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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.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Book Review : The Dog who saved the World by Ross Welford

Let us begin with apparently another of Ross Welford’s books, ‘The Dog Who Saved the World’. No previous knowledge of his books, but if they are as exciting as this one, then you can be sure, that I plan to get them all.

Georgie, who lives with her dad, brother and plus her father’s girlfriend Jessica. And that’s not all; she has a best friend called Ramzy and a best dog friend, Mr Mash. Regrettably, she cannot keep Mr Mash at home due to Jessica having an allergy to them. Georgie also works for a dog rest home, where Mr Mash lives; it is an old church the called St Woofs, where they look after unwanted dogs.

Jessica could be great example, since she is a brilliant scientist. But unfortunately, she isn’t Georgie’s own mother. Though Georgie does not like her presence at home, she must survive it. The family likes her, but it takes time for only Georgie to even like her presence.

Now, let’s come to her best friend, Ramzy Rahman. His family had fled a warzone and life in the UK is nothing like it was back, home. The poor guy is left with wearing the same shirt, day after day, and left hungry due to surviving on the same food, that he must share with his siblings. But, he is an upbeat kid and bright enough to survive the adventures, which are all a part of this story.

One day, when Georgie is on a walk with her dog and Ramzy, she comes across Dr Emilia Pretorius. Dr Pretorius seems to be some sort of an unusual mastermind, with a slightly casual attitude to the personal welfare of other folks. She’s built an astonishing Virtual Reality gadget that can transfer people into a plausible future. She just wants some enthusiastic kids to help her try it out.

Now, the enthusiastic children do not realise that they would become test subjects for the 3D version of the future! Tension is building, when a dreadful disease that is spread by dogs breaks out, which is lethal for humans too. Almost all dogs are under threat, and so is Georgie’s treasured dog, when it falls really sick.

The ability to time travel into the future suddenly becomes more than a game, it becomes reality… Georgie must do something about it, and together with her two best friends, she must devise a plan to save all dogs and humans too.

Jessica is one of the scientists working on the challenge and reveals that it could take close ton a year, for them to find the cure. How do they speed up this process? If they travel to the future could they possibly find it? Dr Pretorius has a strange life too. And how exactly does her life lead on? But unfortunately, Dr Pretorius has a heart attack, and it becomes necessary to get her from the hospital, as she is the only one, who can control her gadget.

Ross Welford
oss So, will they take the help of Georgie’s brother? Will he help out and will they manage to get her out on time? Will they reach the spot, where the machine is kept? Can Georgie, Ramzy and Mr Mash save the world? Will Mr Mash be cured?

What could be more fun than seeing herself in the future, whom she ends up meeting, or perhaps a few of the future beings, whom she ends up seeing and the shops and stores, all set into the future? It’s all exciting folks, and coupled with a lot of jokes and comic features with the dogs and docs and scientists, the fun can only go on…

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Book Review : 'Vanara : The Legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara' by Anand Neekantan

Anand Neelakantan has done it again. Now, he has written a book with so much distinction that it truly attempts to stand out from everything, already written about. The book is Vanara  : The Legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara’ is the tale of the people of the Vana Nara tribe. Who were these people and how do they have a discrepancy and how will it show up in the epic?

Baali and Sugreeva were twins and actually were born to Ahalya and King Indra. The two grew up in Sage Gautama’s ashram. Ahalya who was accused of cheating on Sage Gautama, found out that Sugreeva told him of it and blamed Baali for it, since they both looked alike.

The two of them escape from the ashram. Asuras and Devas treat them as outcasts, people who cannot be touched, and made them slaves. So, it falls up on Baali to change the whole issue. Firstly, he refuses to accept that they are an untouchable caste and prefers that they be addressed by their true sense, and that is the Vana Nara tribe.

Amidst all this they meet Riksarajas, who is a eunuch and helps out Sugreeva by carrying him to Vaidya Sushena, who is the medicine man of the tribe. He now, calls himself the foster father of Baali and Sugreev. They also meet Tara, who is Vaidya Sushena’s daughter, and who brings them and feeds them medicine.

Sugreeva wanted to stay on as, since he considered himself in love with Tara. Believing in the Ayyan, or the supreme god Riksarajas, along with Baali and Sugreeva set off to the mountains. A time comes when Baali feels that Ayyan told him of a great tomorrow in his prayers. He felt that they must build a city by the river and call it Kishkinda, and they were Vanaras or the monkey people. They were the black skinned, broken, monkey people, said Ayyan to Baali, he claimed.

