(Image Credit: Vikatan Publications)
If Volume 3 progressed at a countrified pace with its patented twists and turns, Volume 4 takes off like an impatient rocket eager to honour a commitment to the stratosphere! One cannot but be rendered stupefied by the breadth of imagination and the depth of storytelling that take exquisite shape in the hands of a master craftsman. A brisk beginning, a rambunctious middle and a jaw droppingly absorbing climax all make Manimukutam an authentic pleasure.
Arul Mozhi Varman recovers from a virulent bout of fever, which at one point of time threatened to be his nemesis. His steady recovery is attributable to the indefatigable efforts of the chief of the Choodamani Monastery at Nagapattinam. The benevolent man of god takes personal charge and care of the shining star of the Chozha kingdom as he nurses him back to good health and spirit. However, as Kunthavai Devi, Arul Mozhi’s sister sagely contemplates, the recovery in itself is not adequate for the young Prince to announce to his devastated citizens that he is not dead at sea. Such a revelation would instigate an entire turmoil in the Chozha Kingdom and will put paid to all aspirations of Maduranthagar Devar being appointed as heir apparent to the ailing Sundara Chozhar.
The conniving Nandini Devi, the current princess of Pazhuvoor, and the Queen of Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar sends a missive to her sworn enemy, the volatile and mercurial Aditha Karikalan, the Crown Prince of the Chozha Empire for a grandiose meeting to be held in the palace at Kadambur. This is the very palace where initially a majority of the grand Chieftains swearing fealty to the Chozha dynasty assembled under the aegis of Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar, to unseat the current Emperor and install a puppet in his stead. Kunthavai, intent on spoiling Nandini’s schemes dispatches Vanthiyathevan, her trusted ally to Kanchi post haste to warn Aditha Karikalan and if possible, prevent him from proceeding to Kadambur.
Things get inexplicably murky when Aniruddhar Brahmarayar, the able advisor to many a Chozha king and an able administrator makes some shocking revelations regarding Mandakini Devi, the deaf and mute woman circumambulating the islands of Sri Lanka and whose timely presence has in the past served to protect Ponniyin Selvan from imminent threats on more occasions than one. The fact that Nandini bears an uncanny resemblance to Mandakini Devi blows open the lid on ghosts of futures past.
Meanwhile the murderous spies of the Pandiyan kingdom who have successfully managed to infiltrate Tanjavur, make great strides in their frightening plan to eviscerate the Chola Empire by carrying out a string of bone chilling deeds. Getting both monetary and moral support from Nandini, this fearsome cabal headed by the ruthless Ravidasan, manage to wriggle their way into the palace harbouring Sundara Chozhar. Ravidasan formulates a scheme to kill the emperor which would have the disastrous impact of triggering an avalanche of chaos in the Kingdom.
Things at Kadambur take a pleasant turn with the appearance of Manimeghalai, a beautiful woman bearing a dusky complexion and a quicksilver brain. The daughter of Kadambur Sambuvarayar, and the sister of Kandamaran, Manimeghalai is incorrigibly in love with Vanthiyathevan. However, our perennial protagonist is too very immersed in the task of preventing the ruin of King and country and with the able aid and assistance of his ever-present partner-in-crime and spy extraordinaire, Alwarkadiyan Nambi manages to foil even the most dexterously devised schemes of revolt, rebellion and revenge.
However, there may be aces up the sleeves of conspirators which may even see Vanthiyathevan and Alwarkadiyan Nambi reach the cul-de-sac of their collective intelligence and prescience. The warp and weft of Kalki’s singularly unique magic adorns every page, paragraph and passage of the book. Intrigue collides with innocence as virtue battles to overcome vile. The dalliance of death that pits man against animal, animal against animal and man against man, both coincidentally and conveniently provides an inimitable entertainment to the reader. Personally, for me the highlight of Volume 4 is the trifecta that is Aditha Karikalan, Nandini and Mandakini Deva. The intimidating and unpredictable persona of Karikalan that undergoes innumerable transformations from the desirable to the undesirable is allowed full expression by the sly Nandini whose simmering rage threatens to burn down legacies. Only Mandakini’ s all-powerful Gandalf like presence and proclivities can act as a potential antidote that has the potential to not just heal, but to redeem!
This segueing into the ultimate Volume means not only a total destruction of a reader’s sleep but also an anticipation that just refuses to be dampened.
Volume 5 – Bring it on!