Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Kite Runner

They say that the book is better than the movie. “They” must be pretty wise.

I read Kite runner some months back. Anish Chandran was the first to recommend the book to me. I did not give it much thought at the time, but when Tony K Thayil also mentioned the same book, I decided to buy it. And Boy! Was it worth every single ‘pirated’ paisa, so much so that I bought the original. Once I bought it, I just couldn’t keep it down. I even got up early the next day to finish it off!

The first part of the story focuses on the relationship between two boys, master and servant in erstwhile Afghanistan before the wars. A “nice” read is what I’d call this section. A morbid situation develops quite suddenly that pulls Hassan and Amir into a quagmire that would change their lives forever. This pivotal part is exceptionally well written by Hosseini who weaves in a plethora of emotions finally leaving you aghast. It breaks your heart reading it and you end up asking the “why God why” q. Here readers get the first taste of Khaled Hosseini’s genius. I must warn you that from then on, it is no longer a “feel good” book.

When a person reads a book he or she is affected differently from another person reading the same book. But the differences would be small (I am guessing a lot here). What is special about reading this book is that people seem to be affected in totally different manners. Most people relate to at least one character in the story. The characters are so completely original and different from each other that readers automatically gravitate to one of them and get affected as such.

Amir the cowardly writer is the protagonist. Hassan is his servant, innocent to a fault, naïve and completely loyal to Amir, he is the character which shapes the story of Amir. Baba, Amir’s all conquering father is the third character. Other characters worth mention are Ali, Hassan’s father and Rahim Khan, Baba’s friend.

I personally related to Amir, while I would have loved to be like Hassan and aspired to be like Baba. The whole damn this is “haunting”. You keep thinking about the characters weeks after you read the story.

At each point of the story, you are left wishing that something different happened. But the story has a mind of its own. It does not pander to the audience except at one point when Amir takes on his childhood nemesis, Assef and for once sheds his cowardice. Come to think of it, Kite Runner is almost like the antithesis of a “feel good” book. Fortunately, Hosseini does not fall into the trap of making it into a tragedy. The ending is not a tragedy, but then it is no “lived happily ever after” either. If I were to rate best endings I would rate it third after “The city of Joy” and “The Alchemist”.

To me, this story underlines two things, one that “nobody is completely bad or incapable” from Amir standing up to Assef and two that “great good can come out of evil” as explained by Rahim Khan to Amir regarding an incident in Baba’s life that I will not enumerate here(It would take the sting out of the story if you haven’t read it). The whole story is about atonement, about the evil things in your life causing you to do good.

Dialogues by Hassan really take one’s breath away “for you, a thousand times over” being one of the classics. “There is a way to be good again!” uttered by Rahim Khan being another.

The moment I saw the movie at my local DVD rental store, I picked it up. when you see a book you read, made into a movie, you always feel something is missing, that some important things are left out etc. I have the same gripe against this movie too. The biggest being that the way I imagined the characters like Baba and Hassan was not the way they turned out.

The movie also tries to catch a lot of childhood scenes but loses out in coherence since they are all small “flashes”. Character building is another thing that it misses out on. Except for Amir and to some extend Baba, the characters are not built up properly. Hassan is a startling example in that the movie almost completely misses his significance.

I don’t want to sound like a girl here but “Baba isn’t tall enough!” From the novel, he is said to be a huge person with an imposing personality. Homayoun Ershadi in the role of Baba is good but not great. And the heart breaking scene regarding Hassan is nowhere near heartbreaking in the movie. A bit of special effects like slow motion, total silence etc might have helped this scene.

The camera work and the background hue given to the film are fantastic. Afghanistan looks like Afghanistan should look. Thankfully, the characters in the film use native language, which greatly adds to the “originality” of the story. Overall it is a good movie by Marc Foster but I guess it won’t touch your heart the way the book does.

P.S: If you don’t want to lose out on the suspense, don’t read wiki.


N!$#@N^# said...

No wonder "Crossword " - the book shop gives a book mark more often than not when you buy a book which is also made into a movie...

The caption goes like ...
"Never judge a book by its movie"

stillwaters said...

Yup I am over my "low' now.. :)
Have been regularly visiting ur blog..
I haven't read "the Kite Runner" but I have read "A thousand splendid sons " by the same author.
And i felt the same as u did.. I was affected by the story even weeks after i finished reading it.
I too wished it had a different ending.. I will now try and get my hands on the Kite runner. :)

stillwaters said...

Ahmm.. Sorry for the typo. Its "A thousand Splendid Suns".

Anooja said...

Hii Abe
Last month i found a vendor selling the pirated books - The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I bought both these books. I started with the Kite Runner and liked it a lot. The charcters are defined so well. i couldnt forget Hassan's son for a long time. yesterday i finished A Thousand Splendid Suns. This too is good, but i liked the Kite Runner better. Like u said, it actually touches you somewhere. It was my friends birthday and since she too likes books, we got her a copy (bought the original from Landmark :) ) .

Confused.. said...

A thousand Splendid Suns and the Kite runner are classic novels...Makes one wonder how granted we take our freedom for!!I had a 'Hosseni' hangover for a few weeks!!

Abraham Menacherry said...

Nishu: Interesting quote. Never seen it in crossword, but will take care to look out for it next time!

Stillwaters: To me, thousand splendid "suns" was like candle to "sun" in comparison with Kite runner. Get a copy!! b.t.w happy to know you are out of the low..:D

Anooja: My original copy was also gifted(read forcibly taken away!) to a friend...:( I also loved the kite runner more than the suns.

confused..: Mothers and freedom, they will always be taken for granted!

Anonymous said...

Great blog!
Kite runner tops my list of faves.
It is so real.I still remember, when i finished the book,I was smiling away for hours after that. I was so happy for everyone,especially for Amir and Hasan's son....it was as though they were a part of my private universe.

Abraham Menacherry said...

anon: "it was as though they were a part of my private universe" yes, same here!

ritu.. said...

hey i totally agree with u..i am reading another book by the same author a thousand splendid suns....its good too