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Kanha to Krishna – Pranab Mullick

Kanha to Krishna – Pranab Mullick

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Kanha to Krishna – Pranab Mullick

Akshyata Ray

Kanha to Krishna is a beautiful fable about Lord Krishna with a contemporary edge to it. To begin with, what compelled you to choose Lord Krishna as the protagonist of your story, that too in a contemporary setting instilled with mind games, deceit and politics as underlying themes?


In my humble opinion, Mahabharata is the greatest epic ever written and Lord Krishna is the greatest and most complex character ever depicted in any written work anywhere in the world. No wonder, Lord Krishna is a favourite protagonist for any author. However, the story of Krishna that we all know, attributes his birth and successes to divine powers. I, donning the cap of an author, imagined Krishna as a cowherd boy, who faced caste and colour discriminations and yet with his ability, dedication and focus, was able to overthrow a tyrant and compel even the higher castes to respect him as an Avatar. I thought of divinity, not by birth, but by karma.

My novel is a work of fiction. It is a political and not a religious story. And when politics comes, can deceit and mindgames be far behind? While writing the book, I discovered that there is great similarity in the politics of that time and that what is practised today. Ultimately it occurred to me that the nature of men remains the same and because of that even today the story of Mahabharata has contemporary relevance.


Could we say that Krishna is your favourite Hindu God, since you’ve written about him in your debut novel? Which tale of Krishna did you find most challenging while writing your book, and why?

Radhakanta (a name of Krishna) is my family deity and I am a worshipper and a firm believer in his divinity. But apart from that, Krishna is different from the other Gods in the Hindu pantheon. He is not merely worshipped on the pedestal but he is also an integral part of our family. Parents see him in their children and damsels in their lovers. Moreover, he is a human God. It is this human angle that sets him apart and makes him a favourite of all writers, including myself. No wonder then that whether it be literature, music, dance, painting or religion, the theme of Krishna is omnipresent.


In my novel, I have set out a fictional story taking out all the supernatural aspects from Krishna’s birth and leelas and setting out a plausible narration of events as they might actually have taken place. The most challenging aspect in this regard was explaining the circumstances of Krishna’s birth without recourse to the supernatural. Some authors have attempted an explanation that Krishna was somehow smuggled out of that high security prison and exchanged with Nandrai’s newborn daughter. However, I did not find it practicable. Months of planning is required to carry out such a daring act. Where even the date on which the baby will be born is not certain, is it possible to smuggle out the baby at the moment of its birth and replace with another new born baby? I therefore built up an alternative and unique version of the birth, that has not been thought of in all the millennia. Of course, it is only a story and it is my imagination.  


Do you think the tales from the mythological epics are very relevant in today’s world? If so, how?

  Mythological epics contain teachings that transcend the boundaries of time. This is the reason they are remembered over the millennia. To ensure that they retain their relevance, there is need to bring the epics in line with reality. In this scientific day and age, if we continue with the narrative of supernatural/divine powers, a child would equate Krishna to a comic strip hero and would not learn from his life. In fact I have myself come across episodes of Chhota Bheem with Krishna. It is only when we make the child realise that a person as Krishna really existed and used his human powers with focus and dedication to achieve superhuman results, that he would respect Krishna and learn from his life. We need to teach that it is not magic but only hard work that can lead us to the desired results. My novel presents the human Krishna – the one without any supernatural powers or circumstances – and how he surmounted obstacles galore with his human powers and by dint of his karma, achieved divinity.


Your book comprises of very vivid descriptions and imagery. As an author, how important do you think imagery is, in adding an edge to a novel, and in the process making the story more interesting?

Ans: When I wrote the novel, I visualised it as happening before my very eyes and described it as such in my writing. Reading a book with imagery makes it akin to watching a movie. A reader who is able to watch with his mind’s eye while reading, finds the book more interesting as both visual and cognitive faculties come into play. 


The major theme of your novel is politics, be it Kansa’s atrocities towards his parents for political gains or be it Chanur’s game plan to turn Kansa against Vasudev. Do you think, like many suggest, that the epic of Mahabharata was based on politics, analogous to the central theme of your novel? Also do you think one can draw a parallel from your novel to today’s current political scenario?

Ans: As I said, politics in Mahabharata period was no different from politics in modern times. Kansa’s deposing his father has been followed by many historical figures including  Ajatshatru and Aurangzeb. Even in modern times, without taking names, we have witnessed several instances of churning in both political as well as corporate dynasties where the old guard has been overthrown by sons and nephews. Like Chanur in my book organized massacre to oust the other advisors from power, we have witnessed political parties organizing riots and blaming others for it. There are several instances of political and corporate skulduggery in modern times that find parallel to Chanur’s gameplan to turn Kansa against Vasudeva. To put it short, there is an apt saying in Bengali which translates as ‘What is not there in (Maha)bharat, is not there in Bharat.’


You come from a family of writers about mythology. Do you think that, that has helped you, to be able to successfully retell a tale with such a nuanced modern and relevant outlook?

My grandfather was an authority on Kalidasa and my father wrote poems based on mythology. So I was exposed from my very childhood to mythology and that helped develop my interest in mythology. Incidentally I have also a huge fascination for history and literature and being a lawyer by profession, interpretation of events is my forte. All of these factors intersected and led me to develop the story in the form it has finally come out.


 The ending of your book is quite open, and the book does not end on a happy note. How would you ideally  want the ending to be perceived? Also, could the open ending mean that a sequel of the book will follow? If not, is there anything else that you are currently working on?

Several of my readers have reported that they have actually cried at the ending. They have simultaneously pointed out that it was a very fulfilling ending. In any case, I have only followed the texts that clearly ordain that Krishna separated from Radha. Obviously I could not have brought them together for all times to come. I have rather given a very plausible explanation in story form as to why they separated and what finally happened to Radha.

My book covers the period till Krishna leaves Mathura for Dwarka.  To that extent it is open ended. As for the sequel, I am still looking for something unique to say. The present book is something that has not been thought of earlier and if there is to be a sequel, it must conform to that standard. When I find that, to borrow from Tagore, the literary ghost will again ascend my shoulder.  

About the Interviewee:

Writing is a hobby for Pranab Mullick, who is otherwise practicing as an Advocate in the Supreme Court of India for the last 28 years. Having written short stories and essays in both English and Bengali, ‘Kanha to Krishna – The road to divinity’ is his debut novel and caps a brilliant academic career. A topper all through school, he received Junior Science Talent and NTSE scholarships and stood second in All India in CBSE Class XII Commerce stream. Thereafter he has been a Gold Medalist from University of Delhi in both B.Com (Hons) and LL.B. As Advocate, he has been involved in several historic litigations.
Pranab hails from a family of writers. His grandfather Dr. Raghunath Mullick was a batchmate of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and an authority on Kalidasa. His father Late Kali Sankar Mullick also authored several compelling short stories and a book of poems on mythological themes.