Shades Of Words

The Meluha Tragedy


What an appalling set of novels! The first two books in The Meluha Trilogy by Amish Tripathi are so god awful that I am not sure how they made it to the bestseller list. Has the taste of the Indian reading public fallen to such depths? What lowest common denominator do these novels cater to?

Writing a fantasy novel is no mean feat especially when you are taking on deeply well-known Indian mythological and divine characters. You would think any writer would be cautious in his presentation and tone. After all you are trying to rewrite an already well told story, you need to do a good if not better job.

Amish apparently did not worry about these things. Language, character development and plot, all founding pillars to a successful novel are not his concern. The trilogy tracks the journey of Shiva, a Tibetan tribal leader to becoming the Neelkanth, the savior of the people of India. Amish’s central concept is interesting – that all Indian Gods must have been mortals with unnatural achievements, which led them to worshipped, and there is a story that must be told. But the yarn that he spins is so lousy.

Some of friends who liked these books argued with me that he may have been limited by liberties with what he could take with religious figures. Even so, what excuse is there for the slipshod language? The books first sentence says the year is and 1900 BC and you have Shiva sprouting words like “Damn” and “Bloody Hell”. It’s not just that he swears in such modern way. It is that every fifth sentence out of his mouth starts with “What the hell…”.  Dialogs are so poorly written that they sound like casual conversations of Indian college kids over coffee – sensible but not coherent or necessarily grammatically correct.  Amish – it’s 1900 BC, you can’t have people speaking in contemporary slang. You can’t use words like immigration, operating rooms, police! As a reader I am trying to mentally trying to place the world that you have created and with these modern words I keep coming back to 21st century. It just does not work.

The novel is also very conversation based – everyone is talking to someone or the other. And with that quality of writing, the sheer quantity of dialogs is painful to wade through. Descriptions are bare minimum and not detailed, whatever exist are clearly inspired by Lord of The Rings. Amish clearly has no visualization of ancient India. A fantasy novel has to foremost succeed in creating an alternate world, whether it’s on earth or elsewhere. I am none the wiser about the land of Meluha after reading two books.

 The detailed battle scenes are annoying and distracting. I think Amish was thinking of a movie deal when he wrote those, as to how he would like the dance sequences to be choreographed.

The character development is poor if not negligible. None of the characters, including Shiva, have any depth.

I want to take two examples of writers from India who have written in a similar genre and have done so much of a better job. If you have time to spare, it’s their books that you should be reading instead of this.

The Gameworld Trilogy by Samit Basu is a way better attempt at this genre by an Indian writer. Granted it’s not based on Indian Gods, but Basu’s command on language and character with a reasonably intricate plot makes it a page turner. The world that he creates is detailed, colorful, magical just like his characters. You care what happens to Kirrin, Maya and Asvin. The first two novels in the series are a must, must read.

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee, tackles the story of Mahabharata from Draupadi’s point of view. Imagine how constricted Banerjee’s freedom must be in telling such a universally well-known tale. She worked within the same constricts as Amish does, and did such a fabulous job.  The language was beautiful and new dimensions were added to characters that you knew since childhood.

Seriously, I don’t have one reason to recommend The Meluha Trilogy to anyone.


Author: Vipula

Before talking about who we are, we’d like to tell you a bit about how and why Shades of Words came into being. It all started with the idea of “A place where we could share with likeminded people about things we enjoy. From books to music to movies to travel; Shades of Words was to be a place about the best of our experiences” We thought about why should anyone read us? The answer was that whatever we review would be a mix of our experience of the thing along with interesting and useful information about it. So in case you are reading us regularly or even checking us out once in a while then we have succeeded in our efforts someway somewhere. Who are we? Known as Kapil Sood and Vipula Gupta, we thought of Shades of Words on one fine Sunday afternoon. Tired of writing interesting RFP’s and project documentation; we decided to give this a shot. Yes! We work in Indian IT industry. Cupid struck us while were innocently slogging together on the highly intricate job of formatting and beautifying documents! And since then, we have been working together to establish Shades of Words as a place that we can claim as ours. (Because buying a house is still years away!) What else? Kapil also writes some blogs which you can read here and here.

