Synopsis

History collides 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 Wig

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 trend.
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 the way.
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 know.
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 yours".

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:

http://www.newindianexpress.com/columns/t_j_s_george/Bold-New-Books-on-Chanakya-and-China-Rama-and-Shiva-Time-for-Bold-New-Action-to-Get-A-Few-Banned/2014/08/03/article2361371.ece

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.

http://shadowdancingwithmind.blogspot.in/2014/08/up-close-personal-chanakya-returns-by.html

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 one.
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 instead.
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)