Baali also tells him of Tara and the fact that he wants to marry her, as soon as they return. And free the Vanaras, when they do return. For this purpose they go, firstly to Mahabali the Asura Emperor, where they stay on for five years.

Upon returning, Baali began building the city. But he was almost stalled everyplace. Firstly, there was the council of Vana Naras, who did not want Kishkinda and so they protested. But Tara wanted the city, and she called for the Vana Naras to put their pebbles under the Palmyra trees realised that most of the Vana Naras put their pebbles in Baali’s name.

Then it began, but they were objections and difficulties everywhere. In the meanwhile, Bali and Tara were to get married, and they managed this too, in spite of Sugreeva’s objection and all the difficulties, he put up. 
Anand Neelakantan
It is all up to how Neelakantan, tells this one. It was all the story of the three of them and their odd love stories. Then, the war between the Vana Naras, and then Ravana and Baali, then of course when Rama comes in and attacks Baali. With Hanuman matching up in between…

Of this mix and match story, stands out the fact that the Vanara story is so needed to complete the Ravan story, while it helps give the Ramayan, its true end. The caste system probably began in its true sense and never looks to end, even today, sadly. 

You can Buy the Book, right here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Book Review : 'The Making of Bhishma' by Kamesh Ramakrishna

Kamesh Ramakrishna’s ‘The Making of Bhishma’ is part of the book, ‘Fall of the Kurus’, which had its own appeal. The book refused to have the same gods, the same Gandhrvas, and even the same magical weapons. But, it probably has the truest story, which we probably had read but never understood it, in its true essence.

From the simplest of things, like what Bhishma could want in terms of how he runs his kingdom and probably to what he could desire as a man. Bhishma, who is lying on his deathbed with an arrow lodged in his lungs, recounts his part in the retelling of the striking epic. The entire episode of how he grew up in the kingdom of Hastinapura to how he became the regent of the Great War. 

He was the son of Shantanu and Ganga, and in his adolescent years, itself he had to survive his mother’s suicide. His mother walked into the Ganga and disappeared into the deepest portion of the river. 

This was followed by his father falling for a Naga girl, Satyavati, due to which, his son decided to give up his kingdom. It was the vow, Satyavati had wanted from him, as she was going to marry King Shantanu. But, she conveniently forgot to mention that she herself had a son, from a previous relationship with Sage Parashara. Satyavati has two sons, Chitrangada and Vichitravirya with Shantanu. And it falls on Devavrata to actually help in bringing them up. 

Today, Devavrata Bhishma, who is lying on his deathbed with an arrow lodged in his lungs, recounts his part in the retelling of the striking epic, the Mahabharata to Yudhishthira. The whole episode, of how he grew up in the kingdom of Hastinapura to how he became the regent of the Great War.

He was the son of Shantanu and Ganga, and in his adolescent years, itself he had to survive his mother’s suicide. His mother walked into the Ganga and disappeared into the deepest portion of the river. This, she had done because of Shantanu, following the Kavi Sangha’s laws, in bringing them up. 

Unfortunately, when 16 year old Chitranghada disappears into the forest, it is up to Devavrata to look for him. So, he goes into the forest, and ends up meeting Amba there. But he had to return home, and told Satyavati, a made up story of Chitrangada meeting his end at the hands of Gandaravas.

Vichitravirya also dies soon, but not before he marries Amba’s two younger sisters. He does not have children, but a plot is in play with Satyavati and her brother, Shukla, who is the leader of Hastinapura’s society of poets.
Tragedies continue in Bhishma’s life.

He also has to deal with Shikandin and his death, how did it happen?
Kamesh Ramakrishna
Shikandin is the heir to a very important person, does he discover it and who is his mother? Why and who kept, the whole thing a secret from him? Would his life be different if Amba had stayed on with him? Family disputes, fights for who would get what, love, resentment, jealousy and drama is what the Mahabharata contains, but all that would be in the next four parts.

This story is the one, for all those who have ever wondered what and why it happened. If you have questions, then this book probably has the answers to them, all. 

You can find the Bangalore Deccan Chronicle of My Review of 'The Making of Bhishma' by Kamesh Ramakrishna, right here.

 You can Buy the Book, right here.