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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Author Interview: Krishna Udayasankar, author of 'Kurukshetra'

Krishna Udayasankar
Aryavarta Chronicles ended with a bang. It kind of feels like I had closed a chapter of my own life when I closed the last page of 'Kurukshetra' The journey was memorable and yet it has left me with keen desire to know that much more. And I guess, I am willing to wait. So, bring it on, Krishna Udayasankar.

This is only the first part of this interview, the second part is coming up. Meanwhile, you can check for the Review, right here, and if you want to Buy the  Book, that is right here, too...

Aryavarta Chronicles has begun a long time ago. You have now reached its end. Could you describe the journey? How does it feel, now?

Tired. Relieved. Sad too, that it is over. In a strange way, I feel blank, and sometimes don’t know what to do with myself. Initially, it was relaxing to feel that way, but only for a few days. Sometimes, I look at the three books as the sit on my shelf and wonder how on earth it all happened – it feels like I can’t remember details, anymore.

I think these reactions are probably going to change over time, especially as I sink my teeth into new projects, but right now, that is how I feel!

‘Govinda’, ‘Kaurava’ and ‘Kurukshetra’, your trilogy came out along with a number of mythological novels. What according to you, was different about them?

I think the readers are in a better position to answer this question, but I personally want to believe that The Aryavarta Chronicles present a complete, congruent story-world, one which relies neither on magic nor on anchronism and the use of modern technology to explain events.

It is a story of its time, told in context of the politics and society of that time. It is not mytho-fiction but rather, mytho-historical fiction.

The way you have described ‘The Gita’ was commendable. How did you manage to touch upon the relevant factors and how was the experience?

Thank you. Of all that I’ve written in these three books, the Gita was the toughest part! The challenge was to not only convey the philosophy of the Gita in a rational and systematic manner, but also to connect it to the context of the larger story. Even so, the final version that you now see in print did not come in till the last moment, when my editor and I were going over page proofs!

What kind of research did you put into ‘Kurukshetra’?

It has been a cumulative research process across all three books, but yes, the details of warfare in ‘Kurukshetra’ meant going deeper and wider into research.

It is one thing to imagine that the war happened the way we’ve seen it on TV – with fancy armour and CGI-special effects flying arrows, but it is another to articulate all that in a more realistic way.

I particularly wanted to bring out elements of battle-strategy and manouveres, and not just focus on the heroes and their fights – that involved going into warfare over the ages and across geographies, to understand the how it was done and why.

How would you relate the lives of Uttara and Abhimanyu to the lives today? Any similarities?

I think Uttara and Abhimanyu are probably the most ‘modern’ characters in the book, in terms of their attitude and behaviour, and so they are easy to relate to.

How would you relate the book and its characters, besides the two mentioned earlier, to the lives today?

The books are about social change and revolution – and that topic is as current today as it was millenia ago. There’s also a strong emphasis on what we might today call human rights – essentially human dignity and self-determination, as well as on issues of hierarchy and oppression, based on many dimensions, including gender.

As for the characters – well, what some of them say and do are things we ought to say and do in today’s world, including showing compassion and standing up for others’ rights.

Which is your favourite character besides Govinda and Panchali? Why?

Shikandin. He’s probably the most level-headed, steady character in the whole series; he’s rock solid and dependable, not to mention that his quiet self-assurance mixed with a hint of tragedy is quite sexy!

He’s absolutely best friend material, my choice of character to sit down and have a coffee or a beer with.

What was the most challenging part about writing the trilogy, now that it is done?

The most challenging part was seeing the story arc evolve across the length of three books. Honestly, I didn’t always know the exact details of what would come later when writing an earlier, but would have to just trust in the story, in the logic that I believe must underlie all events, to keep things tied together. 

What are the most fulfilling parts, now that you have managed to release all the three novels?

It was seeing things fall into place, plotwise. It was also very gratifying to see research bear out some of logical deductions and conclusions I arrived at while writing the story.

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