Avanti swiftly follows suit,
rising through the party ranks as she sheds her scruples one by
On the eve of Avanti’s first election campaign, for instance,
there is not even a suggestion in their council of war that the
election be fought on real issues, or with the aim of actually
bettering the lot of ‘the people’. Instead, Chanakya blandly states,
‘We make a list of promises for the poor, trailing them as a fisherman
the hook in the flowing waters’. This may be a true reflection
of today’s politics, but it is rather odd to hear Chanakya—a historical
contemporary of the Buddha, born in a time of deep philosophy
and sound morality— speak as though his understanding of dharma
and karma were at the same level as those of today’s leaders.
The character speaks as one schooled in the Arthashastra, rather
than as the one who wrote it; and while his infatuation with actress
‘Siggy Chopra’ may have been intended to humanise, it trivialises
The novel’s strength lies in its caricature of reality: Avanti’s
best friend Monika, the daughter of the wealthiest man in the
state, ‘lives in a thirty-floor building… [that] towers over the
city and peers down at the slums at its feet’; while the mercenary
habits of today’s godmen mean that— ‘Even on the pathway to heaven
you have to pay the toll before you start the journey’.
In terms of style, the book is both brisk and eventful. However,
in a curious choice of grammatical flourish, the text does away
with quotation marks entirely; forcing the reader to either slow
down and pick apart sentences individually, or speed up and sacrifice
complete understanding in the pursuit of narrative flavour.
Chanakya Returns is worth the jacket price, but if it has a weakness,
it is this: were it not for the fact that the narrator grandly
declares himself to be the Chanakya, one could quite plausibly
have imagined him as Lalu instead.
(Aditya Wig is the author of the forthcoming fantasy novel
King’s Fall, an alternative history of Chandragupta Maurya)