More than a century before Game of Thrones enthralled the world with its mythical, magical world of dragons, wars, and feuding families, Indians were fervently flipping through an epic fantasy novel Chandrakanta. Published in 1888, it is widely recognised as the first modern Hindi bestseller.
Between 1994 and 1996, Indians were also given an entertaining treat with the broadcast Chandrakanta as a drama series on DD National. While people still remember the popular TV serial, seldom do they seem to know or recognise the person behind it all —Devaki Nandan Khatri — the author of the namesake novel on which the TV series was partly based.
A classic in the truest sense of the word, Khatri’s masterpiece unfortunately remains widely unknown to the younger generation.
AudioBites, a freemium app by Storytel, is changing that. The app, currently available only on the Google Playstore, offers listeners in India free access to handpicked great stories and Original series in bite-sized format. At a time when people are at home and have little to do, AudioBites is helping them spend time in a fruitful and invigorating way by listening to stories for free and makes the world a more empathetic and creative place with great stories to be shared and enjoyed anytime, anywhere by anyone.
Khatri’s novel reached the zenith of popularity in the early 1900’s thanks to its release in the form of a series of chapters. The AudioBites app aims to do just that for the younger generation as well, with the classic novel Chandrakanta broken down into 400 episodes, with one episode released every day. So far, 50 episodes have been released, each lasting 15 to 20 minutes.
What makes this audio series even more special is its narration by Vijay Vikram Singh. Listeners will immediately recognise his distinct voice, having heard it numerous times as the omniscient voice of Bigg Boss, the popular reality TV show.
Vijay’s deep voice and cadence adds to the rustic, mystical charm of Khatri’s words, and they both weave magic together to transport listeners to sprawling kingdoms of Naughar and Vijaygarh and into the fascinating love story of the feisty Chandrakanta and Virendra Singh — star-crossed lovers of rival kingdoms.
Chandrakanta is the princess of Vijaygarh while Virendra Singh is the prince of Naugarh. Kroor Singh, one of the courtiers in the King’s court at Vijaygarh, has plans of wooing Chandrakanta and marrying her to gain control over the Vijaygarh kingdom. After failing in his plans, Kroor Singh enlists the help of Shivdutt, the king of Chunargarh.
The story picks up pace after Chandrakanta is trapped in a ‘Tilism’. This book popularised the concept of ‘Tillism’ in Hindi literature. It is essentially a world full of optical illusion, magic realism and deception.
Chandrakanta is rescued by Virendra Singh and his ‘Aiyars’ - another concept from Khatri’s imaginative mind. ‘Aiyars’ are secret agents or spies in the employment of Royalty and are highly-skilled in fighting, spying, disguise etc.
The narration makes the story seem even more magical as Vijay’s narration transports you to the kingdoms and the trance-like atmosphere of Tilism. Sound plays an important role in this series, with the clashing of swords, and the sound of wind carrying the story forward. Vijay does complete justice to Khatri’s masterpiece with his measured and rhythmatic narration.
The success of Chandrakanta inspired Khatri to write sequels, the most popular ones being Chandrakanta Santati - a seven book series based on the children of Chandrakanta and Virendra Singh. So, if the magic of Khatri’s world makes you want to know more, Chandrakanta Santati is also available on the app. You can download it here.