“I don’t give any facts. I only give a viewpoint. And I don’t claim that it is the correct viewpoint. The only premise I work on is, ‘this could also have happened'”, says Anand Neelakantan while talking about risks involved in interpreting mythology in his books.
In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, the author gets candid about his new book ‘Vanara: The Legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara’, which was released by Penguin India recently. “This is the first time I am writing romance. It is a love triangle set in the Vanara world. It is like ‘Planet of the Apes’ meets ‘Romeo and Juliet’, set in a Ramayana era”, Neelakantan says with a laugh.
Revealing that a full-length feature film is already in talks on his latest work, the author gives us an insight on his new book, “I started this novel as a short story on Tara. I was writing a series called ‘Women of Ramayana’. It was a challenging task and very interesting one also. If we take Ramayana as proto-history, then this is the first love triangle where Tara gets married to both Bali and Sugreeva, at different times. But it is a tale of two brothers who love each other and then Tara comes and the love triangle is what changes the entire history.”
“With Sivagami, I got a more mainstream readership. And this one (Vanara) I think will outdo that. My books are deep, they are not something that you can read easily and throw away. It is not an airport read,” he adds.
For the uninitiated, director SS Rajamouli approached him to write Sivagami to extrapolate the film franchise. Streaming giant Netflix has already announced the production of a two-season series called Baahubali: Before the Beginning.
While Neelakantan is a popular name in the literature circuit, he has also written for television shows like Siya Ke Ram, Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat and Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman.
When asked about his views on the rise of popularity of mythological fiction, he says, “It is a new thing only for Indian-English, otherwise Indian languages have been exploring this genre for thousands of years. Whenever a language comes to age, it stars with the Puranic stories. When Tulsidas wrote Ramcharitra Manas, Hindi was coming of age. Likewise, it was for Bengali, and Malayalam. This has been written over the ages in different ways according to the need of time by different great writers”.
“I am just exploring all these age-old stories from various angles. What if Ravan tells Ramayan, that is Asura. What if Sita tells Ramayan, that is Siya Ke Ram. What if Hanuman tells Ramayan, that is Mahabali Hanuman. Here you are sitting with Bali and seeing Ravan as evil and Ram as also an enemy. It is all viewpoint,” he adds.