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Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Author Interview : Anand Neelakantan, author of ‘Vanara : The Legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara'

Anand Neelakantan
Read up, the Interview with Anand Neelakantan, author of ‘Vanara : The Legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara'. This story kind of takes off from 'Asura : Tale of the Vanquished' too and of course the great king of Lanka, who happens to make his appearance in this one, as well.
But, since this does talk of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara, I asked a few different questions. How the journey began and  what kind of research was put into this one, and how he managed to blend the three parts into one. On being asked about the similarity between the characters then and now, he answered about the grey shades of the characters, then and now, Folks...

Could you describe the journey of ‘Vanara : The Legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara’? 

Not much is written in Indian English about the fascinating stories of Vanara. It is usual to enter Vanara Kingdom along with Lord Ram when he meets Hanuman.
What I have done, is to go beyond this conventional approach and tell the story of Kishkinda from the beginning. The story is scattered in various Ramayanas, Mahabharata and Puranas.

The challenge was to stitch together a coherent story from the scattered material, without diverting from the original plot line. Once I had completed it, I was fascinated to see a great love triangle coming into shape and a classic tragedy about another fallen hero Baali (aka Vali), his multi-shaded brother Sugreeva and the woman they loved - Tara.

How did it begin? What kind of research was put into it?

It started as a short story. I stumbled upon this an epic, while doing research for the short story series, I was writing in Amazon Kindle on the women of Ramayana. In fact, I had written the kernel of the story as a short fiction called Tara in less than 5,000 words.

However, the chief editor of Penguin who I had happened to meet perchance in a literary festival was fascinated by the short story I was typing out and wanted to read it. She encouraged me to make it into a full-fledged novel.

There are three phases to this book. How do you blend them together while writing this book?

There is the journey of Baali and Sugreeva from slavery to freedom in the first phase.

The establishment of a free city and the conflicting life view forms the background of the story when Tara enters and changes everything.

The growth of Tara from a dreamy teenager to a woman wooed by the two brothers, her choices, her tragedy and her redemption forms the third phase.

Together it is the saga of Vana Nara people and the time is what blends all these and other nuances together.

I noticed the Sivagami phase creeping into this book. Why does it? And how?
Frankly, I have no idea where it has crept in. If you have found similarity between Tara and Sivagami, it could only be peripheral.

Does it feel that you are plugging the holes, in the Ramayana through the ‘Vanara’ book? 

There are no holes in Ramayana. What has happened to the great book is that it is often viewed only from one angle of devotion. 

What I am trying to do is to shine the light at places where there are dark shadows.

How would you relate the life of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara to the lives today? Any similarities?

All my books are contemporary. The story might have been set in Lanka, Kishkinda, Hastinapura or Mahishmathi, but they are happening here and now.

All the characters are around us and within us. So, you can find the reflections of contemporary society in all my books and especially Vanara. This is deliberate.

Which is your favourite character in this one? Why?

Chemba is my favourite character, and I had modelled him as per my pet, Jackie the blackie.

What were the most challenging and fulfilling parts about writing this book?

Challenging part was the deadline. What was fulfilling was how the characters evolved in grey shades with all the human flaws and glory.

 You can Read the Review here and Buy the Book, here as well.