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Friday, March 07, 2014

Women Authors and their Female Characters... Respect!!

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day and incidentally, I have quite a few women writers that I could write about and a whole lot of fictional heroines. I thought that their characters were as important as their authors. (I’ve reviewed their books and interviewed them too, so it made it easier for me to pick them :)
Krishna Udayasankar, who picked Draupadi as her heroine, Indu Sundaresan, who had Wafa and Roshni and Hitesha Deshpande who picks the tomboyish Naaz.
Mahabharata would not have been complete without Draupadi. She is the face of Mahabharata. As a woman, she brought about different facets to the story, and changed the entire scenario for the Pandavas and Kauravas. 

Draupadi became the unlikely hero of ‘Govinda’ and ‘Kaurava’. Of course, she was known as Panchali though the books. Dharma, Bhim, Partha, Nakul and Sadev with the usual cast of characters, like Krishna Dwaipayana and Govinda seem to be secondary characters.

Panchali’s role, in this book has grown from the earlier shier versions into becoming not just another character, but a bow and a sword wielding heroine. She does not remain in the background, but is the person to look to for politics and administration as you see her delving into her inner emotions and her intelligence, which shines through. And she never loses out on love and affection for the various characters, whether it is Govinda, the Pandavas or even Karna. She remains truly the hero.

The second book, Kaurava has the weapon wielding heroine in to the calculative diplomat. You are pretty much on her side in both the books, thanks to the character drawn by Krishna Udayasankar.

We all tend to look into the characters and see if we have something in common with them. Of Panchali, Udayasankar had this to say, ‘Panchali, on the other hand, is reality – she is who we all are as people, as individuals - someone who is strong yet weak, wise and silly both, brave and scared. Yes, they very much relate to our lives today, because they are you and I.

The Mountain of Light’ had most of its female characters that were both strong and determined. They were all pretty close to the actual concept of the book, which was all about the Kohinoor.

Firstly, there was Wafa, the wife of Shah Shuja, the deposed ruler of Afghanistan whose wily tricks keep the diamond in her grasp for quite some time.

It then moves on to Maharani Jindan Kaur, who had received it from the her husband, Maharajah Ranjit Singh, where it stays until Roshni lays her hands on it. Roshni, who was originally betrothed to the future king, Dalip Singh.

Then, of course it moves to England and rests on the arm of Queen Victoria of England.

The love of Wafa for her husband, Shah Shuja shows in this book’s first part. Then its transition into Roshni’s hands, who out of affection and the best interests of the young Maharajah Dalip Singh places the Kohinoor in Henry Lawrence’s hands, because she believes him to be a ‘good man’.

The love and affection is so strong for both these women, and whatever they did, they had done it, out of best interests, they felt.

‘It is this that is similar to today’s world—no matter what our personal circumstances or our outside influences love, and loss and treachery affect us in the same manner.  This is true all through ‘The Mountain of Light’, all through its timeline, and also true today,’ says Indu Sundaresan, on being asked if she saw any similarities in the characters of the book to the lives of today.

Horseshoe Garage’ that is all about Neo Racing, which is basically an international racing championship, where the participants’ car has to have a new technology to it. The heroine of this book is the tomboyish, Naaz, a beautiful orphan, whose love for neo racing and Sav, end up being the crux of the story. Sarvesh Kulkarni is the one who wants to build a car, which he could race in the Neo Racing championship.

Naaz, in spite of being only a fourth standard pass, is brilliant with cars and their designs and lives for Neo Racing. It is Naaz’s determination, her intelligence and strength, which shine through this book and see it to its end, where we have the heroine saving the day.

‘I was the only woman there standing with my hands folded across my chest frowning at the mechanics working on my car. That, made me wonder, about the life of a female mechanic in the testosterone driven atmosphere of an Indian garage. As much as it is Sarvesh's story, it was created for Naaz, says Hitesha Deshpande, the book’s author.

The female characters have the strength and the drive to make them the book's true heroes. The three authors brought in a whole new world. One in mythology, one in history and one in a modern male-driven world. These authors, have their own lives and lead it every day with a whole new intelligence and thought, making our lives that much fresher and determined, as the heroines in their books.

Should also tell you, my readers, that the editors of the books are women too. Poulomi Chatterjee from Hachette India, Atria Books/Simon and Schuster's VP and Senior Editor, Malaika Adero and Madhavi Purohit from Leadstart!!

So, Happy Women's Day, all!! :) 

Oh, I must also mention that none of these authors were contacted for this particular piece, other than to find out who their editors were! I got their quotes, out of the interviews, I had with them.

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