Tuesday, May 23, 2017

#561 : N - Neelakantan, Anand

He is probably the most talked about writer in the town barring Arundhati Roy. After all, collaborating and writing a prequel to the epic Baahubali is probably not an easy feat to do. The director himself has done a lot of planning. Adapting to his plans is almost like restricting the creative freedom.

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Anand Neelakantan is an Engineering graduate from Government Engineering College, Kerala. He has been working with Indian Oil Corporation since 1999 and has also been involved actively in drawing cartoons apart from writing novels. His first novel - Asura : The Tale of Vanquished was published in 2012 and went on to become a bestseller. The story is essentially Ramayana retold from the perspective of Raavana. His second and third book - Ajaya : The Roll of Dice and Ajaya : The Rise of Kaali are based on Mahabaratha re-told from Duryodhana's perspective.

My copy of Asura, still sits on my shelf waiting to be read. I managed to read just about a couple of chapter before putting it down. It is probably one of the most controversial versions of Ramayana I might have read.  With such a prejudice to boot, I took up reading Ajaya. Surprisingly, I finished both the book within a couple of weeks. Re-telling a tale from a negative character's perspective is not easy.  In fact, the very definition of negative kind of changes. As the title suggests, this book is the book of the underdog - Mahabharata, from "ajaya's" or Suyodhana's (As the writer prefers to call his protagonist who is otherwise known as "Dhuryodhana") perspective. Suyodhana is portrayed as a kind hearted and naive fool who listens to his heart over his mind. To someone who grew up listening to Mahabharata from a learned scholar who has done extensive research in prose and poetry in Tamil language - My grandfather, reading this book is nothing short of blasphemy. I can almost imagine him writhing and turning in his grave for such was the narration. In fact, the narration consumed me so much that I began doubting if I really knew Mahabharata and if Suyodhana was just another human with normal shades of grey that all humans posses.

I truly appreciate the nerve of the writer in portraying Lord Krishna as a devil of sorts or an anti-hero consumed by sense of caste discrimination. I wonder how the writer managed to escape the wrath of folks from ISCKON, the organisation dedicated to propagate Lord Krishna's teaching.

The writer has apparently intends to question the very definition of "Dharma". This concept might sound familiar to readers' who have read Amish Tripati's Shiva Trilogy wherein Amish tries to question the very definition of "Evil". Lets just say this writer wasn't as successful as Amish was for me.

This writer has committed the same blunder as original narrator of Mahabharata - the mistake of glorifying their protagonist.This writer has simply glorified Suyodhana to an extent that even people who hate him (People like me) would start loving him.

But then, is it even possible to narrate Mahabharata without picking sides.

I've also managed to finish reading his latest work, The rise of Sivagami. Sivagami was the most powerful character from Baahubali movie series. Naturally, her backstory would interest a lot of people. This story was a bit of shocker. One can't possibly imagine the strong, powerful and perfect Sivagami from the movie, to be like the character portrayed in the book. However, the writer has perfectly maintained the crux of all characters. Especially of that of Kattapa's. Wonder what the writer has in store!

Do let me know your thoughts!


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