There are a number of books which have been written on the character of Karna, the tragic hero of Mahabharata. In fact, his character is the most explored subject in Mahabharata related literature. Latest in this list is Karna: The Unsung Hero of the Mahabharata by Umesh Kotru and Ashutosh Zutshi, published by Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd. There will be very few people who do not like the character of Karna. On the other hand, he is one of the most-celebrated heroes of this grand old epic. His character is adored even though he sided with Kauravas because he was a man of values and his words, in addition to being a great warrior. Karna was also known as ‘the greatest giver’ as he never refused to give anything asked from him. These qualities make his character stand apart among all the characters of Mahabharata. Consequently, a number of books have been written on his character. So, does the book under review add something new to our understanding of this character? Does it throw light on those aspects which were unknown to us so far? Is this book different or the usual retelling of a mythological character? Subsequent paragraphs will not only try to answer these questions, but will also look into the other aspects of this book.
The authors in this book have tried to give a unique personality to the character of Karna by throwing light on his strengths as well as weaknesses. Unlike other authors, they did not try to project Karna as a figure that readers will admire and root for. As a result, the character of Karna appears both realistic and believable. The authors bring out his persona as a warrior, as a friend, as a husband, as a son and as a generous human being brilliantly. At the same time, his character has been portrayed as an agitated, frail and shaky man who is suffering from internal commotion throughout his life. The authors have tried to bring out this deepest psychological crisis of his existence. His jealousy towards Arjuna and his propensity to boast about his abilities every now and then have also been given space in the book. Another important feature of the book under review is that it covers Kunti’s dilemma while abandoning Karna in an effective manner. This was the incident which turned Karna into tragic hero right from his birth.
However, if we take this book as a whole, the book falls flat at certain levels. While writing is ok, the text fails to evoke emotions in reader’s hearts. And, this is what really disappoints you. Readers like to be touched and moved by the story, especially if it is the story of a character popularly known as a tragic hero. I don’t think there was a problem with the narrative itself, but a problem with overly pointed descriptions. Inclusion of more dialogues could have broken the monotony of these lengthy descriptions. Reading this book also make you feel that you are reading the same old story one more time. Except giving some space to throw light on some negative aspects of Karna, there is nothing that we can say new or a fresh perspective. Some scenes in the book find repetitions and this could certainly have been avoided.
Overall, this is not a bad book at all. But, at the same time, there is nothing that adds something new to our understanding of Karna.