Anarkali by Sumant Batra

The mystifying presence of Anarkali has loomed large in history and folklore. Only a handful of dubitable details mark her story. In Anarkali, Sumant Batra ventures to piece together the puzzle surrounding her, giving her an identity, name, family and a life beyond the tragic love affair. Anarkali is a labour of love that expertly fuses research and imagination.

Until now, all that I remembered about Anarkali was that she was trapped alive in a wall and the song “Pyaar kiya to darna kya”. So, when I came across the title and concept of Anarkali, I was intrigued beyond measure. According to Mr Batra, his vision behind this book was to give life and recognition to a character whose identity had been overshadowed by her lover for ages (as might have already been proven through what I remember of her and what you too may). 

This book was an attempt to share the tale of an independent, resilient, courageous and talented woman who the world has ignored. Anarkali is a work of fiction, derived from historical facts. It shares the story of how a little girl with a passion for dance gained the fame of being Anarkali. 

The author has done an amazing job of conveying the elegance of those times, just through the language. When I read the book, I was transported to the era of the Mughals. Anarkali pays a fitting tribute to the ways of the Mughal empire, the intricacies of the social policies and the rich language and culture of the period. Even when talking about the present world, he has used the right words at the right places to maintain the essence of the story.

The story weaves the tale of Anarkali seamlessly. It beacons you to enter a world of fantasy that you never want to end. The transition of the tale from one chapter to the next was very smooth and well thought. I believe that even the chapter titles deserve a special mention because of the thought that went into them, despite being to the point and serving as a forewarning, they kept the mystery of the tale alive. Even though I knew the end of the book (as popular in various tales), I held my breath as it unfolded before my eyes. The flow of the story itself was enough to keep me up, reading it tirelessly. 

The best part of the book, that touched my heart was the character description. Often we see the “side” characters sidelined to an extent that you are left wondering what might have happened to them. Anarkali was able to satisfy my thirst for the story of each of its characters with a well-thought-out plot and multiple narrators. I believe that a part of the credit for this achievement goes to the editor of the book, for helping make it a success.

In the end, the book was an experience in itself and it left me wondering, What else has the recorded version history hidden from us? Who decides what deserves to be mentioned for generations to remember? 

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