16 thoughts on “The Meluha Tragedy

  1. It’s Meluha. Not Melhua. It’s misspelt all over your post. I suggest you correct it.

    Also, good one. Shows your frustration and it was good to point out other good works in the similar genre.

    • See I cared so little for the book that dont care if its meluha or melhua. But I will correct it anyway

      • 😀 I was laughing as I finished reading your review. It is true that Amish could’ve done a much much better job with this trilogy but what do you expect from a Banker turned Author? Besides it just shows his flaw as a bad author, one who didn’t do enough research into his reader demography.

        I would still defend this as an enjoyable read for light fiction while agreeing with your analysis that the dialogues are badly written, plot not too well thought out and characters speaking in new-age slang. I guess the sheer thought that someone managed to use mythology as a basis wowed me no-end.

    • She is definitely not showing her frustration. I mean, there really is nothing to get frustrated about. Also, this is someone’s point of view. And yes, thank her for the suggestions–you may just end up reading something better.

  2. It seems you are really pissed off by the fact that you wasted your money & time on these books. You know this book was like sleeping pills for me, cz as soon as I sat to reading em I felt soo damn sleepy 😛 But I am proud that you atleast finished reading them both…main toh woh bhi nahi kar pai. I some how cant relate to such books & also I wasnt able to digest Shiva’s way of speaking – Dude, Damn, Hell & stuff. Btw will you buy the 3rd book ?? It will help you hating this triology more!

    • I am glad you stopped when you did. I wish I had too. I am not even the least curious to read the third book

      • Oh I have more to add…you sounded like you are going to slap the poor author if he ever happens to be around you 😀 And you packed a mean punch in your review if I haven’t said it already.

  3. Ashmita – lot of people have used mythology to re-write stories so its not an achievement. And I am not bad at Amish..I am mad at everyone else who published it and then people who are reading it

  4. Very well written review. I think it has suddenly become a fad among the newly English literate public to be seen at public places with a cool looking paperback, or even discuss or feel like they are doing some serious reading when all they are gobbling up is glorified trash. When everybody is consuming trash as if there was no tomorrow, I should compliment the banker on coming up with this idea to milk some dough out of the mediocre tastes that has become mainstream.

    The core idea which could have been developed into a convincing tale was greatly put down by the abysmal quality of writing(I have read short stories by high school students which are far better in quality), a confused style- not sticking to dialogue based or descriptive or a careful balance, non-existent editing or rewriting. The banker could have at least employed a ghostwriter to spare us the torture of his horrible language. Anachronisms and half baked “scientific” explanations makes it irritating. There is no one reason that comes out that can explain the divine status that Shiva enjoyed in the novel. Being a good fighter and dancer is good to become a movie star not a God. The character was unexplored at best. The supporting cast is also a big let-down. The dialogues, even during important situations are ill thought out.

    Clever piece of marketing enabled the banker to laugh all the way to the bank. As for the rest of us, we did our bit to help. I now know why people still make trashy soaps on all the gazillion channels out there. Salute to Mr Tripathi!

    • Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful comment on the post. I agree on all points
      It is a wonder on how it became popular!
      I hold nothing against Mr. Tripathi – maybe he felt compelled to tell a story or maybe he decided to bank on the trend. Who knows!
      To be fair there will be a market for his books as there is always for all sorts of writing – but what annoys me is how large the market is.

  5. I fully agree! I purchased the first book due to the hype and suffered hours of agony in the anticipation that something good will now come up. Very very poor literary work. I have no idea why this book gets so many accolades. Probably younger generation’s expectations are too low and they obviously haven’t read good books in mythology+novel genre like Acharya Chatursen’s “Vayam Rakshamah”.
    Amish also wrote an article a week or so back in Hindustan Times and it confirmed my opinion about him as being a pathetic writer and thinker.

    • Hi Leo! Thanks for visiting. Yes, I am truly baffled by the success too. It could be a combination of poor expectations and also English being a 2nd language – probably things that seem easier to digest get a preference. Which is sad.
      I am not familiar with a lot of mythology fiction in India so will check out Chatursen’s book.

