We were asked to interview the author of ‘Asura‘, Anand Neelakantan, whose second book ‘Ajaya’ is due for release on the 1st of December, 2013.
Here it is!
Bookhad: It’s been a year since “Asura” released. Asura was a runaway success; a bestseller and an instant hit with the readers. The kind of success that you garnered for it could be a little unsettling for a debut novelist. Your next, “Ajaya”, is on the brink of release. Now, it usually follows that a writer’s second outing is seen upon very skeptically when the debut novel is a good seller. What would you say to those who look upon with doubt?
Anand: There will always be doubters, critics and fans for any successful author. I have put a lot of hard work in research and in the polishing of my prose and it is more important for me to prove that Asura was not just a flash in the pan. I hope my work will speak by itself.
Bookhad: To say that there was intense research needed for your debut would be a wild understatement. What can your readers expect from “Ajaya” in terms of the mythological intensity?
Anand: The research has to be meticulous and deep as I am challenging commonly held beliefs that have been popular for not less than 3000 years. I have put the same, or more, efforts for Ajaya as Mahabharata is a more complex epic.
Bookhad: Hindu mythology is vast and multi-dimensional and it would require a lot of plodding and prodding into history. Did you start working upon both your books simultaneously?
Anand: Yes, since I rely more on folk tales and other oral traditions. I had come across the stories of Mahabharata, Ramayana, Shiva purana etc simultaneously and often from the same sources. Our villages are still abuzz with these traditions.
Bookhad: The theme of “Ajaya” is very similar to the theme of your previous outing in the sense that you give a voice to the side that loses; to the unheard. Any specific reason for aligning the next book with the previous, in terms of the theme? Bharat Bhushan Agrawal’s play, “Mahabharat ki ek Saanjh”, and Duryodhan by Kaka Vidhate, which speaks about Duryodhana and his point of view comes to mind. Any specific reference to these particular books while you worked on it?
Anand: My Hindi is only good for day to day conversation. I have not seen or read Bharat Bhushan Agarwal’s play. I do not know Marathi and Kaka Vidhathe’s book is unfortunately not available in English or Malayalam. I am more familiar with Bhasa’s sanskrit play Oorubhanga and Gadhayudha of Pampa, M T Vasudevan Nair’s randamoozham, Mrtyunjaya (translated) etc.
Bookhad: Any specific reason for choosing this genre? Mythology is suddenly being re-told. There are many budding writers who have taken upon this re-telling. What are your views on this sudden interest in re-telling mythology?
Anand: It is a very natural process. All languages, when they were coming of age, tells stories of mythology. It happened to Bengali in 19th century, Hindi in the beginning of 20th and for many other Indian languages. If you take films, all the initial films were on our Puranas, be it Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Malayalam. Indian English as a language is coming of age and we are seeing many books written in this language for the sake of people who consider Indian English as first language, across the country
Bookhad: What would you tell your readers about the accuracy, as compared to the original texts, in your case, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata? Would it be fair to talk about “Ajaya” as a different version to the texts or merely as a different point of view?
Anand: What is accuracy as far as these great epics are considered? Ramayana of Valmiki or Mahabharata of Veda Vyasa is just one, albeit the most popular versions, of the epic. There are more than 3000 versions of Ramayana. The innumerable variations in stories of Mahabharata across the country that we cannot even attempt to count. My books are just a minor addition to this vast sea of stories.
Bookhad: The release date for “Ajaya” is the 1st of December, 2013. Are you working on your third already? We presume there will be a 3rd. As they say, once a writer, always a writer!
Anand: Ajaya will be published in two parts. On Dec 1st, the first part Roll of the dice will be out. On Aug 15th, 2014, Rise of Kali, the second part of Ajaya series will be out. In 2015, I hope to come up with Amatya, the story of Chanakya’s foe.
Bookhad: What advice would you like to give all the people writing their own books out there? Any dos and don’ts?
Anand: Never, never never give up. Rejection letters will look like bomb shells delivered in your mail box, but keep believing in yourself. Any book can be published if an author works sufficiently on it. With every rejection, the author has to view her work impartially and correct the same.
I have a small request to my readers. Without your support, encouragement and criticism, I would not have had the courage to come up with another book within an year. Asura is in the crossword popular award final list of five. The competition is tough, with big names of Industry like Amish, Aswhin Sanghi, Ravi Subramanian and Anuja Chauhan in the list. I request all of you to give the vanquished a chance.
Please vote for Asura and please post the same in your blog/Facebook/Twitter. Here is the link: http://goo.gl/nVkgS6
Well, that was the author speaking to y’all! We have a few other things to give away. One of them being a small snippet of the book for you to download. In addition to this there is an “Ajaya” contest that one can participate in. The winner will receive other chapters in addition to the snippet.
Oh! Here’s what it looks like:
We wish Mr. Neelakantan all the very best for “Ajaya” and every other literary endeavour he dabbles in and more!