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Anuja Chandramouli

Anuja Chandramouli

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Anuja Chandramouli

What is the key to writing mythological fiction?

One of the exciting things about writing mythological fiction is that it requires the balancing skills of an Olympic gymnast or at the very least a tightrope walker! The trick is to stay faithful to the treasure trove of invaluable Indic lore, thereby treating the material with the utmost respect it deserves while also recreating it in a manner that is fresh and relevant, so that the pressing issues of the present can be addressed within the context of wisdom preserved from a glorious past. Entire lifetimes are not sufficient to unravel the complex threads and unearth the mysteries contained in these texts, which is why I am grateful for the opportunity to write in this genre and be a part of the timeless tradition of storytelling that is so integral to this land.

The past year was exceptional for you.Three book releases with different publishers is not a mean feat! Please tell us the process that went into writing and publishing them.

Thank you, but I am not exactly a great planner! Rather, being something of a careful plodder, my wildly impulsive and reckless moments which prompted me to write three books in one year, took me by surprise! And to this day, I remain undecided whether that is a good or a terrible thing. When it comes to writing, I am entirely at the mercy of  impulses that drive me with an implacable ferocity that I have always been strangely unwilling to resist. If I had paused to think for a moment, my triplets would never have happened. Instead, when I got the chance to work on fascinating characters like Kartikeya, PrithvirajChauhan and Padmavati, thanks to Rupa, Penguin Random House and Juggernaut, I just decided to close my eyes and jump.

‘Kartikeya’ has not been documented extensively especially in contemporary fiction.What triggered your interest in the mythological character?

I like working on lesser known characters. That said,Kartikeya is hugely popular and much loved by those of us who reside in the South, especially Tamil Nadu. I grew up listening to beautiful devotional songs composed in his honor and it is possible that the deep affection with which they were composed seeped into my own consciousness. I guess, it was merely a matter of time before I got down to writing his story. Besides, it is about time the rest of the country got better acquainted with this enigmatic son of Shiva, who is mysterious, charming and everything the best of dudes should be. Writing this book has been incredibly special and it is awesome that it happened when it did.

What was the feedback like for ‘Rani Padmavati: The Burning Queen’?

With Rani Padmavati, it was my intention to do away with the archetype of the ideal woman who killed herself by committing Jauhar, (a patriarchal notion of honor I had trouble accepting) and create a believable character who did the best she could for herself as well as those who depended on her, in the far too brief time that it was allotted to her, with courage, dignity and grace. Since historians have persisted in denying her very existence, I had to dig deep to recreate a slice of history and bring to life, the beliefs, loves and dreams of people from a bygone era, without unduly romanticizing or glamorizing an age where blood flowed freely and women burned on account of the untrammeled ambition of men who were drunk on power and untold riches. Ironically, according to my readers, I have written a tender love story which humanizes Padma, Rawal Ratan Singh and Alauddin Khalji, while bringing out the grey shades in their colourful personalities.

What were your favourite reads from last year?Any recommendations for our readers.

Jeet Thayil’s ‘The Book of Chocolate Saints’ blew my mind as did Shinie Antony’s ‘The Girl Who Couldn’t Love’. I would also recommend just about anything written by Haruki Murakami,

About the Interviewee:

Anuja Chandramouli is a bestselling Indian author and New Age Indian Classicist. Her highly acclaimed debut novel, Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, was named by Amazon India as one of the top 5 books in the Indian Writing category for the year 2013.  Kamadeva: The God of Desire, Shakti: The Divine Feminine, and Yama’s Lieutenant and its sequel Yama’s Lieutenant and the Stone Witch are her other bestsellers. Her articles, short stories and book reviews appear in various publications like The New Indian Express and The Hindu. Her latest books are Kartikeya: The Destroyer’s Son, Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts and Padmavati: The Burning Queen.