Shikhandi is the name of a character in the Indian epic – Mahabharat. This character was a reincarnation of a princess Amba who wanted to seek her revenge from Bheeshma for the spoilage of her life. Born as a woman, she later became a man through the help of a Yaksha (a divine person). In the war of Mahabharat, Bheeshma was unconquerable but since he had taken a vow not to use arms against a woman or somebody who had been a woman earlier, Arjun kept Shikhandi in front of him while fighting with Bheeshma through bow and arrows. Due to his vow, Bheeshma did not counter the blows of Arjun who was releasing arrows from the back of Shikhandi and finally fell down in a badly injured condition (to pass away after a few days at his will). That’s how the revenge of Amba (now in the form of Shikhandi) was complete and the Paandavas got rid of the most dangerous warrior of their opposition.
Hindi novelist Late Ved Prakash Sharma kept the title of the novel being reviewed as Shikhandi because in this thriller novel, the real mastermind uses someone else as a front for his well-thought-out plan. Just like Shikhandi in Mahabharat, the other person only is the centre of the attention (and target) of the others and not the real planner who, just like Arjun in Mahabharat, plays his game from behind the back of the person in sight. It’s a novel with some supernatural and unbelievable things but assessing on overall basis, it’s a brilliant thriller.The plot is based on the inborn divine vision (Divya Drishti) of a child – Vishesh who is the son of a poor man – Chandoji in a village – Nhata and one of the many children of Chandoji and his wife – Chandro. The divine vision of this child is for the future murders only, i.e., he is able to see beforehand that someone is going to kill someone else. An industrialist – Balraaj Singhania comes to know of his divine vision through his servant who happens to be from the same village. He decides to utilize this divine capability of the child to stop murders in the society and adopts the child. He takes him to the city and keeps him in a farm house under high security. He also develops a team of some daredevil people containing extra-ordinary talents whose leader is Paaras Shrivastav, the ex-chief of the Commando Squad of the Indian army. The other members of this team are Ankit, Aarif, Trilochan Singh and Maaria. Each of them is specialized in some field, viz. driving or shooting or breaking glass through a sharp plunge into a window or likewise. Under the leadership of Paaras, this team acts quickly on the tips of Vishesh whenever his divine vision tells about some would-be murder, reaches the spot and stop the murder before it actually takes place. However the problem comes in the court because after the would-be murderer is caught and handed over to the police, the court is not ready to presume that he was going to murder someone and should, therefore, be punished like a murderer. Besides, there is no law to enable the court to award any proper sentence in such cases. However, through the efforts of Singhania and his lawyers, the court takes cognizance of the facts and a CBI inquiry is ordered to find out the truth behind this claimed divine vision of future murders. The CBI officer who is assigned this job is an honest and efficient cop – Mushtaq.
When Mushtaq starts examining whether the said divine vision of Vishesh actually exists or not, Vishesh happens to see the murder of his mother – Chandro by his father – Chandoji. As per his vision, the murder takes place in his house itself in the village – Nhata but the different thing that is associated with this vision of his is that this time he has not seen a future murder but a murder which has already taken place some days back. All the action-team members alongwith Mushtaq reach his house in the village to check the truth and find it to be true. But by examining the facts and clues with utmost minuteness and applying his deductive reasoning, Mushtaq concludes that Vishesh’s father, i.e., Chandoji is not the murderer of his wife. Someone else murdered Chandro by impersonating as Chandoji to misguide not only the onlookers in the village but (perhaps) also Vishesh. But who’s that person who killed Chandro and why when there’s no logical reason is visible for her murder, is a ticklish question to address.
This incident makes Mushtaq believe that Vishesh, in fact, possesses divine vision. The leader of the action-team, Paaras is facing a different problem in his personal life. His divorced wife – Monika who is promiscuous by nature and a woman of low morals (and that’s why she had sought divorce from him), is hell-bent upon torturing him and his beloved son – Bunty who has to spend alternative fortnights with his father and mother as per the court’s order. And when Bunty is with Monika during his fortnightly stay with her, he gets abducted. Now Vishesh sees (through his divine vision) that Paaras is killing a person in a hotel room. As per the established procedure, now Paaras is to be stopped from committing this murder and his team members alongwith Mushtaq and Singhania advise him to stay cool and not to take any hasty step which may prove to be suicidal for him. But Paaras who loves his son more than his own life, does not listen to anyone and runs away.
Just prior to these happenings, Paaras had been visited by a sage – Kamli Waale Baaba who had told him that he would need his help soon. Now Paaras approaches him in the Himalayas by giving doz to his own team members who have been pursuing him. Kamli Waale Baaba helps him by coming to the city alongwith him. At his advice, Paaras brings Vishesh out of the farm house (by breaking into that tightly secured place). How Paaras is able to save himself from the law, save the life of Bunty and expose the man behind all these strange and seemingly disjointed events forms the climax of the story which startles the reader like anything.
It’s hard to believe that the plot of this offbeat suspense thriller containing the supernatural element of divine vision, is the original idea of this once immensely popular Hindi author. The basic grains appear to have been lifted from a Hollywood movie – Minority Report (2002) directed by Steven Spielbberg which itself was inspired by a short story of the same title penned by Philip K. Dick which was published in 1956. However Mr. Sharma has spread the story very well on more than 300 pages of the volume and presented a spellbinding suspense thriller. Despite the presence of the supernatural element, it’s the human element which is more important and keeps the reader hooked.
In the novel, Vishesh is shown as kept under tight security in a farm house which has been developed as a natural forest with several wild animals in that (kept legally with the permission of the govt.). The scenes involving the wild animals render a very thrilling experience to the reader and add further spice to the already engrossing story.
The author who was once acknowledged as the uncrowned king of the Hindi crime fiction, has given ample attention to the proper characterization of the principal characters. Especially the characters of Paaras, Monika, Vishesh, Bunty and Singhania have been etched out very well. The character of Kamli Waale Baaba seems to be from some other world and that’s why, appears unnatural.
Shikhandi is a very well written suspense thriller novel and very few novels of such a superior quality are found in Hindi pulp fiction. I don’t believe in something like Divya Drishti but just for the sake of enjoying the novel, let’s believe in it.
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