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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Author Interview : Sharat Komarraju, author of 'The Winds of Hastinapur' Part I

When I first started reading and wrote a review of 'The Winds of Hastinapur', I thought that it would be another one of the various versions. But, as I read further it had quite a few perceptions to add to mine. There was a storytelling aspect to it, which few authors have. Sharath Komarraju is one of them. 

His interview is in two parts, mainly because he has more to add to the story. As one reads on, one would feel this aspect coming true. He talk about the fantasy characteristic of the story, the mythological aspects, and why he decided to write and how he intends to keep doing it, until the end.

Could you describe the journey of ‘The Winds of Hastinapur'? How did it begin?

Like all storytellers in India, for quite some time now I’ve had this vague notion that I must write something with the Mahabharata, as the backdrop. Since it’s such a written-to-death topic, I read most of the available literature on the epic and found it to be overwhelmingly male-centric. 

The few exceptions focused on Draupadi alone, and even those seemed too eager to portray Draupadi as a modern-day feminist.

I thought there was room in the market for a feminine adaptation of the story, where all the lesser known people like Ganga, Satyavati, Amba and Gandhari find their voices.

Your novel came out along with a number of mythological novels. What according to you was different about it?

I think mythological novels are the ‘in’ thing now. There is a perception in the market that that’s what readers want. It’s not unlike the teen-romance wave that took off in the early part of the decade.

Most of the mythological novels that we see in the market now are really thrillers, disguised as fantasy. There is only cursory attention given to traditional fantasy elements, and the pace, characters and structure all conform to the thriller genre. There is a lot of physical action and suspense.

Hastinapur is more in the traditional fantasy mould. Ganga and Satyavati will not pick up swords and fight bad guys, for example. In fact, there is very little fighting in the book. The conflicts are more moral and psychological.

What kind of research did you put into it?

When you write on a topic, which has been written extensively about before you, then I think it’s important that you take steps not to re-invent the wheel.

So, I read the works of S L Bhyrappa, Pratibha Ray, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Irawati Karve, Ashok Banker etc. This is, of course, in addition to Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s, English translation of the original.

Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?

Nobody did. After voraciously reading books for fifteen or so years, one day I wondered why I cannot write one myself. I went ahead and did it. I liked it (the experience, not the book) so much that I kept going, and I don’t intend to stop until I die.

It never struck me to ask anyone if I could write.

How would you relate the lives of Bhishma, Ganga and Satyavathi to the lives today? Any similarities?

Well, people across time and space are united by want. All of us want things, and most of us want things that we cannot have. If there is one feeling that all of us, without exception, can relate to, it is that of wanting something and being ready to move mountains to get it.

So as a writer, my job is not to look for similarities between the people in my story and real life. It is to portray them and their conflicts in as real a manner as I can, so that the reader will be convinced that it really happened. If that is achieved, the reader will then find his own meaning within the tale.

This is one of the great joys of reading, that each reader’s experience is intensely personal. If it’s a good story, it will mean many things to many people.
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