  6. Very good review. I wish I had read this before ordering the box set of all the three books– Immortals of Meluha, Secrets of the Nagas AND The Oath of the Vayuputras! I can only tell you, that your decision to not read the third book in the series was a very intelligent one, as it was the worst of the three.

    I share your dismay that these books have become bestsellers, and that it is somehow considered “cool” to be seen reading them. I frankly don’t understand people who say that these books gave them a renewed interest in Indian mythology and the epics. I sincerely pity those who have to rely on such shoddy writing, to awaken their interest in works that are so much more profound and sublime.

    The most irritating part of Amish’s novels, for me, was his absolute lack of regard for the period in which he had set his novels. It was just so frustrating to read modern management jargons like “orientation executive”, and “single point of contact”, spouted by characters in the 2nd millennium BCE! Not to mention Shiva’s use of modern slang like “Nah!!”, “Shit!”, “Dammit”, “What the Hell!” “Hell, Yes!!” and “Chill!”. Peppering dialogues with mild to moderate swear words may be popular between college friends no doubt, but one does outgrow that. Surely, it doesn’t make for good (or even passable) writing.

    Also there is the cringe worthy scene in the Immortals of Meluha, which portrays Shiva’s first meeting with the highly respected doctor Ayurvati. When Shiva and his tribe have migrated to the kingdom, Ayurvati meets Shiva to explain the quarantine and hygiene practices, which Meluha mandates for new immigrants. She says “If you are free now, I will give you instructions”. Shiva is shown as retorting “”I am free now, but I may have to charge you later”.

    Mischievous banter between friends is all fine, but for a supposed first meeting, this portrayal of ‘humor’ was risque, bordering on being sexist. Probably, the author was trying to show how Shiva was an impishly carefree man. Unfortunately, in this scene, Amish made Him seem juvenile and a bit bawdy.

    The characterization never improved thereafter, not just in Amish’s concept of Shiva, but of any of the other characters for that matter. Ganesh, Karthik and Bhrigu, for example, make nearly 180 degree turnarounds in their essential characteristics and beliefs, without so much as batting an eyelid, let alone any internal debate. Anandamayi, the Ayodhyan princess, tells her husband Parvateshwar, the Meluhan general, that she understands the painful choice he has to make, in putting his duty to his country over his deep love for his Living God, Shiva. However, she declares she has no choice except to oppose Meluha, since she knows (as he does), that Emperor Daksha is leading his country down the path of wrongdoing.

    But within literally two chapters, she traipses off with Parvateshwar to the Meluhan capital Devagiri, with nary a further thought of opposing the empire. Once in Devagiri, she merrily continues with her ritual bath ‘in milk and rose petals on days of the sun’ and with ‘warm water on other days’! Good Lord!! It seems the Meluhan milk of human kindness (or was it the fragrant roses?) overcame her convictions! 😉

    Sadly, it seems the world today just proves Mark Twain’s famous quote “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising”! Amish has already started the blitzkrieg of publicity for his “Ramchandra” series, which would also probably be lapped up despite having his trademark sloppy writing and lazy editing. Well, what can one say–such is the world we live in!

    • Hi Vijay, thanks for stopping by. Your review is perfectly spot on and incredibly entertaining. If you don’t already blog you should, and if you do then please do share the link of your website. I am mortified with the thought of what would happen to the Ramchandra series.

      • Thank you for your reply. I don’t blog, frankly I don’t think I could carry it off very well. Glad you liked my previous comment, but the entertainment was owing to how snarky I felt, after reading Amish’s triumvirate of tedium. 😉

        I remember reading a review that caricatured the first 2 books as “The Immortals of Meh” and “The Secret Nag” 😉 That was a priceless description, I thought. The 3rd (which was the worst by a fair distance), should probably be caricatured as “The Odious Vacuous Putras” or something like that!

        Seriously, I am astounded people are even considering reading the Ramchandra series. BTW, have you read Shatrujit Nath’s “The Guardians of Halahala”? That is also in the “mythological thriller” space, but he’s done such a massively better job than Amish did. This book has a few flaws too (mainly to do with too many sub plots), but I found it a compelling read.

  7. Thanks for the recommendation Vijay. I will add to my TBR pile!

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