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Jyotin Goel

Jyotin Goel

Jyotin Goel

What are the traits of Bheem that made you gravitate towards the character?

Bheem, of course, is synonymous with strength and is the mightiest soldier in the Pandav army. More than his physical prowess, however, what engaged my attention was the fact that Bheem is the most moral of the Pandavas. Like many others, he is outraged at the humiliation suffered by Draupadi but he is the only one who takes action, wreaking terrible revenge for the atrocity. His sense of justice is personal, not political, very unlike Arjun and Yudhishthir. And, fully accepting the code of Dharma, he obeys his ‘superiors’ (Krishna, Yudhishthir) even when he disagrees with them, often at great cost to himself. Bheem is a true hero, and, since the subtext of my novel is heroism, he was a natural fit for the protagonist’s role.

Epics have always been popular with Indian Readers and audiences.Why do you think the genre has such wide appeal?

Societies and cultures are built upon foundational stories. The Ramayan and the Mahabharat are the foundational stories on which much of Indian culture and consciousness is based. They are woven into the very fabric of Indian life and permeate every aspect of social interaction. The influence of the Ramayan, in fact, spreads all over South East Asia, far beyond Indian shores. It is completely unsurprising that narratives based on these and other epics are so popular.

What are the creative improvisations you have taken on Bheem in the novel?

Despite his heroism, Bheem, as originally portrayed, is not a leader. He accepts the dominance of his ‘elders’ and acts the way he does because he is ordered to do so. In my novel, I take Bheem out of this comfort zone, that of a warrior in ancient India, blindly obeying commands. He is thrust into an overwhelming situation, travelling through time to the twenty-first century, a modern world in which an incurable virus threatens to infect and eradicate humankind (almost presciently, the virus in the novel also erupts initially in Kerala, the epicentre of the current Nipah outbreak!). Bheem must find answers himself, obey his own thoughts, instincts and code, and bear all responsibility for the consequences of his actions. I found this new and uncertain world for Bheem to function in, his discovery of unsuspected resources within himself, very exciting.

What is the one aspect of novel writing that you love the most?

This is a question I am asked often because of my film writing background. Film writing is by definition collaborative, a coming together of ideas. A novel, on the other hand, is dominated by a single vision, that of the author. The author is omniscient, looking into the minds of the novel’s characters, exploring their inner worlds, creating a moral structure within which they function. And during this process, one learns a lot about oneself, which is very satisfying.

Do you feel that now publishers and readers are taking more interest in children’s literature?

Reading is a necessary tool for achieving fluency in any language. As levels of aspiration rise in India and parents insist on better educational opportunities for their children, the need for availability of reading material for children rises exponentially. Given this explosive growth in reader demand, it is inevitable that publishers would take an increasing interest in children’s literature.

About the Interviewee:

Jyotin Goel is a feature film and television writer and director based in Mumbai. He wrote and directed the animated children’s film, Bird Idol for Warner Bros.